Finding the best breast pump can leave you feeling like Goldilocks, constantly searching for the perfect fit.
The trouble is that some pumps just won’t be right for you, even if they are right for someone else. What one mom finds comfortable can feel like a specially designed torture device to another. But if you’ve decided you’d like to breastfeed your baby, at some point you’ll likely need or want a breast pump.
For some moms, their pumps become a daily fixture of life for months on end, so it pays to invest in one that really works for you. Our guide and in-depth breast pump reviews will help you figure out what’s most important when selecting a pump, and give you a closer look at the popular models on the market right now.
- Battery-operated or power cord
- Expresses milk quickly and comfortably
- Closed system
- Provides true mobility
- Comes with cooler bag
- Strong suction feature
- Easy to clean
- Easy to find Replacement parts
- Small and compact
- Monitors feeding patterns
- Double pump extracts high volumes
- Good price for double electric pump
- Easy to clean and assemble
- Gentler on breasts
- Affordable quality
- Hygienic, closed system
- Built to last
- Powerful hospital-grade suction
- A closed system
- Keep your hands free
- Tracks volume and pumping history
- Battery lasts for five sessions
- Simple to Clean
- Portable design
- Can be sterilized in microwave
- Soft massage cushion
Do I Need a Breast Pump?
Some women who have exclusively breastfed have gotten by without a pump, but, I swear, I have no idea how they did it.
When my baby was ten weeks old, I went back to work. I would have loved nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mom, but since my student loans were hanging over my head, there was no way around it – I had to go back to work.
Sometimes I was lucky, and I was back home after a 6-hour workday, but there were days where things were super busy, and I put in 12-hour days. I hated every minute of it, and I would have rather spent that time with my baby, but it was something I had to do.
The only way I was going to make breastfeeding a doable option was by pumping while I was at work. If I had any hope of breastfeeding, I had to express milk with a pump so my baby could eat while I wasn’t with her.
Think of the breast pump as your modern-day ‘wet nurse’. In past times when a mom couldn’t nurse her own child, someone in the village would do it for her. Now when moms have to go back to work when their babies are so young, you are able to provide your own breast milk to your baby when you are away.
Editor's Note:Katelyn Holt RN, BSN, BC
Even if you aren’t returning to work, you’ll still likely encounter situations when you’ll need refrigerated or frozen milk on hand for your baby to eat. Whether it’s a family emergency, a medical situation or simply a night out with friends, you can’t be attached to your baby 24/7.
Sometimes you don’t get to decide if you are going to nurse – your baby does that for you. In some cases, babies aren’t able to latch properly onto the breast, but they can feed from bottles. If you want to breastfeed in those situations, you’ll have no choice but to pump so your baby still gets the benefits of breast milk. This type of breastfeeding is called ‘Exclusive Pumping’ (1).
Types of Breast Pumps
Breast pumps come in two broad types: single and double. Single pumps can only attach to one breast at a time, whereas double pumps attach to both. Double pumps tend to express more milk, but come at a higher price.
Pumps can also be further broken down into the following different categories:
Manual Breast Pumps
These have no external power source and rely on you to generate the suction or vacuum using your hands to squeeze a handle.
- Manual pumps tend to be light and portable.
- They usually express much less milk due to their reduced suction power.
Personal Electric Pumps
Electric pumps have a much greater suction strength than manual pumps.
- Usually come with electronic features, such as LCD screens, a timer, multiple expression modes, and sometimes even a nightlight.
- The disadvantages of electric pumps are their weight and higher cost.
Hospital Grade Pumps
Despite the fact that the FDA does not recognize the term “hospital grade” (2), the term usually refers to double electric breast pumps that have a closed-system, a long motor life, and are durable enough to express milk 8 or more times a day. Hospital strength pumps are often rented, due to their higher prices. Many office spaces provide these for working moms, who only have to bring their own pump parts to work.
- Typically ‘closed systems’ so no milk ever backflows to the pump/engine-which means they are perfect for multiple users.
- Comes with a higher price.
