I’m a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and certified lactation counselor who has supported many, many NICU moms during their pumping journey when their babies were too small or too sick to feed directly from the breast. While pumping is common in the NICU, it’s also common for non-NICU moms as well. According to a 2019 survey by Mamava, 95% of breastfeeding mothers end up pumping for one reason or another. Some moms are exclusive pumpers, other moms pump when they’re away from their baby or planning a stash for return to work, and some simply want to have a pump available just in case they need one.
Fortunately (and finally), companies have noticed that women both want and need breast pumps that are at varying price points, allow more mobility, can integrate with a phone app, and can be discreet. There are many breast pumps and pumping accessories on the market with different features, purposes, and pros and cons, which can be overwhelming! To help you narrow down your options when choosing the perfect pumping products for your lifestyle, here’s my roundup of the best pumping products and accessories.
What type of breast pump do I need?
All pumps share the same purpose: to remove milk. There are a number of different types of pumps available on the market. Since everything about the fourth trimester is so uncertain, it can be difficult to plan which type of pump you need before your baby’s arrival. Researching your options will help you choose the best pump for your lifestyle and breastfeeding goals. Here are the types of pumps currently available:
- Manual Breast Pump: A hand-operated pump that is used on one breast at a time.
- Double Electric Breast Pump: The opposite of a hand-operated pump, a double electric breast pump does the work for you. Pop it on and set the rate and suction, and your milk will start flowing into the collection chamber.
- Hospital-Grade Breast Pump: This is highly recommended for NICU moms and exclusive pumpers trying to establish supply since they’re easy to use and have fantastic suction.
- Portable Breast Pump: Finally, pumping technology is improving! While there is a time and place for a durable, efficient double electric breast pump, having the ability to move freely and go about your day while pumping is amazing. Many now come wire-free and can fit into your bra—although they come at a high price point.
- Silicone Breast Pump: It’s essentially a silicone “milk catcher.” During a breastfeeding session, you’ll feed on one side and apply this type of pump to the opposite side for continuous, gentle suction.
What should I consider when buying a breast pump?
- Usage: Do you need something for just once in a while? Check out a manual pump. Looking for a full-time pump that you’ll be using eight times a day? Look into a double electric breast pump. Planning to put your baby to breast most of the time? Snag a silicone pump. Not sure what you’ll need? Save your gift cards from your baby shower and make a decision when the time is right!
- Cost: There’s a wide range of options available ranging from $20 to $30 for a silicone breast pump, $25 to $50 for a manual pump, $100 to $400 for a double electric pump, and upwards of $600 for a hands-free, high-tech portable breast pump. If you have insurance, check to see what they cover! For exclusive pumpers, be sure to factor in the cost of replacement parts.
- Portability: Are you always on the go? A portable breast pump that can fit into your bra might be a nice option. Are you working from home? A double electric might be what you need.
- Suction strength: This one is tricky, since trial and error is the only way to know. Dive into online reviews to see what current users are saying.
The Best Breast Pumps of 2022
Best Manual Breast Pump
I always recommend a manual breast pump to all nursing moms—it’s nice to have one available in case the power goes out or your electric one fails. It also easily fits into your purse or diaper bag when running errands instead of a larger pump that you have to lug around. A manual pump is also great for troubleshooting breastfeeding issues that might pop up: a fast let-down that causes baby to cough and choke (use your manual pump for a minute or two before putting baby on the breast) or a clogged duct that requires a little extra attention.
- A hand-operated breast pump
- Comes with one PersonalFit Flex breast shield, which has been improved in recent years to be more comfortable and extract more breast milk
- Has a bottle stand to prevent spills
- Small, quiet, and discreet. Can easily fit in your diaper bag or purse
- The breast shield is compatible with other Medela pumps
For occasional use at home or for on the go
Best Double Electric Breast Pump
Double electric breast pumps can range from very basic with only one setting to decently fancy with multiple suction patterns, strengths, and the ability to pump one breast in a different setting than the other breast.
- An easy-to-use double electric pump with multiple settings of suction strength and rate
- Has a battery, so while it’s not created for mobility, you aren’t stuck in one spot at home
- Comes with two sizes of flanges 24mm and 27mm; other sizes and extra parts readily available online
- This pump has been a fan favorite throughout the pumping community for years
- Compatible directly with Avent bottles and compatible with other bottles using an adaptor that can be purchased online
- The Spectra S1 is not compatible with a phone app
- Spectra has a newer pump, the Spectra Synergy Gold, that entered the market last year. Another exciting option to consider!
