Breast Is Best: How to Choose the Best Breast Pump (2018 Guide)
When I found out I was pregnant, I got flooded with questions.
How was I feeling? Who will watch the baby when I go back to work? Which doctors am I using? Will I be breastfeeding?
All of these questions got a bit overwhelming. And, while I didn’t have the answers for most of them—one thing I was sure about was the fact that I would nurse my baby.
I knew that breastfeeding has numerous benefits for both of us, and I planned to do it for an entire year.
But, as a nursing novice, there certainly was a lot to learn.
The whole concept was totally overwhelming!
So, here is a comprehensive guide to choosing the best breast pump, as well as other need to know breastfeeding for beginners basics.
That totally depends on your lifestyle!
Do you plan on staying home with your baby? Do you want to give your child milk from your body, but don’t wish to nurse directly? Do you mind nursing in public, on demand? How long do you plan to nurse?
If you’re planning on nursing for a full year or more, it is definitely advised to pump to maximize your supply.
I ask these things for a few reasons.
Breast pumps are ideal for moms who take a maternity leave and can nurse whenever/wherever at home, but who need to express milk when back at the office.
Breast pumps also allow other family members to help out with feedings, and it allows moms to store up a milk supply so they don’t have to whip out a boob in public if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.
You need a breast pump after you establish a reliable feeding routine with your baby.
Doctors recommend making sure your baby learns how to feed off your breast first, before off a bottle. This may take a couple weeks.
I suggest having a pump ready to as soon as you bring the baby home from the hospital, though. You need to sterilize all its parts and set it up.
You may even want to experiment with using it so it’s not an overwhelming experience once your baby is home and waiting for you to pump your milk. Plus, if you’re only planning on pumping and not nursing, you’ll need it ready to go at the hospital with you!
Also, some women don’t like the way that their breasts feel in between feeding time initially, so they find it helpful to have a pump on hand and ready to go, to relieve this pain.
There’s nothing wrong with stockpiling up a stash of milk to use at a later time, like when your baby is ready for the bottle.
When I was shopping for a breast pump, I had no idea that there were so many different options to choose from. And, I had no idea which one would be best for me.
Here is a breakdown of the different kinds, as well as some pros and cons of each.
Manual pumps are meant to be used manually (duh).
You need a breast shield, which is a lightweight, clear object that gets placed over top of your nipple.
Then, you make the milk come out by squeezing a handle that starts the suction process through the shield. Milk is then expressed into a container.
A manual pump is ideal for moms who don’t plan to pump often. They don’t have a lot of parts, they don’t take up a lot of space, and are really cost-friendly.
It does not rely on electricity or batteries to work, just good ol’ muscle power, so they make a great backup pump if in a jam. You can also pump anytime or anywhere—you don’t have to be stationed next to an outlet.
Your hand can really get tired and start to hurt from a manual pump! It takes longer than other pumps to express milk.
Also, some common complaints from moms are that the milk isn’t fully expressed from the breast, leaving them in pain, or not with enough milk to fill their baby’s bottle with. Also, you can only pump one breast at a time. This is considered to be a single pump.
Electric powered pumps run on battery and/or electric power. It either uses batteries or a cord that gets plugged into an electrical outlet, which then powers a small pump.
It creates suction to pull milk out, allowing you to control how much suction you want or need.
These pumps are way technologically advanced. Because the pump has a control that adjusts to create different patterns of suction, it can mimic a nursing baby based on the suction you select. This can give you maximum milk output.
It also is able to pump both breasts at once, making it a double pump, which saves time and gets you more milk. You can even go hands free with most styles since it pumps your milk into a container or bag for storage or instant use.
Many women find this ultra-convenient because they can pump at work or while completing stationary tasks around the house.
Because the pump relies on a power source, women may not be able to pump if they run out of batteries or electricity. You have to be stationed to a power outlet if plugging it in while pumping as well, which decreases mobility.
Electric pumps are also expensive! But, most insurance companies will provide an electric pump to have or borrow, free of charge.
Last, they are also pretty big and bulky, so you will need to utilize a carrying case or have a large diaper bag on hand to accommodate the motorized pumping station/adapter.
While many women argue that the only way to pump is by using an electric pump, some are better than others. Their key features truly set them apart.
When shopping for an electric pump, be sure to look for something that is/has:
Double Use Feature. This allows both breasts to be pumped at the same time, allowing for optimal milk output.
Hands-Free Feature. Surf the web, pay your bills, talk on the phone, entertain your other kiddos—hands free is the way to be!
