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Manual vs Electric Breast Pump – Which is Best?

So you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby. You might think that you won’t need any fancy accessories to do this. Well, the truth is you don’t have to purchase any fancy accessories, but one that is very useful and has the potential to become your best purchase is a breast pump.

This will be the case if you wish to continue breastfeeding after you return to work or if you want to leave your baby with anyone for a period of time. So which is best, a manual vs electric breast pump?

Let us have a look!

Do You Need a Breast Pump?

There are many reasons that a breastfeeding mother may need to express milk.

You may fancy a night out or just a night off from the night feeds, while your partner takes care of the baby. You may be returning to work and wish to continue to breastfeed, so you will need to provide milk for whoever is caring for your baby.

Perhaps you may want to breastfeed but your baby is unable to latch on properly, this may be for many reasons.

I know several women who have breastfed until their babies were around 18 months without ever using a breast pump. I have no idea how they did it! Some women I know also have exclusively pumped due to a variety of problems. As far as I am concerned, that is commitment!

When my last baby was born, I purchased an electric breast pump not because I was returning to work but because I still wanted to enjoy an evening out, or a weekend away with my partner.

Using a breast pump is a lifesaver. It gave me the option to continue breastfeeding my son until he was 18 months old. It gave me the best of both worlds!

Manual or Electric Breast Pump?

Certain circumstances may mean a manual pump will be the better option over an electric and vice versa.

Such as, how much you plan to express, your budget, portability, time available to pump, single or double pump, how easy is it to clean, power source, or adjustable suction. These are all questions that you need to ask yourself before purchasing a breast pump.

manual breast pump

Best Features of a Manual Pump

When shopping around for a manual breast pump, no matter what brand you settle on, there are some features that you need to consider:

  • Amount of noise – Although manual pumps are relatively quiet compared to electric ones for obvious reasons, this is still something that you need to consider. If you end up with a noise pump then you won’t be able to discreetly pump anywhere.
  • Portability – A manual breast pump requires no power source so it gives you the option to be able to express milk anytime anywhere.
  • Cost – Manual pumps are a fraction of the cost of an electric one, so opting for one means you’re being kind to your wallet.
  • Power source – Using one of these pumps only requires you to have a good strong hand. No power source needed.
  • Suction adjustment – You can adjust the suction force to one that is comfortable for you. This is particularly useful just after giving birth when your breasts and nipples are very sensitive and sometimes sore, you could move to a lower suction force and then progress to the higher suction force if and when it’s needed.
  • Handle operation – This needs to be smooth so as to enable convenient and pain-free milk expression while using minimal effort in your hands.
  • Silicone massage cushion – The purpose of this is to almost replicate the suckling of your baby by massaging your breast and stimulating the let down of your milk.
  • Spare parts – These should be easy to source and relatively low cost.
  • Easy to clean – Check out how many parts there are to your breast pump and how quick and easy it is to clean. So why bother buying one with a million pieces and takes an hour to strip, clean, and put back together?

Best Features of an Electric Pump

Electric breast pumps were once only available at a hospital. Now they are owned by many mothers. For those who have one, an electric breast pump can totally change your breastfeeding journey from a stressful and painful experience to a happy, content, and pain-free one.

Here are some features that you need to consider before purchasing an electric breast pump:

  • Enables fast and effective expression of breast milk – As a parent, time is precious. You do not have an hour to pump to only end up with one or two ounces. 
  • Helpful in overcoming lactation problems – Many women suffer from lactation problems such as breast engorgement, nipple pain, or poor milk production.
  • Two-phase milk expression – This is when the breast pump has a setting for stimulation or massage which mimics a baby suckling, which helps with the let down of milk. Another option also offers a deeper suction that replicates a baby’s natural feeding pattern.
  • Memory settings – Allows you to store the custom program that suits you, purely for convenience and ease of use.
  • Silent operation mode – This is an important feature especially for an electric pump as they are renowned for being very noisy. Many now advertise that they are exceptionally quiet allowing you to pump while your baby is sleeping close by.
  • Mains and battery-powered – If you can purchase a pump that offers both electric and battery operated this means that it is portable and you can pump anywhere at your convenience.
  • Spare parts – Most are easily available, which you can buy directly from the manufacturer.
  • Closed system – This is preferable and offers a more hygienic and convenient system. A closed system is where your milk is prevented from coming into contact with the tubing and the motor, allowing the system to be easily sterilized without the worry of cross-contamination from dirty tubing.
  • Easy to clean – You do not want a pump that has a thousand pieces and takes forever to strip, clean, and rebuild. You want something that has as few parts as possible and can be quickly stripped, sterilized, and rebuilt.