How to Choose the Best Breast Pump
Before you randomly pick a breast pump based on a friend’s recommendation, remember that you both might be looking for very different things. We’re all on different paths in life, with different bodies, different babies and different sets of goals and obstacles.
Nevertheless, any woman looking to purchase one of the best breast pumps will want to go over this list of factors to consider:
You’ll want to stick to something within your price range, but if you buy a very cheap pump, you might find it doesn’t work well. If that happens, you’ll have to buy another anyway, so save yourself the aggravation and buy a good pump, to begin with. Regardless of what it costs, it’s still cheaper than buying formula every week (3), plus health insurance plans might kick in and cover part of the pump.
If your milk flow is a little Niagara Falls-style, you need to pick a pump to cope with heavy usage. Some pumps are only made for occasional use, while others are designed to handle many pumping sessions a day. Knowing how much you expect to pump can help you choose between manual or electric pumps (4).
If you want to pump both breasts at once
Pumping breastmilk can be time consuming and uncomfortable. If you want to spend as little time attached to your pump as possible, consider a double pump rather than a single one.
How easy it is to clean
Buying a pump that pieces together like a puzzle might scare you off the whole breast pumping thing. Plus, women might resent the time they spend trying to get milk out of complicated tubing when they could be spending that time with their baby instead.
The same amount of suction won’t work for every woman. You’ll want to look for a pump with adjustable suction, this is very personal and needs to mimic the strength of your baby’s nursing, shouldn’t be too much stronger than that.
Blackouts do happen. If you’ve pumped enough milk ahead of time that you have an adequate freezer stash, you might not worry about a lights-out situation. But if you don’t want to have to depend solely on an outlet, you can buy pumps that also use batteries. If you have money to burn, you could even keep a manual pump on hand for emergencies or a car adapter that lets you use certain pumps in your car. Having an optional battery power pump or adapter for your pump allows you more freedom when you need it.
Best Breast Pump Reviews of 2020
These are the top breast pump models currently on the market:
1. Spectra S1 & S2 Breast Pumps
Electric pumps can cost a lot. But, for some women, they're well worth the money. They're cheaper than formula feeding, and they let you express milk in mere minutes, which is a huge time saver for moms.
The S1 is a tiny bit more expensive than the S2, but it has the option to switch to battery power in case you can’t or don’t want to use the power cord. It’s a little thing, but that rechargeable battery pack could really open up your world when you’re pumping exclusively.
Both products are robust and can last for months or even a year, depending on your usage. They make quick and comfortable work out of pumping your breasts, and you won’t need earplugs when you operate this unit either – it’s extremely quiet.
Both pumps are lightweight at just over 3 pounds. With the Spectra S1 or S2 pump, you can express milk one breast at a time, or you can do both breasts at once. While some electric pumps are loud and attract attention, this one is quieter.
The Spectra purrs like a kitten and feels so close to nursing your baby. I cannot recommend it enough. I used a different highly recommended pump for my first, and used the Spectra S2 for my second and what a difference! So much more comfortable and effective. I only wish I had the S1 for the battery portability!
Editor's Note:Katelyn Holt RN, BSN, BC
Another key feature is that the pumps have a closed system, which means your milk particles won’t go inside the actual motor. This is a more sanitary choice if you need to lend out or give away your pump when you’re done.
The pumps have a letdown mode that signals your breasts to release their milk supply. It also comes with a timer and a night light, which is a welcome addition for those 2 a.m. feedings!
- The S1 model can be operated with batteries or a power cord.
- Quiet, which makes for a more relaxed pumping experience.
- Expresses milk quickly and comfortably.
- Closed system.
- The tubes fall off easily during pumping (which means they need to be replaced).
- The pump vibrates during usage.
2. Medela Freestyle Breast Pump
Breast pumping can be a time-consuming task. We already have so much to cram into our schedules, that pumping 8 to 10 times a day can seriously affect how much we get done. Considering you might be spending multiple hours a day pumping, finding a good hands-free option at least frees you to do other things.
