In-depth baby product reviews led by a Pediatrician

Best Breast Pump of 2021

Spectra S1
Credit: wckiw © 123rf.com
Saturday January 9, 2021
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A breast pump can be considered a nursing mother's second-closest companion during lactation, only outdone by her baby. In fact, a great pump can make all the difference between a stressful breastfeeding experience and a successful one. A well-considered selection is worth its weight in the liquid gold it helps express. However, choosing a pump is easier said than done as breast pumps are not a one-size-fits-all product. Finding the best option for you depends on your goals, budget, and lifestyle. In this round-up, we tailored our selection to include only our top favorites. We tested them over several months getting feedback from multiple users on ease of use, efficiency, and more. Read on to find out the details you need to choose the best pump for your needs and wallet.

1

Best Overall Electric Pump


Spectra S1 Plus


Spectra S1 Plus
Editors' Choice Award
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$199.99
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 3 lbs | Suction Levels: 12
Efficient & quiet
Easy to use
Rechargeable battery
Bulky
Heavy
Replacement parts expensive

The Spectra S1 is the most sought-after daily-use pump for a good reason and is the one we recommend to friends and family looking for an effective and quality pump. It is comfortable, efficient, and easy to use with minimal parts and a rechargeable battery, so you are not a slave to an electrical outlet. The S1 has some serious suction power up to 270 mmHg at a surprisingly friendly cost. Its power, combined with 12 suction levels, creates an efficient pump that can produce more expressed milk in less time than most competitors. This pump comes completely assembled with an easy to understand manual. The S1 is a closed system via hygienic protectors that connect to the tubing. This setup prevents both condensation build-up in tubing and microbial growth in the motor, which means that long-term, the Spectra's inner workings are kept in good shape, and breastmilk stays pristine. Best of all, the S1 is quiet, so quiet that you can pump next to a sleeping baby and husband without waking them.

Even though the S1 is a closed system, it is a single-user pump and is not designed to be used by more than one person. With such efficient pumping and helpful extras like an included nightlight, a built-in timer, space to place bottle, and memory that saves the prior setting, you will get your money's worth with this pump. Overall, there is much to love about this efficient option, and we can't think of a good reason not to add it to your breastfeeding routine.
The Spectra 1 is an easy to use, electric pump that works well and...
The Spectra 1 is an easy to use, electric pump that works well and is whisper quiet.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Read the Review: Spectra S1

2

Best Compact Expressing Buddy


Baby Buddha


Baby Buddha
Editors' Choice Award
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$199.99
(20% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 0.4 lbs | Suction Levels: 14
Compact and lightweight
Rechargeable battery
Easy to use
Aggressive letdown suction
Loud
Timer in minutes only

At a fourth of a pound, the Baby Buddha is well-liked for its small size and ability to wear as a necklace, and mom being completely untethered while pumping. Its minimal footprint has impressively strong suction at a maximum of 320 mmHg, which for many women, results in efficient emptying. In total, there are 14 settings, and the rechargeable battery lasts for up to an hour of pumping and can be charged with a USB port in about 3 to 4 hours. Out of the box, it is straightforward and intuitive to use with only two buttons. It comes with a lanyard for wearing the pump, a basic carry bag, 3 tubes, a t-connector, collection bottles, and 24mm flanges lined with comfortable silicone.

One potential drawback to the Buddha is that some users feel the suction is too powerful, particularly in the letdown phase. Some complain it is actually painful. This experience isn't true for everyone, but it is something to consider if you already know you have sensitive breasts or nipples. Unfortunately, the Buddha is loud and makes a rhythmic buzzing sound you can hear over the phone and access the room. Also, the minimal user interface only measures time in minutes, not seconds, which may or may not be a problem as some of the competition doesn't measure the time at all. Despite these minor hiccups, for its weight, size, and power, the Buddha is definitely a contender for anyone who travels, works away from home, or needs to move about while pumping with a hands-free bra.
The Baby Buddha is a mobile pump that lets you pump on the go but...
The Baby Buddha is a mobile pump that lets you pump on the go but the pump is loud and buzzy.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Read the Review: Baby Buddha

If you need something more discrete than the collection bottles that come with the Buddha, the Freemie Next Generation Cups are compatible with this pump, and they fit inside your bra with a breast-like shape that makes them virtually undetectable.

