If you’re considering breastfeeding, you’re probably looking for a great breast pump.
What happens when you’re away from baby and someone else is handling feeding? What if you want to keep a steady supply in the freezer to just give your body a break? The right breast pump can be a new mom’s superhero and is easily a baby registry staple.
Breastfeeding and pumping can be scary and confusing for some new mothers—there’s a lot to know. With so many breast pump types, options, and accessories available, it’s hard to figure out which one is right for you.
In this post we’ll break down the nitty gritty details about breast pumps while also highlighting the pros and cons of Blueprint’s favorite picks for 2019 so you know exactly which model you want.
Breast Pumps & Insurance
Depending on your insurance plan, you may be covered for cost of a new (or rented) breast pump. Be sure to check with your provider so you’re clear on what your policy covers and how the coverage process works (e.g., filing a claim for reimbursement, HSA, etc.).
If you’re anxious about nursing, or simply want some guidance, check with your insurance provider as your policy may also cover some or all of the costs of a lactation specialist.
Should You Add a Breast Pump to Your Registry?
If you plan on breastfeeding, a breast pump can definitely simplify your life and give you flexibility when it comes to feeding your baby. Moms returning to work who need to split feeding duties with a partner or caretaker will especially agree. But even if you will be home with baby, it’s always a great idea to keep extra milk on hand or to increase your milk supply. Life happens, and you never know when you’ll need to run out the door and leave baby with a sitter or simply give your body a rest with some bottle feeding.
Because most insurance plans cover some or all of the costs of breast pump purchases or rentals, it’s a good idea to hold off on adding one to your registry until you know what’s covered under your plan. Some mothers, however, still opt to purchase a second breast pump (to keep at the office, for example) or a manual breast pump to carry in their purse, but ultimately it’s up to you. Breast pump accessories and nursing kits are always great baby registry staples.
When and Where Do You Use a Breast Pump?
Since you’ve decided to purchase or rent a breast pump, that also means that baby will need to learn to drink from a bottle. And believe it or not, bottle nipples take some getting used to. Most doctors will suggest introducing a bottle about a month after giving birth and once baby is used to breastfeeding.
The frequency you pump depends on the frequency of your breastfeeding. If you’re breastfeeding and supplementing with pumping, start pumping an hour or so after baby has been breastfed. This will give your body enough time to produce more milk for pumping, and then more again in time for the next feeding.
Are you a mom who is exclusively pumping and bottle feeding? Schedule your pumping sessions for every 2-3 hours (like a normal feeding cycle), so your body stays on schedule and knows to keep producing milk when you need it.
Types of Breast Pumps
Personal Electric Breast Pump
By far the most popular choice, the personal electric breast pump uses either batteries or a power cord to power its motor. Many models also have options for adjusting speed and suction pressure. The ability to increase the speed and pattern on some personal electric models makes them a favorite for mothers on the go, and especially for women who need to take their pump to public places (work, errands, etc.) and express milk efficiently.
Most electric breast pumps are doubles, allowing mothers to express both breasts at the same time. You can expect most electric breast pump models to come with a variety of accessories, including bottles, tubing, cases, and coolers for easy storage and transportation.
Hospital Grade Electric Breast Pumps
The most expensive pumps out there (should you choose to purchase your own) are hospital grade breast pumps which are the real workhorses. Hospital grade breast pumps have powerful motors that make pumping efficient, while staying relatively quiet compared to most personal models.
Because hospital grade breast pumps are so expensive, moms tend to rent (yes, rent! More about this in a bit) them instead of buying. Hospital grade pumps are designed so there’s no contact between the motor and mom’s milk particles (closed motor system), making them reusable between mothers. Hospital grade pumps are a great option for pumping at home because they can be too large or cumbersome to take on the go.
Manual Breast Pumps
The most compact and travel-friendly, manual breast pumps don’t have motors and use pressing motions or levers to create suction for pumping. Generally around the size of a bottle, manual breast pumps also include a flange or “breast shield” to attach to the body.
Because manual breast pumps have no motor, they aren’t as efficient as personal or hospital grade breast pumps. However, they are inexpensive, easy to throw in a bag, and a great companion for breastfeeding to catch letdown (the sensation that signals that it’s time to pump).
Buying Versus Renting Breast Pumps
Yes, you heard that correctly—instead of shoveling over cash to buy your own hospital grade breast pump, you can rent one instead. Because hospital grade breast pumps have their motors within a closed system, it allows them to be reused over and over by different mothers. Unfortunately because of the risk of transferring milk particles, personal electric breast pumps are not available to rent.
Hospital grade breast pumps are easily the most expensive models. Instead of paying up to thousands of dollars for a great breast pump, consider renting one for around $50 a month. Your doctor or hospital may have some available to rent, or they’ll direct you to a nearby renting facility. Remember that you’ll still need to purchase your own nursing kit (breast shields, bottles, membranes and tubing, etc) to fit your body and for milk storage.
Also keep in mind that most hospital grade breast pumps don’t travel well as they’re bulky and must be plugged in during use. They’re really the best option for mothers who prefer efficient pumping and plan to spend most of their time in the home while nursing.