This small double electric pump becomes a hands-free unit, but it can take some effort to find a way to make it work for you. Since the Freestyle is powered by both a cord, but also a rechargeable battery pack, you can move around doing household chores while you’re pumping if you want to kill two birds with one stone.
It has a one-touch letdown button that sends a message to your body that your milk needs to start flowing. Medela’s 2-Phase Expression Technology creates a powerful suction and the levels adjust from 1 all the way to 9. It also features a pumping timer that lets you keep track of your pumping sessions, and a memory button to save your favorite settings.
While the pump might feel too gentle for some women, this machine gives moms freedom from being tied down to a stationary machine. It also comes with a cooler bag and ice packs in case you use this when you’re outside the house.
- This unit provides true mobility for moms on-the-go.
- It’s lightweight.
- Comes with a cooler bag and ice packs.
- This machine is pricey.
- Figuring out how to use the hands-free capability is tricky.
3. Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump
Determining the breast shield size you need is based on the size of your nipples, and not your overall breast, and it’s possible to have large breasts with smaller sized-nipples. Furthermore, if you have twins, you need to find a pump that will drain your breasts as fast as possible. You have two babies to feed and you need to make sure you have an adequate supply for them.
The Medela Pump in Style Advanced model has many features that make it a good investment, but for women with large chests and bigger than average nipples, the nice thing is that you can separately buy extra-large breast shields to make this pump work. Nipple size also varies during breastfeeding, so you will want to have easy options to grab.
The Pump In Style Advanced kit already comes with two sizes of breast shields – the 24mm and the 27mm. Before automatically ordering the extra-large shields, you should give the included shields a test drive. The nipple shouldn’t hit the side of the flange, you also shouldn’t be sore from pumping.
Because the pump is attached to the carry-all tote bag that comes with the kit and accessories, you can move the entire thing from one room to another with ease. The Pump In Style Advanced has impressive suction strength which can help keep your supply up, but it’s also adjustable if you prefer a lighter touch. The cooler and ice packs are great for providing moms the freedom to pump when they’re out and about.
- Strong suction feature.
- Easy to clean.
- Replacement parts are easy to find because the brand is so well known.
- This pump costs a little more than some on the market.
- It’s a heavy pump, which makes it less ideal for moms on-the-go.
- Open system.
4. Medela Sonata Smart Double Electric Breast Pump
Want to take your breast pumping digital? There's an app for that. If you like the idea of an electric pump with all the bells and whistles, consider that many products now come with touch screens and the ability to connect directly to an app on your smartphone.
MyMedela is this company’s tool to help you track your baby’s growth and pumping session output on your smartphone. The Sonata is a sturdy double electric model with 2-phase expression technology and different rhythms designed to mimic the fast beginning and slower progression of breastfeeding. The lithium-ion rechargeable battery even has a little alarm will ping to remind you when the battery is low.
The unit is small and lightweight, and surprisingly quiet for what is a strong, “hospital grade” suction. Many women have found that their supply is greatly increased and that they can pump a lot more using this product. It also comes with 1 month of 24/7 lactation support, which is amazing.
- Small and compact.
- App helps you monitor your feeding patterns.
- Double pump extracts high volumes.
- Short operating life: users report the unit breaks down often, and is tricky to fix.
- Good performance, but unreliable.
5. BelleMa Double Electric Breast Pump
Going back to work after having a baby is a challenge. Not only are you strapped for time and doubting whether returning to work is the right choice, but you also have to find a way to comfortably pump while at work to keep your milk supply flowing steadily. That’s when finding a good breast pump for the workplace becomes a priority.
Some electric breast pumps have short power cords that mean you have to sit right next to an outlet to get any pumping done. Also, offices don’t always have outlets in spots that give you the privacy you need.
The BelleMa pump has a longer power cord, which makes it easy to find a comfortable place to pump from. But the longer cord isn’t all this unit has going for it.
It’s a closed system, double electric pump which has left and right independent controls where you can choose different suction speeds for each breast. This is an interesting feature because it seems all women have a dominant breast that makes a little or a lot more milk- this could help even out the outputs or empty the breasts evenly.