3

Best Manual Pump


Medela Harmony with Flex


Medela Harmony with Flex
Best Value Award
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$40.34
(4% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 0.64 lbs | Suction Levels: 2
Portable & light
Flexible flange
Quiet
Repetitive hand motion
Single pumping
Not for frequent use

The Medela Harmony Manual pump is a simple, affordable, and compact pumping system that is a great companion piece to an electric pump for occasional use like date night or overnights away from your baby. Alternatively, if you just don't need an electric pump, the Harmony can be nice to have on hand if a situation like a plugged duct or engorgement without your baby nearby presents itself. When your baby is on solids and down to one to two nursing sessions a day, it is also useful for longer trips away. Compared to the other manual pumps on the market, the Medela has a unique "two-phase expression," very similar to many of the electric pumps in this review. This is a nice feature in a manual pump as it makes the pumping more comfortable without an instant sharp tug that can be very painful. The kit includes one 5 oz bottle with a stand and two 24mm PersonalFit flexible breast flanges.

Manual pumps that require frequent and repetitive hand motions can be taxing for many and impossible for some. While this pump allows for different hand positions, it is still something to consider depending on how you plan to use it. Also, it only pumps one breast at a time, so it will take longer to get the job done if you need to express both sides in one sitting. Overall, this pump is a great size for travel, is virtually silent, and can help busy moms in a pinch even if you won't want to use it daily.
The Harmony is a good choice for travel and as a backup buddy to a...
The Harmony is a good choice for travel and as a backup buddy to a standard electric pump.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Read the Review: Medela Harmony

4

Passive Letdown Collection Container


Haakaa


Haakaa
Best Value Award
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$25.45
(18% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: | Suction Levels: Passive letdown
Lightweight and portable
Easy to use and clean
Affordable
Not for everyone

The Haakaa is an inventive solution for passive breast milk collection while nursing a baby on the other side. It attaches to your breast for one long suction pull that doesn't require repetitive hand pumping. This system works particularly well for mothers with a strong letdown and issues with leaking. It is also a good addition for moms who can easily hand-express breast milk. It is soft silicone with an attached suction cup at the bottom and an included cap to help mitigate spillage. It is easy to clean, and moms love it to collect extra milk instead of wasting it on a breast pad.

One potential issue with the Haakaa is that suction can release if you don't affix it properly or your little one kicks it while nursing. If you aren't ready for this, milk can spill. That said, most moms have great success with the suction staying on well. Also, some have trouble coordinating the use of the Haakaa with a breastfeeding baby on the other side. Though it may take a bit of troubleshooting, many moms feel that this simple solution is well worth the extra effort once they get the hang of things, and we think this option is a budget-friendly solution for some moms who make a lot of milk.
The passive let down collection system of the Haakaa is good for...
The passive let down collection system of the Haakaa is good for moms who have trouble with leaking between feeding.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Read the Review: Haakaa

5

Adaptable Collection Cups


Freemie Next Generation Cups


Freemie Next Generation Cups
Top Pick Award
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$88.42
(12% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 0.2 lbs each | Suction Levels: Pump dependant
Compatible with several pumps
Compact & light
Each cup holds 8 oz
Positionally dependent
Difficult assembly
Sensitive

The Freemie Next Generation Cups provide a reasonably discreet solution when used as an accessory tool to compatible breast pumps. Freemies are 8-ounce collection cups that fit inside your bra during pumping so that you can have your blouse fully buttoned. These cups are compatible with the Spectra 1 and Baby Buddha and other pumps via tubing (see manufacturer suggestions). If you use the Baby Buddha with the Freemie, you can hang the lightweight pump's lanyard around your neck like a necklace for mobility while having less weight on your breasts during pumping.

One downside of the Freemie is that you must pour milk from the Collection Cups into a bottle or breastmilk bag for storage after pumping. They are also several parts that can be challenging to assemble before you get the hang of it. However, we think these are a good option for busy moms who need to be on the move and want something more discrete than the collection bottles that come with the Baby Buddha.
With a breast shape look, the Freemie can be disguised under your...
With a breast shape look, the Freemie can be disguised under your shirt inside your bra for pumping with great mobility and flexibility.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Read the Review: Freemie Next Generation Cups

Flange Sizes
If you need a small or larger flange than what is provided, try the Freemie Fitmie Inserts available in a range of sizes from 16mm to 26mm. Or the
Maymom Silicone Freemie Flange Insert available from 21mm, 19mm, to 17mm.