Closed System. A closed system never allows your milk to come in contact with anything harmful.
Silicone Pads. When you’re pumping, you need to be comfortable.
Adjustable Shields. Breasts and nipples come in all shapes and sizes, so you need a shield that fits you well. Good breast pumps come with a few fit options.
Several Settings. Everyone’s let down will be different. Several settings will allow you to choose yours.
Easy to Clean. Dishwasher safe tubes, shields, and holders are a must!
Carrying Case. If you’re serious about nursing and pumping, you’re going to need a great travel system on hand that will let you take your pump with you wherever you go.
Milk Storage System. After you express milk, you’ll need an insulated bag that will safely hold your milk and allow you to transport it back home to your baby, fridge, or freezer.
Night Light. Because pumping happens all times of the day and night!
Settings Savers. Once you find that right suction and speed, you don’t want to forget it. A great pump will do the remembering for you!
The first time I tried to use a breast pump probably would look pretty comical to a bystander.
I was so confident I knew how to use it, I barely skimmed the directions.
Mistake number one.
Little did I know that the first step was to be fully relaxed, and I was anything but. So, here are the outlined instructions:
- Be fully relaxed. Sit in a room alone on a comfortable chair or bed.
- Apply a warm compress or massage your breasts before pumping (especially until you get the hang of it).
- Pick the breast shield the best surrounds your nipple and place it over top of it—it should not rub against the wall of the shield, but be able to move freely back and forth.
- Select your setting on your pump—you may need to play around with this until the suction feels slightly uncomfortable (but not painful) and then turning down the vacuum a bit.
- Let the machine do the work and pump your supply into a bottle or container.
- Try to pump both breasts at once so you get a high output of milk. Serve or store your milk right away!
Nursing is almost like a full time job. Why not utilize all the awesome accessories that are available to you to make your life easier?
Here are some of the most helpful breastfeeding accessories that are also my favorite:
Nipple Shield. Breastfeeding is very painful for some. Nipple shields help ease the pain! It also creates a stronger latch, and serves as a barrier between you and your baby’s mouth.
Nipple Cream. Your nipples will get pretty sore at first. Nipple cream helps heal and protect them!
Nursing Pillow. There are lots of nursing pillows on the market that will help you hold your baby while they feed, but also take stress off your back.
Nursing Cover. These come in handy if friends and family visit when it’s feeding time, or if you need to nurse in public. A cover provides some privacy, but doesn’t interfere with your baby’s eating schedule.
Nursing Pads. Everyone leaks at first when you bring the baby home, whether you’re nursing or not. So, nursing pads help soak up leaks and they fit discreetly in your bra.
Gel Pads. Gel pads can be used hot or cold. Their main purpose is to help with engorgement pain, especially when you’re starting to wean your baby off the breast.
Milk Storage Bags. These are a must! They store pumped milk safely, can be written on, and can be placed in the fridge or freezer for later use.
If you want the most milk, you need to massage your breasts before pumping. This stimulates and gets the process started.
Most great breast pumps will do this part for you!
You can also eat and drink certain foods that will help you produce more milk.
You Should Eat
- Fenugreek Seeds
- Basil Leaves
- Chick Peas
- Brown Rice
- Sweet Potatoes
You Should Avoid
- Raw Mango
- Raw Banana
- Cabbage Leaves
These foods and ingredients are said to decrease milk production significantly!
Also, the best time of day to pump is in the morning. Moms produce the most amount of milk then.
You’ll also get a good amount if you pump 30-60 minutes after a feeding, or an hour before you’re scheduled to nurse.
The FDA actually goes against using a previously owned breast pump.
While renting or borrowing a pump is cost-effective for most, the government organization considers pumps to be single user devices.
This is because they feel there is no guarantee the pump can be cleaned and disinfected between uses by different women.
Mothers can carry infections, which can make you or your baby sick.
Speaking of safety, you need to ensure that your pump is clean and your milk is safe to serve up to your baby.
A general rule of thumb to follow is if your milk or breast is touched by that part, it needs to get cleaned regularly.
All you need to do to clean it is wash it in warm water with gentle soap after every use. The equipment should also be sanitized once a day in the dishwasher or with a special sanitizer from your pump’s manufacturer.
Steam bags are also an easy way to zap germs and disinfect the shields and accessories in merely minutes!
Never share your pump with anyone!
And, if you’re traveling with it, make sure it’s enclosed in a carrying case, away from food and other objects that many have come in contact with germs. This could contaminate your equipment!