It only weighs 14 ounces which makes carrying it into your workplace a breeze. While you can still hear this pump, it’s pretty quiet, making it a great choice for at-work pumping sessions. It’s easy to assemble, so you won’t cut into your work time too much.
- A good price for a double electric pump.
- Easy to clean and assemble.
- The battery pack has to be purchased separately.
- Doesn’t come with a carrier.
6. Lansinoh Signature Pro Double Pump
Sometimes the best option is the middle of the range one: a pump that is moderately priced but still gives you all the peace of mind and quality you want when it comes to something as important as your baby's food. You might find yourself wanting a hospital strength, electric breast pump but feel a little hesitant about the price tags on some products.
This Lansinoh pump fits the description of a good, mid-range quality you can trust. You get a lot for your money: a closed, hospital grade system with a stimulation phase, adjustable suction levels, and a kit with all the accessories you could need.
Some moms really love that this unit offers three pumping “styles”, and can run off battery power or its main cable. It’s a double pump with special back-flow caps that prevent the milk flowing back into the tubes. Plus, it comes in a helpful carry bag.
If a pump has hurt you in the past, this one may be up your alley since it’s geared towards lighter, more massage-like suction than other pumps. Many first-time moms report that they pumped for the first time with no issues using this unit.
- Gentler on the breasts, so great for first-time breastfeeders.
- Affordable quality.
- Hygienic, closed system.
- The gentler suction may feel too weak to moms with heavy flow.
- The pump can be a little loud.
7. Medela Symphony Breast Pump
If you're willing to pay for a top-quality hospital-grade pump to ensure your peace of mind, there are some good options out there. Hospital-grade pumps are generally closed system pumps, which means that none of your milk particles will reach the pump motor.
This pump was made for intensive use and unless you plan to give it a run for its money, you might want to find a more inexpensive pump. This pump is usually available to rent from the hospital. It uses 2-phase expression technology to help your milk start flowing freely.
If normal pumps are taking too long to remove your milk, you might want to try this one because it’s designed to express milk quickly. That’s a big deal when you’re breast pumping exclusively and start to feel like you’ve spent half your day hooked up to a breast pump.
You can use this pump for expressing milk from one breast at a time or from both at once. It’s a closed system so you won’t get any backflow of your milk into the tubing and motor. That can cut down on the risk of your baby ingesting mold or nasty bacteria along with their breast milk.
- These pumps are built to last, and can work for years.
- It’s so quiet you can barely tell it’s on.
- It’s sanitary, a closed system.
- The milk collection bottles and other items you need for this pump are sold separately in a kit.
- This is a very expensive breast pump.
8. Willow Wearable Breast Pump
Women who want the ability to pump anywhere with their hands-free may like the Willow breast pump. This pump fits inside your bra, so you can wear it as you do your normal daily activities. You won’t have anything sticking outside of your bra – no cords, tubes, or attached bottles that will alert people to the fact that you’re pumping milk.
You can opt to pump into storage bags and pop them into your refrigerator or freezer to build a stash of breast milk. Or you can use Willow’s no-spill reusable container that catches the milk as you go about your day, so you won’t have to worry about embarrassing leaks.
The pump comes in two colors – soft white and quiet gray. It has seven suction levels, similar to what you’d see in the double electric or hospital-strength pumps you may have used in the past. It offers two flange sizes – 24 mm or 27 mm.
- It lets you keep your hands free.
- You get access to the Willow app if you want to track your volume and pumping history.
- The battery lasts for as many as five sessions, which will see you through the day.
- It’s expensive and won’t fit everyone’s budget.
- It isn’t the most silent pump.
- Although you only have two parts to clean with this pump, the shape of the milk container makes it harder to clean.
9. Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump
Manual breast pumps should do a great job of expressing milk, but it shouldn’t be painful for your breast or your arm. The repetitive motion of manually pumping requires a pump that has an easy-to-squeeze handle. Manual pumps are ideal for moms who don’t have to pump multiple times a day, or for those who are traveling and don’t want to drag along a bulky machine.