6

Most Innovative and Liberating


Willow Gen 3


Willow Gen 3
Top Pick Award
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$499.99
at Amazon
See It

Weight: 0.36 lbs. each | Suction Levels: 7
Cordless and tubeless
Pump in any position
Lightweight (355g each)
Expensive and bulky
Steep learning curve
Continuous suction

The Willow Gen 3 has opened a whole new world for nursing mothers, particularly those who work in healthcare. The Willow includes 2 wearable, wireless, tubeless, battery-operated pumps with collection receptacles (either a 4 oz. disposable bag or 4 oz. reusable container), all worn underneath a bra. The pump even self-stops once the bag is full, so you know when to change bags or end the session. Another great benefit is while using the disposable bag, the Willow is spillproof, so you can bend over and even lie down flat and get a few winks while pumping, no problem. This is revolutionary! Willow's closed system has a rechargeable battery that lasts through 4 to 5 pumping sessions and links to a smartphone app giving up to date, accurate progress information like quantity collected and pump time. Overall, the Willow is light, efficient, and pretty quiet, with a quick set up of about 30 seconds for a seasoned user. Many users report matched output to the Spectra S1 and has only 4 pump parts to clean.

The Willow is complicated to use and has a very steep learning curve when getting started. However, Willow's customer care and troubleshooting team are surprisingly responsive and helpful, and the smartphone app works well. We'd love it if the Willow were a little lighter and less bulky. However, you can throw a nursing infinity scarf/shawl on while pumping, and no one will notice just how buxom you've become. Once the Willow turns off, it maintains continuous suction, so it can become uncomfortable if you leave it on too long. Even though Willow includes two pumps, they only give you one charger. So, if you want to charge both pumps simultaneously, you will need to purchase an accessory charger. Since it takes about 2 hours to fully charge from empty, this is money well spent, but this, in addition to buying collection containers, makes the Willow the most expensive pump we've ever reviewed. Also, the Willow has a relatively short lifespan. Willow markets its pumps to function for 273 hours, which is 819 twenty-minute pumping sessions. If you use the Willow three times a day, it will last you 273 days. The Willow has some serious drawbacks that prevent it from being the ideal pump for every mom. However, we think it is an innovative solution for many busy working moms who can't spare the time to sit tethered to a pumping station 3 times a day for whatever reason. For this reason, we think some moms will find it to be a lifesaver and something they are glad they could invest in.
With no wires and no tubing, this self-contained pump and collection...
With no wires and no tubing, this self-contained pump and collection system can be a girl's best friend when working or too busy to sit down for regular pumping.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Read the Review: Willow Gen 3

7

Potential Traditional Option


Medela Pump In Style with Max Flow


Medela Pump In Style with Max Flow
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$199.00
(20% off)
at Amazon
See It

Weight: | Suction Levels:
Closed system
Lots of accessories
Easy to use
Loud
Higher price
No time/suction information

The Medela Pump in Style has long been used as a staple, daily use pump. The new Max Flowz version of the Pump in Style has now risen to the competition level by providing a closed system pump, a massive improvement from a hygiene perspective. There is no longer condensation build-up in tubing and/or backflow of breast milk traveling to the motor. This unit is efficient and easy to use, with minimal learning curve to worry about. The parts are easy to assemble and clean. The full kit contains the pump, a carry bag, pump parts, bottles, and an insulated cooler bag with an ice pack, so nothing is left to buy to get started.

The Medela is lounder than the similar competition and might wake a sleeping baby or husband or alert co-workers to your activities. It lacks a user interface with details on suction level or time spent pumping, leaving more work for mom to keep track of in a sleep-deprived haze. It is also more expensive than the similar but higher ranking electric pump competition in this review. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the Medela pump and many women swear by them, we have to give the nod to the Spectra 1 over the Medela for ease of use, price, acoustics, and attention to details, even if you need to buy some accessories to go with it.
The Pump in Style comes with more accessories than most of the...
The Pump in Style comes with more accessories than most of the competition including a carry bag and insulated cooler.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Read the Review: Medela Pump In Style with Max Flow