How To Choose the Right Breast Pump
Just like most nursery products and gear, there are several factors to consider before choosing the breast pump that’s right for you.
Frequency Of Pumping: Do you plan on pumping more or less than breastfeeding? This may affect your decision about motor, suction power, portability, etc.
Price: Although insurance often covers some of the cost of breast pumps, you may still spend some cash out of pocket for accessories, or even on another supplemental pump.
Travel Friendliness: Does it pack up well? Do you want the ability to travel with your pump without too much bulkiness? Do you want a more quiet breast pump for use in public places?
Suction Power: Hospital grade breast pumps have the strongest motors, and thus the most suction power. Some personal electric pumps have adjustable suction power.
Size: Not all women are built the same. Find yourself a breast pump that is comfortable on your body or has compatible accessories in your size.
Double Pumping: Is it important to you to pump both breasts at the same time? Make sure your breast pump comes with double pumping capabilities.
Accessories: Are there any extra parts you’ll need to accompany your pump? Make sure to factor them into the cost and portability.
How to Clean Your Breast Pump
Cleaning of breast pumps and their parts will vary from model to model. Make sure to check the cleaning instructions specific to the breast pump you end up getting.
You should always wash each piece individually with warm water and soap before the first use, and again after each use. Some pieces may be dishwasher safe and can be placed on the top rack. Once they’re cleaned, air dry each piece completely to avoid any mold or mildew buildup.
Accessories Are Extra
Many personal electric pumps come with a starter nursing kit that includes a few bottles and lids. If you want to build a stockpile of milk in your freezer you’ll want to have enough milk storage bags or bottles.
Other accessories moms love for breastfeeding and pumping include support bras, a good bag for travel, a small cooler, sterilizing bags, fridge organizers, breast pump wipes, and nursing covers.
What Happens to Retired Breast Pumps?
It can hurt to spend a good chunk of change on a breast pump and have it rendered useless in a short amount of time.
Medela, however, has a great recycling program you can participate in. Medela sends breast pump motors to a third party that breaks them down and recycles the reusable pieces. They partner with Ronald McDonald House Charities to supply new mothers living in their homes with nursing kits and cover all the shipping costs.
Other breast pump companies may have similar programs, so be sure to check with them individually if you’re interested in recycling your personal electric breast pump.
Best Breast Pumps Scoresheet
Our top picks for best breast pumps of 2019 were chosen carefully by analyzing real reviews, specifications, utility, and overall value.
|Breast Pump||Amazon Score||Blueprint Score||Overall Score|
|Medela Harmony Manual||4.0||4.5||4.2|
|Medela Symphony Hospital Grade||3.5||4.3||3.8|
|Medela Pump In Style||4.0||4.0||4.0|
|Philips Avent Manual||4.0||4.2||4.1|
|Zenda Naturals Manual||4.0||4.4||4.1|
Medela Freestyle Double Electric Hands-Free Breast Pump
“ I was able to wash dishes and change a diaper all while pumping! This will really come in handy when I go back to work” -Ashley, Amazon Reviewer
- One of Medela’s most popular models, the Freestyle is a personal electric breast pump
- Great for moms on the go, comes with rechargeable battery (up to 3 hours) and a power cord
- Digital display with timer, backlight, and memory function to set your favorite expression patterns
- Double pumping capabilities
- Compatible with most top-flap nursing brassieres
- Comes with 2 sizes of breast shields (24mm and 27mm), microfiber tote bag, 4 5oz. BPA-free bottles with tops, cooler bag and ice pack, all necessary tubing, and 1 year warranty
- Incredibly lightweight unit at only 1 pound
- Motor is not as strong as hospital grade, resulting is somewhat weaker suction
- Reviewers noted weak suction when battery is low. Best suction occurs when the pump is plugged in
- Buyers should be aware that this model is a bit loud
Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump
“Great investment and well worth the money to save my poor breasts from engorgement when my trips out are longer than I expected.” – Brittany, Amazon Reviewer
- Considered a fantastic complementary pump to the Harmony, or any other double electric breast pump
- Ergonomic swivel handle makes pumping easy and comfortable
- Compact size and weight is ideal for traveling or emergency pumping when engorged and on the go
- 2-phase expression technology means moms can stimulate the flow or maximize milk flow all in the same pump
- All parts are BPA-free
- Includes two 5 oz. bottles with tops, nipple with collar, one 24mm breast shield, two spare membranes, one bottle stand, and one cap
- Mothers love the ability to feed baby on one side, and comfortably manually pump on the other simultaneously
- All parts are dishwasher safe on the top rack
- Some reviewers have encountered issues with the included o-ring not providing enough suction and find they need to be replaced
- Not the best option for high-volume expressing
Medela Symphony Hospital Grade Breast Pump
“We ordered 2 of these for the nursing room in our HQ office. Our moms love this pump!” -Dannielle, Amazon Reviewer
- The Medela Symphony is a hospital grade breast pump, and helps achieve maximum pumping volume at maximum comfort
- Box includes the breast pump, a program card, card protector, and container stand