Since you do all the work, manual pumps like this one don’t make noise, and so they’re perfect for pumping discreetly during a lunch break at work. No one has to know what you are doing behind closed doors if you feel uncomfortable about pumping away from home.
Although it includes a 24 mm breast shield, other Medela breast shields will also fit on this unit, which means you’ll be able to set up the most comfortable experience for your body. Best of all, this pump is kind to even the tightest budget.
- Quiet, which can be important for those who value discretion.
- Seems to lose suction over time.
- Can make your hand tired if you pump a lot.
10. Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump
When you’re going on vacation, you can’t beat the convenience of a portable pump. If you're going on an all-day adventure with your family, you can’t guarantee you’ll have access to an outlet and battery packs can die at the most inconvenient times. Portable, manual pumps, however, can go anywhere you do and won't let you down as long as you're able to squeeze the handle.
This Philips Avent Manual Breast Pump has a small, wide bottle attached to the pump, instead of a longer, thinner one that other portable pumps use. Another thing moms might appreciate about this breast pump is that it’s compatible with other Philips Avent bottles and milk storage containers.
The small, compact size of this pump makes it easy to position and use – you can even operate it with one hand. It has an angled neck which works with gravity to allow your milk to flow directly into the milk collection bottle, so you won’t have the strain on your lower back of having to lean forward. This pump also has a soft massage cushion designed to stimulate milk flow.
Lastly, moms who aren’t content to just wash their portable pumps will be glad to know this unit can be sterilized in the microwave or by dropping it in boiling water.
- Easy on your back because its design doesn’t require you to lean forward.
- Can squeak a little sometimes while operating.
- You have to press it hard against your breast to form a vacuum.
11. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump
Sometimes you might be able to get by just fine with a cheap breast pump. If you're primarily breastfeeding your baby, you may be able to just have an inexpensive model on hand to do some light pumping now and then. It will save you the expense of buying one of the more big-budget, heavy-duty pumps on the market.
Although this unit from Haakaa is called a pump, there’s no actual pumping involved. You’ll still end up with a significant amount of breast milk by the time you’re done using it, though.
All you do is take this BPA-free, silicone device and attach it to one breast while you’re feeding on the other side. Then just let nature take its course. As you let down and your milk begins to flow from both breasts, this small pump on your free breast will let you catch an extra ounces you would have otherwise wasted. This can be helpful at the beginning of breastfeeding when your breasts are engorged to take off a little milk to feel more comfortable.
And the best part is, there’s no discomfort involved and no extra effort on your part.
- It’s extremely cheap.
- Easy to use.
- Perfect for traveling.
- It won’t completely empty your breast.
- Measurements on the bottle are a bit inaccurate.
12. Freemie Hands Free Liberty Pump
As a mom, you learn pretty quickly to multitask. You always seem to have one thing going on in one hand and something else in the other. Hands-free pumps are a great choice if you'd rather skip all the tubing and levers entirely. These pumps attach directly onto your breast and can even be used discreetly under you shirt.
This Freemie hands-free pump is stealth pumping at its finest. It’s a double electric unit that’s a bit like a Robo Bra that collects your milk in two attached funnels. You pop it on and sit back, and the pump extracts your milk right inside your bra. The pump itself is the size of the palm of your hand, and it is strong, the tubing that comes with the pump is also compatible with Spectra pump parts.
Though it’s a slim profile under clothing, each cup holds a full 8 ounces. Because you don’t need to hold anything in place, your hands are free to get on with whatever work you need to, or else enjoy quality time with your baby.
This product could not be more discreet for working moms who might not have the time to step away from their desks every time they pump. Alternatively, this pump can easily be used around others without too much distraction and without you needing to remove any clothing.
- A car adaptor is available to purchase for use while driving.
- Freedom to snuggle your baby, work, or relax while pumping.
- Adjustable suction levels.
