How to Find the Best Manual Breast Pump to Squeeze Out Every Last Drop of Breastmilk (2018 Reviews)
You can always count on your own manpower. While electric breast pumps won’t work without an outlet or fresh batteries, a manual pump will work for as long as you have the strength to squeeze the handle.
With so many choices flooding the market, it can be tricky to find the best manual breast pump.
This article will help you know what to look for in a quality pump and will offer a closer examination of the some of the best ones currently available.
Quick Comparison: Our Top 5 Manual Breast Pumps
Low Milk Supply
*All links above will take you to the latest prices on Amazon.com or you can read our in-depth manual breast pump reviews below.
Do I Have to Have a Breast Pump?
Not every woman needs a breast pump, but it’s a good idea for most women to have one on hand. Obviously, as a new mom, you’re going to want to spend as much time as possible with your baby, so you may be around a lot of the time when your baby needs to feed.
But sometimes it isn’t always possible for you to be with your baby at every feeding. The hustle and bustle of daily life will interfere with that plan.
I missed several feedings a day with my first child because of my busy work schedule. I worked in an office setting, not in my home, so I had to count on someone else to give my baby her meals. Without a breast pump, those meals would have been formula. Breast pumps make it possible for working moms to give babies their best chance at health.
If you plan to return to work, or even if you plan to take a day to yourself once in a while, you’ll need to have a breast pump.
Why Should I Choose a Manual Pump?
There are a lot of differences between manual and electric breast pumps. Moms who want to pump multiple times a day may want to consider an electric pump, but if you’re just looking to pump occasionally, like once day or less, a manual pump is the way to go.
The advantages of a manual pump over an electric pump
- Price: Manual pumps are much more inexpensive than electric pumps. There’s no electronics required, which drives down the price. If you aren’t going to use your pump very often, there’s no need to spend the extra money buying an electric pump when a cheaper option is available for you. Motherhood is expensive enough without having to buy top-of-the-line equipment if you don’t need to.
- Portability: Manual pumps can go anywhere you do. They’re easy to put in your purse or suitcase for last-minute trips or for pumping at work. It’s more difficult to take electric pumps with you on the road because they won’t work unless you have an outlet handy, or you carry enough batteries with you. Plus, electric pumps are heavier than lightweight manual pumps are.
- Quiet: Unlike electric pumps which can be quite noisy, manual pumps are quiet. Once in a while you’ll hear a squeaking noise, but overall, it’s much easier on the ears than electric pumps. Sometimes the loudness of an electric pump can be annoying when all you want is peace and quiet when your baby is sleeping. Moms don’t get much quiet time to themselves – if breast pumping gives you a few precious moments of much-needed solitude, you won’t want a noisy machine interfering with your thoughts.
- Easy to use: You don’t need to be particularly smart to figure out how to use a manual breast pump. Unlike electric pumps that can sometimes be intimidating, breast pumps are straightforward. What you see is what you get.
- Easy to clean: There are fewer parts to worry about with a manual pump compared to an electric pump. They are easy to take apart to clean. Once you have them clean, you simply let them air dry for the next time you need them. That’s a big perk for busy mothers who have a long list of things to do on any given day. I know the less time I have to spend cleaning, the happier I am.
- More comfortable: Some women, even those who pump a lot, prefer manual breast pumps because they feel they are more comfortable than electric pumps. Unlike some electric pumps, you control the suction on a manual pump – you can pump slower or faster depending upon your preferences and what works best for your breasts. In addition, manual breast pumps don’t seem as impersonal as electric pumps do. Sometimes with electric pumps you feel like a cow being pumped for its milk instead of a person.
How Do I Choose a Manual Pump?
You should look for a manual pump that is easy to pump. You don’t want to get cramping in your arm or hand from your breast pumping sessions. You shouldn’t feel like you are working out. Ideally, you’ll find one that makes pumping effortless.