Breastfeeding benefits your baby in a lot of ways. Here are just a few of them:
- Individualized formula—it’s made specifically for your baby and their unique, individualized needs.
- Reduces the risk of SIDS.
- Helps cut down in illness and infections in the first year of life.
- Reduces risk of developing asthma and ear infections.
- Have fewer bouts of diarrhea.
- Maintain a healthy weight throughout baby stages and into toddlerhood.
- Long-term protection from diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, and Celiac Disease.
- Bonding time with mother.
Breastfeeding also benefits you, the mama, in the following ways:
- Shortens postpartum bleeding.
- Burns calories and aids in weight loss.
- Helps reduce the risk of some kinds of cancers.
- Makes bones stronger.
- Accommodates a budget—breastmilk is free!
- Bonding time with baby.
It takes about three to four days for your supply to come in.
However, women who have had a baby before get milk in much sooner. Some women think they give their baby milk right away when they nurse in the hospital.
But, what the baby eats is something called colostrum. It’s rich and creamy, but it’s not your official milk supply.
However, it will provide your baby with everything they need the first few days of life!
Many moms do fine in the hospital, but when they get home, they run into some nursing and/or pumping roadblocks.
Don’t worry. There are a lot of ways you can get support. You can contact:
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). IBCLCs are certified breastfeeding professionals with the highest level of knowledge and skill in breastfeeding support. IBCLCs help with a wide range of breastfeeding concerns. You can ask your obstetrician, pediatrician, or midwife for the name of a lactation consultant who can help you.
CLCs (Certified Lactation Counselors) or CBEs (Certified Breastfeeding Educators). A breastfeeding counselor or educator teaches about breastfeeding and helps women with basic breastfeeding challenges and questions.
Doulas. A doula is professionally trained to give birthing families social and emotional support during pregnancy, labor, and birth, as well as at home during the first few days or weeks after the baby is born. Doulas who are trained in breastfeeding can help you learn to breastfeed, or pump if needed.
If you baby has been feeding off only you, getting them to take a bottle of your breast milk can be tricky.
But, once they do, you can get more sleep (which is beneficial to your supply) and it allows other family members to share in this bonding moment with the baby.
Here are a few tips for getting your baby to take a bottle:
Start at 3 or 4 Weeks. If you know you’re going back to work, you should definitely start the process sooner than later. At this age, your baby has the hang of nursing off of you, but isn’t too far into the process where they’ll totally reject a bottle.
Hold the Baby Upright. Its neck and head need to be supported so it can control the flow of the milk.
Give Breaks. When your baby needs a break, simply tip the bottle down so the milk leaves the nipple. You should also stop feeding right away when the baby releases the nipple or starts to fall asleep.
Use a Vented Bottle. This helps milk go down with ease and it prevents gas and colic.
Find a Great Nipple. This may take a little experimenting, but there are lots of great nipples on the market that help you avoid nipple collapse, and that emulate your own shape and texture.
Burp Your Baby Often. This will help them eat more, be less gassy, and spit up less frequently.
You can let your pumped milk sit out and remain at room temperature for about 4-6 hours. But, many moms often store their expressed milk in the refrigerator because they aren’t planning on serving it to their baby right away.
Milk can remain in the fridge for 3-8 days. It can stay in the freezer for 6-12 months, remarkably.
Here are some additional tips for keeping your milk in the fridge:
Write on the bags. Using a permanent marker, write on the outside of the storage bag the day and time the milk was expressed. This helps you avoid serving your baby spoiled milk, which is unsafe.
Put the oldest pumped milk toward the front of the fridge, and the most recently expressed milk toward the back so you never waste your supply.
Place milk bags inside a plastic container. Occasionally, bags will rips or leak. Having them in a plastic container allows the milk to remain in place and not saturate anything else in your fridge.
Keep your fridge at the right temperature. Milk needs to be stored at 39 degrees or cooler for maximum safety.
Keep small bags at first. So you don’t waste any milk, pump only 2-4 ounces into each storage bag. You can increase the amount as your baby grows and begins to eat more.
Add milk to bags. If you have a poor expression, you don’t have to dump the milk. Simply put it in the fridge and add more milk to it later in the day. Just be sure that the new milk is not warm and has cooled in the fridge first, before adding it to the already cooled milk. Ice packs help to quickly cool down freshly expressed milk.
Milk expands when frozen, so be sure to not fill your storage bag all the way up to the top.
In addition to this key tip, here are some other pointers when it comes to freezing your supply:
- Store milk in the back, not on the sides!