Finding the right breast pump for you can be a saving grace when...
Finding the right breast pump for you can be a saving grace when breastfeeding, going back to work, trying to increase supply, or transitioning to part-time bottle feeding to get a little freedom.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Why You Should Trust Us


Our BabyGearLab founder and mom-in-chief led our breast pump review, Dr. Juliet Spurrier. Dr. Spurrier is a mother of two, Board Certified Pediatrician, and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Her education and professional and personal experience drive BabyGearLab standards and the product selection for this important review. The pumping team includes Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz, a mother of two and BabyGearLab employee since 2014. Wendy breastfed both of her children and used more than one pump to increase milk supply and remain a working mother. Senior Review Editor Abriah Wofford rounds out the pumping team with testing and analysis that included her breastfeeding sister, who graciously provided insight and information on each pump that only a first-hand user could generate. Together, this team has over 9 years of experience using breast pumps and 20+ combined years of testing baby gear.

Since launching BabyGearLab, we've purchased and tested over 19 different breast pumps. For this 2021 update, we've included our favorite 7 options available today. We spent several months testing each pump for ease of use, comfort, efficiency, acoustics, portability, and more. We had real breastfeeding mothers using the selected pumps and providing feedback on their experience as well as research with other users. Our exhaustive and detailed testing can give you the information you need to make a well-informed buying decision on your next breastfeeding friend.

The Haakaa is a single silicone unit you squeeze before centering on...
Finding a pump with a few easy to clean and assemble parts is a...

Types of Breast Pumps


There are so many brands and styles available that it can be tough to decide which option is right for you. Even with the help of experienced friends, it can be hard to decide as your needs may vary from theirs. Each pump has its own strengths, weaknesses, and costs to consider.

The two main categories of breast pumps are manual and electric. We'll discuss each type to help you decide which is the best fit for your needs. In some cases, you may find that one of each is the most useful path forward for your individual needs.

Manual pumps like the Medela Harmony work with hand expression and...
Manual pumps like the Medela Harmony work with hand expression and can be useful for travel or occasional pumping when electric pumps aren't available or baby is not around.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Manual Pumps


Manual breast pumps require the user to do the work. Manual pumps are hand-operated and pump one breast at a time via a flange and manual lever that creates suction via a simple squeeze and release operation to express milk. They are best suited for the sporadic pumper or occasional user. Once milk supply is well-established, this kind of pump can be a nice companion to an electric pump for travel or quick relief from engorgement or to stop leaking temporarily. They are less expensive than electric pumps, light and portable, and have minimal parts, so they fit easily into a purse or carry-on for an outing, overnight, or even travel. A good manual pump should express a decent amount of milk, comparable to an electric pump, with some elbow (er, hand) grease.

Electric pumps do the hard work for you with variable suction and...
Electric pumps do the hard work for you with variable suction and speed so you can get pumping done efficiently and simultaneously from both breasts.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Electric Pumps


An electric breast pump has a motor that runs on electricity via an AC adapter, car adapter, rechargeable battery, or battery pack. They are available in single (pump one breast at a time) and double (pump both simultaneously) versions, as well as popular designs that allow mom mobility while pumping. Based on their power and consistent pumping rhythm, electric pumps are more effective and efficient than manual pumping, which aids in maintaining milk supply and saves time. If you pump more than 3x/week, a double electric pump is a very worthwhile investment. Working moms, moms with supply challenges, or those who exclusively feed baby expressed (pumped) breast milk would all benefit from a double electric pump of some kind. Double electric pumps are so much more efficient than the single versions and if you need to pump only one breast converting a double to a single is easy by closing off one of the suction ports into which the tubing attaches.

Analysis and Test Results


We have accumulated both our testing and experience in addition to a wide swath of user feedback to make our recommendations for this round-up. In this process, we have determined the key attributes in a breast pump's performance: efficiency (suction strength), comfort, ease of use, portability, hygiene, and acoustics.