Best Hospital-Grade Breast Pump
A few companies have really cornered the market on hospital-grade pumps, so your hospital will generally only have one option available to you. These pumps aren’t meant to be purchased for individual use but are readily available for moms in the postpartum area of the hospital and neonatal intensive care units, or they can be rented from a local pharmacy.
- The Medela Symphony pump is readily available in many hospitals
- Lactation consultants and NICU/postpartum nurses are very comfortable helping new moms use the Medela Symphony
- Comes with two different sizes of flanges, with smaller and larger sizes available online
- Pumping moms can sometimes rent the Medela Symphony directly from the hospital or from a local pharmacy
- NICU moms should change out their pump pieces every four to six weeks for optimal milk extraction
- Great for NICU moms. They can easily access videos on how to use the Medela Symphony pump
Best Portable Breast Pump
As a health care provider, I’ve seen first hand how important this option is for my pumping colleagues who have returned to work. It’s always awesome to see them providing care to hospitalized infants in the NICU, educating families, and consulting with other medical teams all while pumping (and it’s so discreet, no one knows!). For exclusive pumpers, portable breast pumps are a nice addition to your main double electric breast pump.
- The BabyBuddha is an impressively quiet, cordless pump with 14 different stimulation and expression modes designed to hook onto a lanyard to be totally hands-free
- The pump is tiny! The BabyBuddha is smaller than a cellphone
- The suction is strong—many moms report they’re able to empty their breasts in a fraction of the time using the BabyBuddha
- With a little Googling and creativity, the BabyBuddha can be “hacked” to be compatible with pieces of other brands like Freemie, Medela, Ameda, Spectra, Kiinde, and Evenflo. This is great for exclusively pumping moms—flanges/breast shields from certain brands just “fit” better even though they’re technically the same size in millimeters
- Needs to be charged frequently
- Only comes with 24 mm flanges, so moms using 21 mm, 28 mm, or 32 mm will have an added cost
Best Silicone Breast Pump
This type of pump is not meant to empty the breast but is instead an ingenious creation that catches milk that would’ve otherwise gone to waste. These are great for very slowly building a stash for when you return to work or for introducing breast milk in a bottle. Breast milk amounts are generally low—just 1/8 of an ounce to 2 ounces per feeding session—but that can add up over time!
- Apply the Haakaa to one breast while feeding on the other breast. The combination of baby stimulating a let-down of milk during feeding and the natural, continuous suction of the Haakaa will create a flow of milk from the breast
- Easy to use and clean
- Build a stash without using a manual or electric pump
- Not for exclusively pumping moms, as baby needs to go on the opposite breast to stimulate a let-down
- Some confusion in the new-mom community regarding this product: Is it a pump? What does it do? Do I need an electric pump too?
- Another product from the same company, the Haakaa Ladybug Silicone Milk Collector, fits into your bra and also provides gentle, continuous suction.
Best Pumping Accessories
- Keep your pumped milk—up to 24 ounces—at the perfect temperature when at work or store up to 34 ounces of already chilled breast milk while traveling
- Pump directly into the inner chamber with a Medela pump or with adaptors for other major brands like Spectra and Evenflo
- Can add milk from multiple pumping sessions into the same canister according to newer research
- Great for pumping moms without access to refrigeration during their time away from baby or home
- Not for NICU moms who are still advised to separate milk from each pumping session
- Needs to be used in conjunction with another on-the-go storage option for moms with an oversupply
- Reusable BPA-free and food-grade silicone bags for pumping mamas who want to reduce plastic waste
- Pumping moms can pump directly into the bags using adaptors (up to 8 ounces per bag)
- The Legendairy Milk silicone breast milk bags can roll up or lay flat in your pumping bag, making packing for work less bulky
- Double sealing buckle to prevent leaks
- Can be used after breastfeeding is completed for toddler snacks
You’ll need to purchase adaptors if you want to pump directly into the bags.
Pumping Bra Accessories
Pop the milk-saver into your bra to collect milk that naturally leaks throughout the day or during a breastfeeding session. It does not suction to your breast, so it's great for moms with an oversupply who want to collect leaking milk without stimulating the breast to make more milk.
Can hold up to 2 ounces.
Routine, frequent emptying of the milk-saver into more permanent storage is important so milk doesn’t go bad.
Swap out your standard flange/bottle pieces for the Freemie Cups.
Freemie Cups fit into your bra, can hold up to 8 ounces, and allow you to stay clothed. They're compatible with other major brands including BabyBuddha, Spectra, Motif, and Ameda. Check their website for compatibility.