- Don’t use frozen milk that thaws after 9 months of storage.
- Thaw milk in the fridge overnight, or hold it under warm, running water.
- Once frozen milk is thawed, it should be used within 24 hours after being placed in the fridge.
Heading back to work? Be sure you have everything you need on hand to allow you to pump on the go.
Here are some helpful tips that will have you pumping like a pro in no time!
Request a Pumping Room. By law, your employer has to provide a clean and private place to pump your milk. Before returning to work, reach out to your boss to ensure you know where you’ll be doing this.
Utilize a Hands-Free Double Pump. This will allow you to get the most milk possible, but also go hands free so you can eat, type, or text. As a mom, it’s all about multitasking.
Keep a Manual Pump in Your Car. A manual pump is a great backup if something should happen to your electric one! It will allow you to relieve pressure without running home.
Stock up on Nursing Pads. Prevent embarrassing leaks that may happen throughout your work day—especially when you first come back to work.
Pump 3 Times During an 8 Hour Work Day. Plan ahead of time when you feel the best time to take a break to do this would be. Most moms do it a few hours after arrival, during their lunch, and an hour or so before heading home.
Bring an Insulated Bag. An insulated bag is a must. It protects your expressed milk by keeping it cold on your ride home.
Always Have Extra Storage Bags on Hand. You never know when one will rip, leak, or if you need to pump more than 3 times.
Don’t Wait Until Your Breasts Become Full. In order to get on a steady pumping routine, you have to set times to pump to coincide with how often you’re feeding your baby at home. Being on a consistent schedule helps your milk supply and allows you to continue to nurse steadily at home.
This is the mommy of all pumps!
The Spectra Baby pump (click here to check the price on Amazon) can be used on one breast or both. It comes with all the bells and whistles.
First, it’s super quiet. So, you can remain discreet in public, and can also pump at home without waking your baby.
Next, it boasts a closed system, so it’s fully hygienic for both you and your baby.
I also totally loved it night light and timer. This was helpful to me as a new mom since I wasn’t a pro yet at stumbling around in the dark. And, the timer kept me right on schedule.
It was very powerful, yet comfortable. I always had an easy time producing the maximum amount of milk and never truly felt uncomfortable or in pain while doing so.
I also found its various mode buttons helpful. Each session always began in massage mode, so I knew my body was being stimulated and the milk would start flowing.
It then would go into expression mode, but could be switched back and forth whenever needed, with ease.
All aspects (the cycle and vacuum) of the pump could be adjusted for a customized experience. The pumps are never reused and they come with two types of flanges so you can achieve your perfect fit for optimum comfort and safety.
It’s compact and weighs about five pounds, so you can pop it in your diaper bag without feeling overly weighed down.
If you’re looking for a back up pump or just aren’t planning on getting super serious about pumping, you’ll love this manual pump from Medela (click here to check the price on Amazon).
The Medela Harmony manual pump is perfect when you’re going to be spending some occasional time away from your baby (like a night out with the girls).
It’s meant for single use and it so lightweight and discreet, no one will notice you’re carrying it in your bag. It’s simple to use and offers immediate relief when you’re suffering from that full feeling and away from your baby.
It has a soft touch design, and its handle makes pumping comfortable, not overly tedious or tiresome. Any part on the pump that comes in contact with the milk is BPA free, and it’s even compatible with most breast shields.
In addition to the pump itself, it includes two 5 ounce bottles with lids, a bottle stand, a nippple, a cap, and two membranes, making it a full kit!
Because it’s so small and simple to use, it’s great to have on hand in case anything happens to your electric pump while at work, or if you’re in the car and get stalled and need some instant relief.
Medela Pump in Style
Medela’s Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump (click here to check the price on Amazon) is the best double electric pump I’ve come across.
Moms rave about how easy it is to use, how fast it pumps, and how effective it is at getting the most milk expressed. It’s meant to be used daily, and for moms who wish to pump at least several times a day.
It has built in bottles to help prevent spills and a removable cooler bag that can hold up to four breast milk bottles.
I also love it’s battery pack, so you can virtually pump anywhere you need to—you just need 8 AA batteries. It’s also a favorite because it boasts 2-phase technology, and it has a one touch let-down button (this is how you get the most milk in the least amount of time).
You can also customize your pumping speed and vacuum because it has various pump settings that you can set to your liking.
In addition, it comes with a handy carrying case that organizes all your pumping necessities.
If you prefer a single use pump, then the best one on the mommy market is designed by Philips Avent (click here to check the price on Amazon).