Pumping takes time, so finding a pump that works quickly to get the...
Pumping takes time, so finding a pump that works quickly to get the most milk is best. In our tests, the Spectra 1 impressed with the amount of milk it was able to express in a short time.
Credit: wckiw © 123rf.com

Efficiency


Efficiency is the bottom line for a breast pump. How fast does it take to pump "x" ounces of milk? Although every mom is unique in their milk production, some pumps are stronger and more consistent resulting in more milk faster. That said, it is a common misconception that more suction power/strength results in more milk. Each person is unique in their anatomy and milk supply, so it is important to find what works best for you with suction strength and levels. Ultimately, a woman's breastmilk output directly correlates with the supply/demand loop cycle, although some women are overproducers, some under producers, and everything in-between. So while it is important not to get discouraged, know that there are tips and tricks for wherever you lie on the spectrum. The Spectra S1 followed by the Medela Pump in Style Max Flowz were the most efficient pumps in our tests, while the Medela Harmony is the top-performing manual pump. However, if you need a non-electric pump and lack the hand strength or dexterity required of the Harmony, the Haakaa released an impressive amount of milk in our tests for a passive letdown system.

Finding the right size breast flange in a comfortable material like...
Finding the right size breast flange in a comfortable material like silicone can make pumping comfortable and pain-free during and after.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Comfort


When comparing pumps, comfort is a close second to efficiency. Let's face it, pumping isn't the most relaxing experience, and beginner pumping has a learning curve to it, just like breastfeeding. If you are pumping 6-8x/day, as many moms will do to help establish supply, a workhorse pump should be relatively comfortable to use, not just tolerable. And, they shouldn't cause pain, not during or afterward. Some pumps have more comfortable flanges (the cone-shaped part that covers the breast) with a wider size variety, which can make a big difference. Others have adjustable suction and pump settings, two-phase pumping for the initiation, and then let down. Most of the pumps in this review were rated as comfortable by testers, though some felt the Baby Buddha has a strong initial pull that wasn't as comfortable. The Willow Gen 3 can get uncomfortable once pumping is finished as it continues to suck until you remove it (ouch!). Most moms feel the Haakkaa, and Medela Harmony are both comfortable, with some remarking that the silicone on the Haakaa was particularly nice. Due to size and placement, the Willow is also the bulkiest of the bunch, but you can move in almost any position while wearing it, so the discomfort of bulk is a trade-off for mobility.

Many of the modern-day pumps offer a variety of flange sizes as...
Many of the modern-day pumps offer a variety of flange sizes as everyone's nipples and breasts a different. If you experience discomfort you should consider trying a different size flange before throwing in the towel or blaming the pump itself.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

A Word on Properly-Sized Flanges
As mentioned above, flanges are the funnel-shaped pieces that you position directly over the breast, centering on the nipple. The pump's suction pulls the nipple into the flange. Needless to say, nipples come in all shapes and lengths as well as areolas and breasts, and flanges must fit properly; otherwise, it can cause pain. Most breast pumps have flanges available in different sizes, so you need to make sure you are fitted with the right size for success. You do not want the nipple to constantly be vigorously rubbing against the plastic as it may cause abrasions and lead to bleeding, pain, and even infection. If you have questions or concerns about fit, it is advisable to seek a lactation consultant's help.

The Baby Buddha has only two buttons and is easy to operate with the...
The Baby Buddha has only two buttons and is easy to operate with the information you need right on the pump itself.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Ease of Use


A breast pump is typically used multiple times a day and sometimes into the night hours; thus, one that is easy to use can considerably affect your overall experience with pumping. This is especially key if you pump exclusively, are a working mom, or you travel frequently and need to use it in various locations. We found that some pumps are complicated to set up, while others are quite intuitive. If given a wide selection of pumps to choose from, moms will naturally gravitate to the intuitive ones on a day-in-day-out basis. Both the Medela Pump In Style and the Spectra S1 have great "getting started" instructions and simple assembly. The two have intuitive buttons, and the Spectra even comes with a night light for dim pumping while your little one sleeps. Almost nothing is easier than the Haakaa with one squeeze and proper placement, you can relax while passive letdown does the work. Nothing to plug in and nothing to assemble with minimal parts to clean. Conversely, the Willow Gen 3 is the most convoluted option in the group with lots of parts, long instructions, and a steep, steep learning curve.

