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January 17, 2023  |  Baby & Kids

BestReviews baby and child expert shares tips and tricks for choosing the right breast pump

On top of choosing the safest car seat or the most comfortable crib, mothers are also tasked with choosing the perfect breast pump. While there are tons of breast pumps to suit every need, choosing one without knowing your supply or if you’ll return to work can be slightly confusing. 

To learn more about choosing the right breast pump, we asked the BestReviews baby and child expert for help. As a neonatal intensive care unit pediatric occupational therapist and mother, Dr. Aimee Ketchum offers excellent tips and tricks.

In this article: Medela Pump in Style With Max Flow Breast Pump, Spectra S1 Plus Electric Breast Milk Pump and Lansinoh SmartPump 2.0 Double Electric Breast Pump.

Why you need a breast pump

Dr. Ketchum recommends a breast pump for every mother, even if they plan to exclusively breastfeed.  “Mom might need a break to get a little extra sleep, shower or run to the store from time to time. If there is some breastmilk in the freezer, someone else can feed that baby with a bottle,” Ketchum said. If you’re unsure whether to purchase a breast pump in advance, here are a few additional purposes.

  • Work or travel: The primary reason mothers use a breast pump is to maintain supply while working and stock up on milk supply to feed their little ones. However, even those who stay at home or work from home may take a work trip or go on a vacation without their baby and need to pump while they’re away.
  • Exclusively pumping: Whether you decide ahead of time to pump exclusively or run into issues that prevent breastfeeding, pumping and feeding the baby bottles is an excellent alternative to breastfeeding. Those who plan to pump exclusively will likely want to invest in a quality breast pump and all the necessary accessories.
  • Low supply or engorgement: Those with either low supply or engorgement can benefit from using a breast pump. Pumping sessions in between or directly after feeding helps boost supply if needed. On the other hand, engorgement is also tricky to deal with, and pumping before or after feeding helps both mother and baby. 
  • Medical reasons: Unfortunately, there are situations that no parents can plan for, such as the baby being separated for medical reasons. From her experience in the NICU, Dr. Ketchum recommends mothers start pumping immediately, even if they just get colostrum. “In the NICU, we call this ‘liquid gold’ and encourage moms to pump it for their babies if they can,” Ketchum said. Also, if the mom is sick or on medication that prevents her from breastfeeding, it’s helpful to have a pump available to maintain her milk supply.

Types of breast pumps

  • Electric breast pumps: The most powerful are electric breast pumps, which plug into an outlet. They can be single or double. One downside is that you’re tethered to a single space while pumping.

  • Battery-operated breast pumps: Battery-operated pumps are convenient since they’re portable and sometimes wearable, which means you can use them while doing chores or on the go. However, you have to monitor the battery levels closely. There are both single and double options available. 

  • Manual breast pumps: Also known as hand pumps, manual breast pumps are the best for travel or to keep in your bag when you’re running errands. The main disadvantage of manual pumps is that they only come in single pumps. 

Single vs. double pumps

All breast pumps are either single or double. A single pump only expresses milk from one side at a time, while double breast pumps express both sides simultaneously. “Double electric pumps are most effective and efficient, so they get the job done quicker, but single manual models are portable and useful on the go,” Ketchum said.

Open vs. closed system

Some pumps are open-system and some are closed-system. In open-system pumps, the expressed milk travels through tubing and the pump mechanisms to get to the bottle. Closed-system pumps are sealed off by a barrier and are more hygienic but more expensive.

Affordable Care Act

Regarding the Affordable Care Act, "Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance does pay for breast pumps for new moms, but the type of pump can vary greatly depending on insurance coverage. The best thing to do is to contact your insurance company and find out what type of pump they cover, where to purchase it, if you need a prescription or not and if there will be any out-of-pocket financing required," Ketchum said.

Best breast pumps and accessories

Medela Pump in Style With Max Flow Breast Pump

As a double electric breast pump with a closed system, this option is not only powerful but also more hygienic. Plus, it comes with fewer parts, making it simpler to clean and assemble.

Sold by Amazon and Target

Spectra S1 Plus Electric Breast Milk Pump

In addition to being an efficient electric pump, it's also portable and rechargeable, which is ideal for traveling. As a bonus, use it as both a single or double pump, depending on your needs.

Sold by Amazon and Target

Lansinoh SmartPump 2.0 Double Electric Breast Pump

Consider this Lansinoh model if you're looking for an affordable double electric breast pump. It claims hospital strength suction for efficient pumping sessions.

Sold by Amazon and Target

Willow 3.0 Wearable Double Electric Breast Pump

Thanks to this wearable double breast pump, mothers no longer have to sit in one place when pumping. The gravity-defying latch also allows for pumping in any position without leaking, including lying down.

Sold by Target and Amazon

Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump

Conveniently and discreetly express milk while on the go with this manual breast pump. It uses two-phase technology to mimic a baby's natural sucking motion.

Sold by Amazon and Target

BabyBuddha Portable and Compact Breast Pump

Since this electric breast pump is smaller than a smartphone, you never have to worry about lugging a heavy bag of supplies again. It's also extra quiet to allow for discreet pumping.

Sold by Amazon and Target

Worth checking out

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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.