Requires very little effort to pump, not causing pain in hands. This pump is very quiet. Compact enough to comfortably fit in diaper bag or purse and only has 4 pieces to it. Works quickly and is very easy to clean.
Doesn’t come with carrying case or any additional accessories.
Reliably empties breasts more than even electric pumps. Is quick and easy to use, more convenient than electric pumps when looking to pump on-the-go. Does a good job catching milk from alternate breast when feeding baby on one side.
Device stains easily and needs to be washed often to prevent permanent stains.
Comes with simple instructions and is easy to transport. Has soft and comfortable silicone covering. Has few parts, so it’s simple to clean. Ergonomic handle makes it easy on hands to ensure maximum milk is pumped.
Flange only comes in one size and isn’t removable.
Works just as quickly as an electric pump and is simple enough to throw in diaper bag. Made of quality materials and is durable. Comes with a convenient stopper and carrying case. Ensures no milk is wasted while baby feeds.
Ounces measurement on pump may be a bit off.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Breast milk has all the nutrients a baby needs, yet 24/7 mom availability isn’t always easy. Manual breast pumps offer flexibility for moms without the high price tag of an electric pump. They’re simple to use and give nursing moms a way to prevent leakage and save breastmilk for later.
Manual pumps are quieter and smaller than electric models. Suction methods range from a single-piece bulb design to a dual-pump model that takes some coordination to manage. The type that’s right for you will depend on how you plan to use the pump. A few extra features that can make the process easier include an insertable silicone breast shield or a feeding system that includes bottles and nipples.
Manual breast pumps are an inexpensive way to give extra freedom to a nursing mom while making sure that the baby gets the best nutrients possible. They take a little practice to use, but once you get the hang of it, they’re a great addition to your baby gear.
To learn more, read on. If you’re ready to buy, consider one of our top picks.
Single breast pumps are by far the most common type of manual breast pump. While some of these models are designed for one-handed use, many take two hands — one to hold the pump in place and the other to actually pump. These models are small enough to fit in a diaper bag, making them a great choice for pumping on the go.
Manual double pumps are rarer than single-pump models, mostly because they’re difficult to use. Typically, you need a special nursing bra that holds the pumps in place, so you can manually suction both sides at once. However, if you want the process to go faster but don’t want to invest in an electric model, a double manual pump might be the right choice for you.
Before you buy, really think about how you’d like to use the pump to narrow down what you want from it. Some models are designed to catch excess milk from the breast that’s not being nursed. A model like this is perfect for a mother who deals with leakage when nursing. Other models come as part of a feeding system that includes bottles, storage bags, and nipples. And some moms like having a small pump to help relieve engorgement or unclog a milk duct.
The container into which the milk is pumped and stored is most useful when it has measurement marks. To accurately keep track of how much milk your baby is eating, you’ll need to track milk in ounces. The measurement marks need to be accurate, so you don’t under- or overestimate how much milk your baby’s getting. Manual pumps that attach directly to a bottle offer better accuracy than single-piece models. Single-piece models have bulb-shaped collection containers that can make it difficult to measure accurately.
You really can’t tell if a pump will be a good fit without trying it and, for the most part, pumps are one-size-fits-all. However, some pump manufacturers make insertable silicone breast shields of different sizes that either come with the pump or are sold separately. If you’re worried about getting the right fit, one of these models will give you some options.
Sanitation is absolutely necessary for anything that will be touching your baby’s milk. Single-piece breast pumps can be simpler to clean than multipiece models, but handwashing may be your only option with one of these models. Any pump that has dishwasher-safe parts will make your life easier. Make sure you know which parts are dishwasher-safe and which aren’t before pressing the start button. Also, be sure to read the manufacturer’s washing instructions as most dishwasher-safe parts should be stacked on the top rack to escape the most intense heat of the dishwasher.
If you’ll be washing the pump by hand, be sure to use brushes that are only used for cleaning the pump and bottles. The risk of cross contamination goes up if the brush is used to clean anything else.
Single-piece pumps have a breast shield/flange and bulb that are a single piece of silicone. These are the smallest models on the market and are better suited for catching excess milk on the off breast than pumping milk. However, they can be used for that purpose in a pinch, and they don’t take up much space in a diaper bag.