Key considerations include:

  • Number of Parts — The more parts, the more cumbersome and complicated the process becomes
  • Ease of Disassembly, Cleaning, & Re-assembly — Setting up and taking down the operation every pumping session requires patience. If you are on a timed break at work, the last thing you need is a convoluted process.
  • Power Source — Rechargeable batteries come in handy when on-the-go as you don't need to find an outlet for an AC adapter to pump. Some AC adapter pumps also have car adapters for pumping while driving, which many a working mother will admit to!
  • Size & Weight — Mobility pumps like the Baby Buddha are very popular because they are easy to carry in a bag for busy days out and travel.
  • Adjustable Suction and Pump Speed — This allows mom to fine-tune her pumping experience to the right settings for her breast.
  • Included Accessories and Added Features — Items such as various flange sizes and features such as a bottle holder, nightlight, timer, and automatic dual-phase expression add value and convenience.
  • Dual-Phase Expression — Dual-phase expression seeks to mirror what occurs during a breastfeeding session. Most pumps automatically switch from stimulation to expression phase, giving mom one less thing to do and helping her relax while pumping.

The Baby Buddha comes with a handy backpack for transporting the...
The Baby Buddha comes with a handy backpack for transporting the pump and parts and it is wearable while pumping making it both very portable and offering mobility during pumping.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Portability


If you plan on going to work or often traveling with your pump, portability should be high on your list. When considering portability, both the weight of pump and accessory parts and size factor in the equation of lugging the whole kit too and from your workplace. Top performers are easy to tote around with all the components necessary for a complete pumping session. The best pumps for portability are the Baby Buddha which you can also wear while pumping to increase mobility. The Spectra 1 is relatively lightweight and has a handy carry handle. The Spectra 1 is better suited for frequent pumper as it efficiently works on both breasts in a short period of time and has a rechargeable battery that can last through the workday. For working moms on the move who can't sit still to pump, the Buddha or the Freemie collection cups combined with the Buddha are a good option for discreet mobile pumping. The Willow Gen 3 is also a wearable and a good choice for moms who need to be on their feet and situations where structured break times are a struggle, like a busy ER. While not the solution for every mom, it can be a useful option if you need to pump without being tethered to a specific place and time.

The Willow Gen 3 works with an app on your smart device recording...
The Willow Gen 3 works with an app on your smart device recording everything from ounces to time pumping. The system works well but it is somewhat bulky.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Mobility


There is a new trend towards mobility during pumping. Mobile pumps usually are hands-free with rechargeable batteries like many electric pumps these days, but the big difference is that they are small enough for mom to wear on her person while pumping. The Freemie, Buddha, and Willow are all types of wearable pumps or collection systems that allow mobile freedom. The Willow is somewhat unique in that it pairs with a smartphone app, and there are no wires or tubing to mess with. The collection containers and the pump are all part of the same breast-shaped device that fits inside your bra and attaches to your breast.

Closed systems are the best for hygiene, but the Willow goes a step...
Closed systems are the best for hygiene, but the Willow goes a step further by expressing the milk directly into storage bags so there is less milk handling and potential for contamination.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Hygiene


Hygiene is essential as it determines how clean the milk you pump will be for your baby. We strongly recommend a closed system. Our opinion is that open system electric pumps have too much potential for milk build-up and/or condensation in the tubing, which is patently connected directly to the pump. This invites the opportunity for microbial growth inside. With closed system pumps designed to prevent backflow from entering the tubing, this is a non-issue. Every electric pump in our selection is a closed system in our newest update, and we are grateful that the new Medela fits in this group.

Keeping your pump parts clean with soap and water is a must when...
Keeping your pump parts clean with soap and water is a must when pumping, so we recommend finding a pump with fewer easy to clean parts.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Cleaning pump parts in warm, soapy water with thorough drying takes sufficient effort and time. So, the easier, the better! If you are pumping several times a day while at work, washing pump parts after every session is definitely time prohibitive and potentially embarrassing if you use the communal kitchen sink. The Willow Gen 3 is probably one of the easiest as the milk goes directly into the collection container or bag. While you will need to clean the parts at the end of the day, storing the units in a clean ziplock bag can suffice between pumps on the same day, assuming the milk collection is a smooth one.

A trick working moms often use is to store used pump parts in a Ziploc bag or Tupperware container in the refrigerator until the next pumping session. Then, wash the one set of pump parts when you get home. This really beats carting several sets of pump parts around, ultimately creating more work for yourself when you are most tired at the end of the day.

