Manual vs Electric Breast Pumps – Which Are Better?

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?

Portability

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!

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