Multipiece pumps are the more common choice for manual breast pumps. They typically have a removable handle, main body (which includes the breast shield and portion that attaches to the bottle or storage container), and sometimes a cover to go over the valve section. Those are the basic pieces, but some models will have more. The more pieces the pump has, the more complex and difficult it can be to clean. However, these designs often pump faster and provide better control over suction than single-piece models.
Handle-activated suction mechanisms have the greatest potential for one-handed use. These models also provide more control over the suction pressure, as you can stop pressing the handle once the pressure gets uncomfortable.
Breast pumps with bulb suction are typically found on single-piece models. While these models are compact, they don’t provide the same suction control as other models. Some bulb pumps can be difficult to clean because the milk gets trapped inside the bulb. Not only does that make the pumping less effective, but it can also allow bacteria to grow in the trapped milk.
Syringe-style pumps are less common than either handle- or bulb-suction models. With this design, the shield portion of the pump is attached to a straight piece that functions like a syringe. The syringe is pressed, creates suction, and milk gets expressed. These aren’t the easiest models to use, but they are compact.
Trigger-activated pumps may have a syringe-style body with a trigger mechanism to activate the suction rather than direct pressure on the plunger as with a syringe design. While these models are effective, they’re not as easy to use as either a handle- or bulb-activated model.
Feeding systems are the all-in-one answer to pumping. A feeding system includes a pump that’s compatible with the system’s bottles and nipples. Some systems include freezer storage bags, bottle/pump stands, and pump caps. As far as ease of use goes, a pump that’s part of a feeding system is a great option. The only time you may run into problems here is if your baby doesn’t like the nipples that come with the feeding system, in which case you may have to transfer milk from the collection bottle to one that fits the nipple your baby prefers.
It might take practice to get your milk to come down without your baby present. If you’re away from home, try to find a quiet, secluded area to pump. If you’re having trouble, breathe deeply and think about your baby.
Once you’ve got the pump sanitized, a pump cap fits over the breast shield, protecting it from germs and dust. While these aren’t absolutely necessary, they are a nice feature to have, especially if you’ll only be using the pump once in a while.
The design of manual breast pumps makes them top-heavy, which means a stand may be necessary to keep it upright when not in use. Models that come with a pump stand reduce your chances of spilling milk.
Insertable breast shields are silicone covers that fit over the plastic breast shield/flange piece of the pump. They can come in different sizes to fit different pump models or breast sizes. Some pumps include one or two shields but, for most, you’ll have to purchase insertable breast shields separately.
Manual breast pumps can typically be found for $10 to $35. At the lower end of the price range are single-piece bulb pumps, though there are a few multipiece models with ergonomic handles near this entry-level price. Prices typically go up based on the accessories that come with the pump, which puts models that are part of a complete feeding system at the top of the price range.
When washing the pump in the dishwasher, be sure to choose a hot-water cycle with heated drying to completely sanitize the pump.
The Medela Harmony Breast Pump has a unique two-step suction design that mimics how babies actually nurse. It comes with a bottle, pump stand, bottle cap, pump cap, and nipple. The Bellababy Manual Breast Pump Kit includes both a handle pump and a bulb pump for twice the pumping options. The bulb-activated pump works well to catch milk that leaks from the off breast while the handle pump is perfect for expressing extra milk.
Q. Do I need to wash the breast pump after every use?
A. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highly recommend washing all breast pump parts that come into contact with breast milk after every use. If you’ll be away from home while pumping, you can use disinfectant wipes on the large pieces of the pump. However, for pieces that can’t effectively be cleaned with a wipe, the CDC recommends having sanitized spare parts with you so the pump is completely sanitized for every use.
Q. Do you need a dishwasher-safe container to hold pump parts while in the dishwasher?
A. Some pumps have a valve and other small components that are easy to lose in the dishwasher. There are dishwasher-safe baskets and bins designed to hold bottles and nipples that can safely contain these pieces. They’re inexpensive and will prevent you from searching through the dishwasher to find the smallest pieces of the pump.
Q. Can you use a manual pump for everyday use?
A. The short answer is yes, of course, you can. That’s especially true if you’ll only be pumping once a day to create an extra milk supply or relieve pressure. However, if you’ll be pumping several times a day every day, you should seriously consider investing in an electric pump. They’re faster and require less work on your part.
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