Accoustics


It turns out that some electric pumps have very loud motors, namely the Medela Pump in Style MaxFLowz and the Baby Buddha. In some cases, extra noise may not be such a bad thing as workmates may be less likely to interrupt a pumping session due to its tell-tale sound all the way down the hall. However, when pumping in bed with your partner next to you, the noisiness may very well be a problem. We're sure that you will agree that the quieter, the better when it comes to breast pumps. Stress has been shown to delay a lactating mother's "let-down reflex." And, sometimes, that loud pumping sound can really hinder the relaxation so helpful to milk production.

Naturally, due to the lack of a motor, the manual pumps are the quietest, with the Medela Harmony and the Haakaa earning top ranks in this metric. However, we were surprised to find the Spectra S1 is equally quiet with only a soft sh sh sound! For an electric pump, the Spectra S1 practically whispers.

What Does Hospital-Grade Mean Anyway?

Increasingly, breast pump manufacturers are using the term "hospital-grade" to imply strong suction. Some may interpret this term to mean a pump with multi-user capabilities similar to what you might use in the hospital. Although the FDA regulates breast pumps as they are considered medical devices, the term "hospital grade" is neither recognized nor monitored by the FDA. As such, it does not have a consistent definition and does not connotate safety or hygiene.

Thus, in the world of breast pumps, the term "hospital grade" is widely used by manufacturers to influence purchase decisions, so don't let it fool you. Instead, the FDA advises to pay closer attention to the terms multiple-user and single-user. Understanding the differences between each and when to buy a single-user versus when to rent or invest in a multi-user can make a big difference initially and sometimes even in the long haul for some moms.

Do Not Buy or Borrow a Used Single-User Breast Pump


We understand that single-user electric pumps can feel like an exorbitant expense. It might be tempting to borrow one from a friend or buy one used. However, we feel strongly that it is not worth the risk of using a hand-me-down pump due to health and hygiene concerns, as well as motor lifespan.

It is not advisable to use a previously owned breast pump. Breast pumps are single-user products, or personal care items, much like a toothbrush, and are registered with the FDA as single-use items. For safety, breast pumps should never be shared, resold, or lent among mothers. Medela actively discourages moms from re-using or re-selling previously owned breast pump equipment. — Medela
  • Hygiene — Because humans can harbor infectious diseases without knowing it, sharing personal care products, including single-user breast pumps (manual pumps included), is not recommended. Breast milk is a biological substance that can harbor HIV and CMV that can be transmitted unknowingly. Also, if a mother with cracked, bleeding nipples pumps, blood comes into contact with external pump parts. Despite good washing, bacteria and viruses can still be transmitted. Thus, it is also important to always use personal milk collection kits. Single-User Pumps are not meant to be passed along. While closed systems may have less risk than open systems when new collection parts are used, it still isn't worth the risk and hassle of using a used pump.

There are certain risks presented by breast pumps that are reused by different mothers if they are not properly cleaned and sterilized. These risks include the transmission of infectious diseases … the FDA believes that the proper cleaning and sterilization of breast pumps requires the removal of any fluid that has entered the pumping mechanism itself. If proper sterilization of the breast pump cannot be achieved, the FDA recommends that it not be used by different mothers. — FDA

  • Motor Lifespan — Most single-user electric breast pumps are designed for about one year of use with one child. The warranties among manufacturers and models may differ, and manufacturers typically void a single-use breast pump's warranty if used by more than one person. In a nutshell, if you are pumping three times a day for a year, the motor will eventually lose its strength, which means hand-me-downs won't have as much strength as they did when new. We firmly discourage moms from relying on a used breast pump for health and hygiene concerns and because it is likely to have lost significant suction power.

Even though we do not recommend it if you DO decide to go with a previously-used, single-user, closed system pump, it is VERY important to purchase NEW accessory parts to include tubing, flanges, bottles, lids, membranes, and valves.

The Spectra 1 is an ideal electric pumping solution that even comes...
The Spectra 1 is an ideal electric pumping solution that even comes with a soft glow nightlight so you know what you are doing even in the dead of night.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Conclusion


Choosing a breast pump is a personal decision complicated by considerations of the budget and what will work best for your body. We hope that our curated pump selections and test result information can help narrow down your options so you can find the one that is right for you. Most importantly, we wish every parent a stress-free and nurturing feeding experience with their baby.

Juliet Spurrier, MD and Wendy Schmitz