Manual vs Electric Breast Pumps

Manual or electric? Which is better for you?

You know you want to breastfeed your child to give them the best possible head start in life that you can. But you aren’t sure what type of breast pump you need – manual or electric.

Before you can decide which type to buy, you need to figure out how often you’ll be using it. The manual vs. electric breast pump question requires careful consideration of several factors.

How Often Will You Be Pumping?

Some moms won’t pump very often. They plan to nurse their babies, and they don’t expect to have long separations from their new bundles of joy. Women who don’t plan to pump every single day can easily get by just with a manual pump (1).

But some women plan to head back into the workforce after having their babies, and they’ll be pumping at least once a day, if not more. An electric breast pump will be a big time-saver for these moms since it helps them express milk more quickly than a manual pump.

Moms who are separated from their babies (due to maternal or newborn illness) and moms of multiples may need a more efficient pump. Renting a hospital-grade double electric pump is the best option in these situations.
Headshot of Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Editor's Note:

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

What is Your Budget?

Sometimes the price is the bottom line for mothers when it comes to the type of pump they buy. Women who are watching every penny may not be able to afford an electric pump, even if they plan to pump multiple times a day. Electric pumps, even single electric pumps, are much more expensive than manual ones.

Even if you’re struggling to afford a breast pump, you should try to get the nicest one you can. While there are good, affordable options out there, some cheap pumps tend to break easily or not have strong enough suction to express an adequate amount of milk.

If you are living in the United States, the Affordable Care Act mandates that you should be provided with an electric breast pump once your baby is born. While some ‘grandfathered’ plans don’t need to abide by this rule, check with your health insurance provider to see what is covered for you. They will likely have a list of approved models you can choose from.

If finances are a huge concern, don’t rule out hand expression (and avoid the pump type dilemma altogether). Many moms efficiently hand express milk and avoid needing a pump (2). What could be more cost effective and portable than your own hands?


While electric pumps can be packed away and taken to work or on vacation, they aren’t as portable as manual pumps, which are generally lighter, smaller and easier to clean. Plus, if you aren’t near a power outlet or you run out of battery power, you will still be able to express milk if you have a manual pump.

But if you need an electric pump because you plan to express a lot of milk, there are some electric breast pumps out there that are easier to pack up and take on the road with you. Most come with discreet carrying bags that help you keep everything together when you’re on the go.

Before You Choose One

Take a close look at your lifestyle, your finances and what your pumping needs will be. The right pump will not be the same for every mom. Talk to friends and family who have pumped before – they are often your best source for tips about what works and what doesn’t when pumping.

Manual pumps are best for moms who won’t need to pump all that often, moms who are watching their bank balances or moms on the go who need something reliable and portable. Electric pumps are best for mothers of multiples, or women who need to pump a lot, either at home or work.

No matter which pump you choose, though, if you’re having difficulty, get help from a lactation professional. Someone knowledgeable about breastfeeding can help you make the most of pumping.

Do you use a breast pump? Are you a manual mama or have you opted for an electric model? We’d love to hear about your experience with both in the comments!

Headshot of Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Reviewed by

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC is a writer, editor, and board-certified lactation consultant for two busy pediatric practices. She is a former La Leche League Leader, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and Certified Infant Massage Instructor.
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13 Reader Comments

  1. Jennifer Hernandez

    If I manual pump does it lessen the milk supply? I have an electric pump, I’ve just been lazy to plug in and take everything apart afterward. As suppose to just using my little self-manual pump. But it seems like less milk coming out. Or maybe that I’m staying on track with pumping every 2 hours instead of 4 hours passing and I’m super full. I don’t want to slow or lessen my milk supply. I just had my baby 1 week ago, so I need to produce more for her as she’s growing.

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Hi Jennifer, thanks for the great question. Producing milk can be seen as a supply/demand process, so the more demand you put on your breasts (through nursing or pumping), the more your body will adapt to increase the supply. This is why electric pumps are generally favored for increasing supply, because they do a much more thorough job of emptying your breasts each time. The drawback, as you’ve mentioned, is they are a lot less convenient. Since you already own an electric pump, and your baby is only 1 week, perhaps you might try both? Let me know how it goes for you.

    • Jojo Prince

      Hello Jennifer,
      My little prince is six weeks old now, and from the beginning, I have been producing a lot of milk. But I can tell you if you want more to produce more milk you need to use the electric pump. I’ve used both and can see a big difference between an electric and manual pump. I’m a cow right now; I had to buy a freezer for my milk!

      • Jenny Silverstone

        Thanks for sharing your story Jojo! I’m glad you’re able to get a big stockpile going for your little boy.

  2. Thao Oliveira

    Since I don’t go to work, would it be better for me to use a manual breast pump and just nurse? Or do I need an electric pump? Thanks for your advice.

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Will you be at home most of the day? Are you comfortable nursing while out and about? Since you will be home to nurse your baby, an electric breast pump isn’t necessary, but you can still have it if you want to. I used my electric pump to put extra milk into the freezer so that babysitters (and my husband) could feed the baby while I got some much needed alone time!

  3. Danielle

    From the beginning, my right breast has produced a lot more milk than my left. Just recently though, when I pump, my left breast doesn’t produce anything in the bottle, like at all. But I can clearly see when my son nurses from that side he’s getting milk and I see and hear him swallowing. The thing that has me wondering and questioning is why if and when I’m producing milk from that side, it doesn’t become large and engorged like my right side does? When they are full my left side does not increase in size, and never hurts or becomes hard like my right. I’ve gone back and forth whether it’s supply or pump that needs changing but I honestly just don’t know. Thoughts?

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hey Danielle, that has us stumped too! If it continues, it might be wise to check in with your doctor just to make sure. All the best!

    • Laura

      Hi Danielle,

      You’ve likely figured this out by now, but it sounds like you have blocked milk ducts on your right side. I’m a new mommy of 2 weeks, and I had the same issue at the start with both breasts. They were both rock solid and hurt a lot. And my baby was struggling to latch well also because they were so full. A lactation consultant showed me how to pinch close to my nipple to create a “sandwich” shape for my daughter to suck better, and while she nursed, my husband was instructed to massage all the hard spots in my breasts (the blocked ducts). By the next day, my breasts felt normal and soft again and didn’t hurt! And my nipples no longer hurt when she sucks either! I’m so glad this lady helped me out! Hope that’s helpful! Nobody seems to talk about this issue online. I’m still learning and have a lot of questions about breastfeeding, but that’s definitely one thing I learned that made a huge difference for me!

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Laura, it’s so generous of you to share your experience. We appreciate it! Thank you — and we’re glad your lactation consultant was helpful in this regard.

  4. Eenakshi

    Which is more painful? The electric pump or manual pump??

    • Team Mom Loves Best

      Hey Eenakshi, thanks so much for reading. It would depend on you as an individual. We cannot say for sure that one option would cause more discomfort than the other. Sorry we can’t do more to help — we hope you can find the best option for you and your baby :).

  5. Eva

    I had tried an electric pump when I nursing each of my three children, and I have never been successful getting milk. I’ve tried different flange sizes and I’ve done all the things you’re supposed to do. I’m wondering if a manual pump might produce better results for me? Has anyone ever heard of someone who was able to get milk from a manual pump but not an electric one?

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