- Uses Medela’s 2-phase expression technology, which allows for an easy transition to the stimulation phase with one button
- Single or double pumping capabilities
- Program card keeps track of all pumping information
- Breast pump motor does not come in contact with breast milk, making it a great rental option
- If you’re choosing to buy a pump instead of renting, the Symphony is one of the most expensive models
- Pumping kits (bottles, membranes, lids, breast shields, etc.) are sold separately
- Larger and heavier, making it less portable than other models
Medela Pump In Style Advanced
“It’s easy to toss all the parts and bottles in it so I can take her to grandma’s house and still be able to pump, and when I go back to work I’ll be able to carry this in.” -Amazon Reviewer
- The Pump In Style was designed for moms on the go who need to pump several times throughout the day
- Double pump capabilities
- Pump operates with either 8 AA battery pack or power cord
- Includes microfiber tote bag, a double pumping kit (with 2 24mm breast shields), cooler and ice pack, and 4 milk bottles with tops
- All pump and accessories fit in the tote for easy portability
- Adjustable motor and suctioning power
- Compatible with Medela’s hands-free bustier
- The pump is limited in suction power and patterns, and doesn’t come with a digital screen or timer
- As many personal electric breast pumps, expect some noise with the Pump In Style
- The pump is designed to be used while attached to the tote bag
Medela Sonata Smart Breast Pump
“It extracts so much milk, that this machine turned me into a milk donor for the hospital. Amazing, amazing product.” – Amazon Reviewer
- The Sonata is Medela’s version of the smart breast pump model
- Hospital grade and performance, making it ultra quiet
- Connects to the MyMedela app, that tracks feeding patterns, quantities, and contains tons of resources for breastfeeding
- Interactive digital screen lets you program a timer, adjust suction power and patterns, and has audio and visual feedback capabilities
- Pump, two sizes of breast shields (24mm and 27mm), 4 bottles with tops, membranes, valves, bottle stands, cooler bag, ice pack, power adaptor, and carrying bag are all included
- Double pumping capabilities
- Carrying bag makes this hospital grade pump portable
- Uses Medela’s 2-Phase Expression Technology to mimic baby’s natural nursing patterns
- On the pricier end, but not as expensive as most hospital grade pumps
- The included parts are a little heavy, so pumping with a hands-free bra can be tricky
- The Sonata has unique tubing, so they cannot be replaced with other Medela or off-brand tubes
Spectra Baby USA Double/Single Breast Pump S1
“ It works just as good (if not better) than the pump in the hospital for much cheaper.” -Autumn, Amazon Reviewer
- Closed system motor, making the S1 a hygienic and quiet hospital grade breast pump
- Digital timer with night light and adjustable suction programming
- Double or single pump functionality
- Powered by power cable, rechargeable battery, and can be used while it’s charging
- Box includes pump, two 5 oz. bottles with lids, membranes, two breast shields (24mm), power adaptor, backflow protectors, bottle cooler, and a black tote bag
- The Spectra S1’s memory feature remembers your last used settings
- Rechargeable battery and included tote bag make the S1 a great travel option
- Reviewers have noted some trouble with keeping the tubing attached while pumping
- Product description says full battery holds for only 1 hour, but reviewers claim the charge holds for several days
Philips Avent Manual Breast Pump
“Love this pump! I can get more using this pump than using my electric one, and in HALF the time.” -Morgan, Amazon Reviewer
- The Philips Avent Manual breast pump is specifically designed so mothers can manually pump in a more relaxed position without having to lean forward
- Great option for quick expressions to relieve pressure
- Includes a large soft massage cushion with textured petals to help stimulate milk flow and ergonomic handle
- All parts are easy to assemble, BPA-free, and dishwasher safe
- Compatible with all other Avent feeding accessories
- Comes with Avent natural bottle with newborn nipple, travel cover, breast pad sample pack, and one sealing disc for storage
- Smaller or larger massage cushions are available for separate purchase
- Some reviewers claim there is a squeaking sound before the pump loses suction, which will require readjustment
Zenda Naturals Manual Breast Pump
“No wires, plugs, tubes, attachments or extra accessories to mess around with. Best of all—it’s completely hands-free!” – Amazon Reviewer
- The most lightweight and budget-friendly breast pump and breastfeeding companion on our list
- Easy to throw in a bag for quick, emergency pumping on the go
- Includes flexible pump with lid for storing milk
- Great for simultaneous use during breastfeeding to catch letdown so no milk is wasted
- Made with BPA-free silicone
- Great suction for such an incredibly simple hands-free design, leaving little to no need for a support bra to hold it in place
- Easy to clean and dishwasher safe
- You’ll need to purchase storage bags and other accessories separately
- While reviewers love the Zenda for catching letdown, some find it hard to use for regular pumping
While mothers are their baby’s superhero, a breast pump can be yours. Whether you need to stockpile milk for your partner or caretaker for when you’re away, or want to give your body a break from a hangry baby’s jaws, a breast pump is truly a new mom’s BFF.
Ready to start your baby registry?