- It might not work well for larger busts.
- The cups leak easily.
- Pouring from the cups can be tricky.
13. Philips AVENT Single Electric Breast Pump
If you want to pump one breast while your baby is nursing from the other, you’ll want to consider getting a single electric breast pump. Between your baby and a single pump, you’ll make sure your breasts are fully drained so they keep producing that liquid gold.
The joy of this Philips Avent single electric pump is twofold: firstly, it’s cheaper than a double electric pump, which makes it a good alternative for moms who’d rather save their cash. Secondly, it lets you get breastfeeding and pumping done in one shot, saving you time as you essentially get two feeds for the effort of one.
Avent’s pump has also been designed to eliminate lower back strain for moms. Many pumps require you to lean forward to let gravity assist you, but because of the design on this one, you don’t need to lean forward at all.
When you use this breast pump, you start with the stimulation mode to let your body know it’s time to release milk. But after that, you get to choose which setting feels most comfortable to you – low, medium or high.
- Comfortable pumping experience.
- Easy to clean.
- Some moms have reported that the unit breaks down.
- Loses suction over time.
Open System or Closed System?
A closed system pump keeps the parts that collect the milk completely separate from the parts that pump it out. This barrier prevents mold, dust or spoiled milk from contaminating things.
An open system pump has no such barrier, so milk can get into nooks and crannies in the unit and encourage bacterial growth. While it’s possible to buy clean tubes and parts for an open system pump, and you can try to sterilize the individual pieces, you’ll never completely sterilize the motor itself, which could harbor microbes that could get into your babies milk.
If you’re getting a second hand or rental “hospital grade” pump, make sure it has a closed system. Breast pumps are not supposed to be donated due to hygiene reasons, Medela has a recycling program for when you’re completely done with your pump (5).
Breast Pump Accessories You Might Need
You may want to buy extra breast shields (also known as flanges) and valves to have on hand for when you don’t feel like washing up right after pumping. It can be difficult to find the time immediately after a feed, especially if you’re pumping multiple times a day. If you’re not feeling well or just enjoying a lazy day with your baby, a drawer of extra parts will come in handy. Pump parts need to be replaced pretty frequently to make sure you are getting the best suction (6).
Having a compartmentalized breast pump bag can help you organize all your spare parts and keep everything in its correct place. Many breast pump bags also include insulation or have a built-in cooler to help you transport your expressed milk when on-the-go. Anything to make carrying everything easier.
You’ll also need storage bottles so you can keep that liquid gold safe in the refrigerator or freezer. If you plan to pump at work you should also consider purchasing breast milk storage bags or a mini cooler bag with ice packs so you can keep your breast milk cold until you get home. If you have a refrigerator at work, use it, but if your commute is a long one, you’ll still need a way to get those bottles home safely.
The Bottom Line
When you factor in both affordability and function, the Spectra Baby S1 is our clear favorite as the best breast pump of 2020. No matter what you’re looking for in a breast pump, the S1 delivers.
Here are some of the features that make it stand out from the crowd:
- It’s lightweight, which makes it portable.
- You can use it with a rechargeable battery or power cord for great mobility.
- It pumps quickly.
- It’s comfortable and it has a variety of settings to help moms find a mode that works for them.
- It’s quiet, unlike some pumps which can be sound like a loud machine.
- The price is better than many other higher-quality pumps.
- If you need to pump exclusively, you can pump both breasts at once.
- It comes highly recommended by lactation consultants.
Whether you’re occasionally pumping or multiple times a day, the S1 can help you reach your pumping goals.
Breastfeeding is such an important part of your child’s early life, and the right pump can make the difference between it being a painful disappointment or a happy success. I know it can be a drag to research all the models out there, but more than worth it when you consider what you gain by buying just the right one.
Breastfeeding superheroes out there, it’s your turn to share your words of wisdom to the newbie moms out there who are doing their best for their babies. Did you enjoy our breast pump reviews? Can you recommend a pump? Do you have any tips and tricks? If so, don’t be shy and share in the comments below!