You’ll want to consider the design of any manual pump you are thinking about purchasing. The shape of the pump can be crucial because you’re going to be holding it for minutes on end, pumping your milk sometimes quite vigorously.
Some manual pumps require you to use two hands, while others are easier to position and pump, which means if you become adept at pumping, you’ll be able to pump one breast while your baby is feeding from the other. Being able to only use one hand to pump frees up your other hand so you can do additional tasks while pumping.
Consider how strong the suction is while looking at pumps. Some manual pumps provide great suction, but some aren’t nearly as good at it. Suction matters because it is the difference between having to pump for minutes longer per breast.
In addition, you want to fully drain your breast to keep your milk supply up. If you give up because you know you’ll never fully empty your breasts thanks to your pump’s subpar suction, you’ll have fewer ounces of breast milk for your baby to eat.
Related Reading: How To Increase Your Low Milk Supply
How to Use a Manual Breast Pump?
Using a manual pump is easy, even for people who are not mechanically inclined.
There are just a few steps you have to take:
- Wash your hands to make sure you aren’t contaminating the storage bottle or any of the pump parts that will come in contact with your breast milk.
- Put the breast shield over your nipple.
- Start pumping by squeezing the handle of your manual pump. You’ll need to do a few pumps before you see any milk coming out.
- When you are done pumping one breast, you should pump the other one. You don’t want your milk supply to dry up because you constantly favor one breast over the other.
- Once you are done pumping and have either fed your baby or stored the breast milk, you should wash the pump and let the pieces air dry for the next time you need them.
Related Reading: What are the Best Lactation Supplements?
Manual Breast Pump Reviews
Now that you know how to use a manual pump, what they're useful for, and exactly what to look for when buying --
Here are my 5 favorite manual breast pumps in 2018:
Best Everyday Use Manual Breast Pump
When you use a manual breast pump every day, it has to be a model that is designed to put up with heavy usage. You don’t want to spend your hard-earned money only to have the breast pump break because it can’t keep up with you. Look for a sturdy pump right from the start.
You should be able to use this pump without fear of killer hand cramps because of its unique design which helps moms find a pumping position that is comfortable for them.
It has a textured massage cushion that is supposed to help with letdown to start a woman’s milk flow. The pump is lightweight, and its compact design makes it perfect for traveling. You can easily fit this unit into an oversized purse.
Finding a good position on your breast with this pump is an easy feat, and it is also simple to continue to hold this unit in place while you pump.
Moms who have Philips Avent Natural and Classic bottles will be pleased to know those bottles are compatible with this breast pump. But moms who have standard-sized bottles may want to look at other breast pumps because this one only fits wider-mouthed bottles. The pump pieces are easy to clean and they can be placed in the top rack of the dishwasher.
- Comfortable to use.
- Easy to pump.
- Expresses milk quickly.
- Can be a little squeaky during use.
- Doesn’t fit standard-sized bottles.
Best Manual Breast Pump For Low Milk Supply
When you have low milk supply, you’ll want to find a manual breast pump that offers great suction. You’re going to need that suction to get every drop out of your breasts that you can. Fully draining your breasts will help you produce even more milk.
The Medela Harmony includes the breast pump, a 24 mm breastshield, one 5-ounce bottle with a lid and a stand, and all the breast pump parts you’ll need.
It uses 2-phase expression technology. During the first phase, you prepare your breasts for letdown, by using the lever that is closest to the breast shield. But once your milk begins to come out of your breast, you use the longer lever to pump the milk until your breast is emptied.
Moms may like that although the suction is great with this pump, it feels more gentle than some other manual breast pumps.
Although this pump does come with instructions, you might not need them. This pump is easy to figure out how to operate.
This pump is one of the quietest manual pumps, rarely making any squeaking or clicking noises. It fits nicely into purses or diaper bags.
- Doesn’t make any noise.
- Easy to put together.
- The suction seems to lessen after repeated use.
- Some users have reported the o-ring on the pump breaking easily, which could mean you may end up needing a replacement piece.