Because it’s an electric pump, you can transport it anywhere you’d like. It provides a soft, warm, stimulating massage cushion, allowing you to stimulate milk and have it flow out with ease.
The pump has 3 settings that you can adjust to after the gentle stimulation mode. Because this single pump has a unique design, you can remain comfortable while pumping.
It’s also light and compact since it’s meant for single use, so it can fit in your diaper bag or purse with ease. In addition to all of it’s bells and whistles, the pump is BPA free, so it’s safe to use.
While single pumps take more time to express milk, it’s ideal for moms who wish to pump occasionally throughout the day, or when they are away from home and need to express their milk quickly.
It runs on 4 AA batteries and also is backed by a 2 year warranty.
Bellema Mango Plus
The Bellama Mango Plus pump (click here to check the price on Amazon) is just what you need if you’re looking for something ultra-portable.
It is meant for single use and it has a 2-phase pumping system—so you can stimulate and express. It has a whopping 9 adjustable vacuum powers, so it’s easy to choose the setting that works best for you and is the most comfortable.
The pump is great for portable use because it’s so small and lightweight. It runs on 4 AA batteries and it has a soft, silicone cushion for comfort. It is a closed system, so your milk will always remain safe and it has an LCD screen display that boasts time and memory features, so your favorite setting will always be preserved.
When it comes to pumping into bottles, it is compatible with Philips Avent bottles and if those are not your bottles of choice, an adapter is provided to allow you to pump into virtually anything.
All parts are approved by the FDA and are BPA free. It also comes with a one year limited warranty.
Moms are busy. That’s why most of them prefer a hands free pump.
They can read, write bills, or surf the net (my friends often ate lunch) while you’re pumping to really maximize your time.
The best hands-free pump to do so with is designed by Medela (click here to check the price on Amazon).
The Freestyle pump is meant for double and daily use. It has a rechargeable battery and a lightweight motor, so you can always take it with you wherever you go.
It remembers your settings and preferences and it also has a timer and backlight in case you need to pump in the dark. It is sold with a portable carrying case that fits your motor and all the pump’s parts.
When in use, you can feel confident as you go hands free because the parts fit securely and pump safely. It has been a tremendous help to moms who have to pump at work, or have to care for multiple children.
Once your milk is expressed, you can store your milk in the compact cooler, which will keep your milk nice and cold as you transport it to and from your destinations.
BelleMa Effective Pro
Trust me, moms wish they could stay at home for the first year with their little one. It would make nursing so much easier.
But sadly, it’s just not a reality for most.
But, you don’t have to give up on breastfeeding or breastmilk altogether—just utilize a really great portable electric pump.
Bellema’s Pro Double Electric pump (click here to check the price on Amazon) is a Mom’s Choice award winning pump. Moms can use it on either side solo, or simultaneously.
It stimulates and expresses, and has 9 adjustable vacuum settings so you pump at the power you prefer.
You can trust the pump is safe because it has a closed system and anti-backflow.
The soft cushions are made of silicone, so you’ll always have a comfortable experience when pumping. The entire system has been FDA approved and is backed by a year limited warranty.
The main reason moms love this pump so much for work is because it works super fast, producing a large volume of milk in a short amount of time.
Spectra Baby USA S1
Pump like a pro at home, by using a hospital grade breast pump.
Spectra Baby’s Single/Double breast pump (click here to check the price on Amazon) is super advanced and powerful—just like the pumps used in the hospital.
It has a rechargeable battery, so you can virtually pump anytime or anywhere. In addition to being very powerful, the system is closed, so it’s ultra-hygienic for you and your baby.
It is very quiet in case you need to pump around your little one and it also has a night light and timer, for evening pumping sessions. It’s letdown mode is adjustable—just experiment with the settings until you find one that works best for you.
Either way, the hospital grade pump is designed to express the greatest amount of milk possible.
The entire system can be packed up in a tote, so you have everything you need, always. The pump can be used plugged in or is able to function off the battery for about an hour with a full charge.
Plus, many moms trust a pump with a hospital grade seal, since these pumps are used immediately when the baby is born.
Breastfeeding is an important, but ultimately personal decision.
There is a lot to learn and a lot of gear to purchase and prepare.
Hopefully this comprehensive guide will help you through your nursing journey and provide you with lots of answers to your many questions.
Breastfeeding is natural and you’ll both benefit from the numerous benefits.
Be patient, be prepared, and be positive—and you’ll be off to a great start with the process!