When you shop through links on our site, we may receive compensation. This educational content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

Manual vs Electric Breast Pump: Which Should You Choose?

Medically Reviewed by Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
Manual or electric? Which is better for you?

You’re sure breastfeeding your baby is the best choice for you. But you aren’t sure what type of breast pump you need – manual or electric.

The manual vs. electric breast pump question requires careful consideration of several factors. We’ve done all the research into this debate for you. We’ll lay out all the crucial facts so that you can make the best decision for your family.

Key Takeaways

  • The decision between a manual vs. electric breast pump depends on several factors, such as frequency of pumping, budget, and portability.
  • Manual pumps are best for moms who won’t need to pump often, are on a budget, or need something portable.
  • Electric pumps are best for mothers of multiples, moms who need to pump a lot, or those who pump at work.
  • The Affordable Care Act mandates that moms in the US should be provided with an electric breast pump after birth, but it’s important to check with your health insurance provider to see what is covered.
  • Hand expression is a cost-effective and portable alternative to pumps.
  • Before choosing a pump, consider your lifestyle, finances, and pumping needs, and seek advice from lactation professionals.

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 breast 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 live 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.

Manual vs Electric Pump FAQs

What are the Side Effects of an Electric Breast Pump?

Yes, electric breast pumps can actually cause side effects like nipple soreness, pain, and even engorgement. Electric pumps can also increase your risk of getting clogged ducts or mastitis if you use them incorrectly.

Also, electric pumps can be really loud and disruptive, which can be an issue if you’re pumping around a sleeping baby or want to do it discreetly at work.

Do You Get More Milk with a Manual Pump?

Some women claim to get more milk by using a manual breast pump rather than an electric pump. Manual pumps can offer more control over suction and speed, which can help stimulate your milk production.

Manual pumps can also be gentler on the breast tissue, reducing the risk of pain or discomfort.

Is It Painful to Use a Manual Breast Pump?

Using a manual breast pump can be uncomfortable or even painful if not done correctly. It’s important to make sure the pump is properly positioned on the breast and that the suction is adjusted to a comfortable level.

Also, massaging the breast before and during pumping can help stimulate milk flow and reduce discomfort.

How Long Should I Manual Pump For?

The length of time you should manually pump for depends on your milk supply and pumping goals. In general, it’s recommended to pump for about 15-20 minutes per breast or until milk flow slows or stops.

Should I Keep Pumping If No Milk is Coming Out?

No, it’s not recommended to continue pumping if no milk is coming out. Continuing to pump without milk flow can cause discomfort or damage to the breast tissue.

It’s important to take a break and try again later or to try different pumping techniques like massaging the breast or changing the suction settings.

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, women who need to pump a lot, or moms who pump at 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!

Feedback: Was This Article Helpful?
Thank You For Your Feedback!
Thank You For Your Feedback!
What Did You Like?
What Went Wrong?
Headshot of Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Medically 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.