Best Breast Milk Catcher While Breastfeeding
Sometimes while you’re breastfeeding your baby on one side, your other breast will start to react. It may begin to leak and you don’t want that precious milk to go to waste. That’s when a breast milk catcher can come in handy. Over the course of the day, you might be able to save an ounce or two.
This unit is described as a pump, but you won’t have sore arms or hands after using it. That’s because you won’t have to do any physical pumping.
This is more of a collection container for when you are breastfeeding your baby. While your baby is nursing from one breast, you’ll put this BPA-free pump up to your other breast. When letdown happens, your baby will drink from one breast and milk will begin to trickle from your other breast. This pump will catch all the milk that leaks from the breast your baby isn’t using.
While it might not sound like much of a pump, you may be able to get up to 3 ounces of milk just by putting this pump up to your breast. If you collect 3 ounces every time you breastfeed, you’ll get a lot of benefit from this extremely cheap silicone pump.
- It comes with a lid so you can pop this right into the refrigerator until your baby needs it.
- Very inexpensive.
- It will only work while you are breastfeeding.
- It will work best if you lean forward, but that can be hard on the lower back.
Best Manual Breast Pump For Working Moms
When you have to pump at work and you can’t afford a double electric breast pump, a manual breast pump is a good option. You’ll want to find one that can drain your breasts quickly because you don’t have long to get your milk expressed when you’re on the job.
This pump uses two different modes – a stimulation mode and an expression mode. It has breast shields that fit two sizes, both standard and large, which will help moms find the right suction and a fit that will work for them.
Its ergonomic design and easy-express handle will stop your hand from feeling worse than your breast does. The pump can be used with Lansinoh’s Momma bottle and their milk storage bottles.
The wide-neck bottle attached to the pump makes it a cinch to transfer milk into a storage container. Taking this bottle apart to clean it only takes a minute or two. After an easy cleaning process and after the pieces have airdried, putting the bottle back together again just takes a moment.
Moms should like that this pump expresses milk quickly and efficiently, and the pump is cheaper than some other models on the market.
- Comfortable to hold.
- The suction isn’t as great as some manual pumps.
- Not compatible with a number of bottles.
Best Manual Breast Pump For Large Breasts
When you have larger breasts, it can be hard to find a breast pump that will fit them comfortably. Some brands and models are better than others are for this. You’ll want to look for a breast pump that can accommodate your bigger chest.
This pump, made for occasional use, costs a lot less than many of its competitors. Moms are able to adjust both the speed and suction of this pump as they use it.
The NUK pump allows moms to do all their pumping one-handed so they can accomplish others tasks at the same time as pumping. The pump only weight 5.5 ounces, which feels like nothing in your purse.
There are very few parts on this pump, which makes it easy to assemble and clean. All NUK bottles can attach and fit onto this pump.
Moms should like how comfortable this pump is because it includes a breast cushion.
The NUK has an ergonomic handle to help reduce the strain on your hand and wrist while you pump. Moms will find this pump works best when they lean slightly forward – that allows the milk to go into the bottle and not run out of the unit.
- Easy to clean.
- Soft and comfortable against your breast.
- Even with the ergonomic design, this unit is a little uncomfortable on your hand.
- Makes a popping noise while pumping.
My Favorite Manual Pump
Medela Harmony offers a good mix of performance and affordability. It’s comfortable for moms to use, and it is so quiet that no one nearby will know what you are up to.
This is a great option for women who pump occasionally, especially for moms who only pump once a day at their workplace. With how quiet this pump is, it’s a good choice for using while at work, when you want to pump without your coworkers asking what you’re doing.
Although manual pumping does require a bit of a learning curve, once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it becomes second nature. So in the beginning, even if it feels a bit awkward, stick with it. You’ll catch on sooner than you think. While you may have a few good reasons to want to give up your pumping efforts, you have the best reason of all to keep trying – your baby.