Top 3 Manual Breast Pumps

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:


1. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

Medela is one of the top brands for breast pumps. They have an array of good manual breast pumps. It comes with some of the features mentioned above such as two-phase expression technology, lightweight, and portable.

This model comes complete with a 24 mm breast shield and one 5 ounce bottle. It is quieter than other manual breast pumps, which means you could discreetly pump anywhere. 

Medela Harmony Breast Pump

Buy on Amazon


2. Philips Avent Breast

The Avent manual breast pump is lightweight and compact, making it great for on-the-go pumping. The massage cushion has a velvety feel that feels warm and relaxing against your skin. This can help to stimulate your milk flow.

Its unique massaging petals are designed to mimic your baby’s suckling which can help with the initial let down of your milk.

Philips Avent Breast

The Avent pump has only a few parts making it quick and easy to clean. This makes it super easy to put back together too. Also, you do not need to lean forward when expressing as you do with many other pumps, providing a more natural, relaxed, and comfortable position to pump.

This model is compatible with other Philips Avent feeding bottles such as Natural and Anti-colic.

Buy on Amazon


3. Tommee Tippee Made for Me Manual Breast Pump

Tommee Tippee is another well-known baby brand. Their manual breast pump is called Made for Me. As the name suggests, they seem to have thought about the ergonomics of a woman’s body.

The pump comes with a silicone cup that is cushioned to be gentle and super soft on sore breasts. This is especially good after giving birth or when you may experiencing sore nipples.

This model has also been designed taking into account the size of women’s hands. This means that you need far less effort to express your breast milk, but do not end up with a sore hand at the end of it!

Tommee Tippee Made for Me Manual Breast Pump

Another feature of this pump is exceptionally quiet. You can use one almost anywhere and still being discreet. The pump also comes with only a few parts and is easy to clean, sterilize, and put back together. This model comes with a 1  x 5-ounce bottle with a slow flow nipple, which is great for a newborn.

Buy on Amazon


Pros of Manual Pumps

  • Easy to clean
  • Comfortable
  • Control the suction force with your hands
  • Low cost

Cons of Manual Pumps

  • Time-consuming
  • Not as effective as an electric pump
  • Less suction than an electric pump

Top 3 Electric Breast Pumps

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:


1. Tommee Tippee Made for Me Single Electric Breast Pump

This is a single breast pump, which means you can only express from one breast at a time. This pump is USB rechargeable, giving you the option of taking it anywhere with you. A single charge will last around 60 minutes so you can pump on the go.

It is also quieter than the leading breast pumps and has been independently tested to ensure that this is the case. This again gives it the ability to be used anywhere while still being discreet.

It comes with a patented silicone cup that is cushioned to provide a sore breast with gentle comfort.

Tommee Tippee Made for Me Single Electric Breast Pump

The Tommee Tippee pump comes with a total of 14 pump modes making it completely customizable. This gives you control with five massage modes that mimic your baby’s latch so as to stimulate milk flow.

It begins with 10 short pulses followed by one longer pump, then it moves on to a stronger mode, you can control this by using the + and – buttons. Once your milk starts to flow there are nine express modes to help it keep flowing.

These modes provide you with a more regular and prolonged pumping action, designed to help you express as much milk as possible.

It also comes with an LED screen to show your pumping times and comes with a Closer to Nature bottle.

Buy on Amazon


2. Medela Pump in Style Breast Pump

The Medela Pump in Style is the sports car of breast pumps. This pump comes with the complete kit of everything that you will need to pump, all in one bag.

It is a double breast pump so you can express milk from both breasts at the same time, saving you huge amounts of time. This comes with a two-phase expression technology meaning that it mimics your baby suckling in order to encourage let down of your milk in less time.

The Pump in Style has a single knob to adjust the speed and vacuum to ensure the most comfortable pump settings for you.

Medela Pump in Style Breast Pump

This pump can also be battery-operated. You can use eight AA batteries which are not included. It is recommended that you purchase rechargeable batteries if you intend to use this feature frequently as it would be more cost-effective.

It comes complete with 4 x 5-ounce bottles with lids. Not with nipples. A removable cooler bag and a contoured ice pack are also included. These will keep your milk fresh and cool while you are out.

This complete unit is then packaged into a handy and stylish bag, either an on-the-go tote, backpack, or metro bag, ensuring it is completely portable and everything is kept together for convenience.

Buy on Amazon


3. Spectra S1

Do not be deceived by the size of this pump. The Spectra S1 weighs just 2.1 pounds and is loaded with features.

To begin with, it is a hospital-grade pump that can be used as either a single or double breast pump. This model comes with all the accessories needed in order to do this. It has a closed system meaning that there is no chance of your milk getting into the tubing and also has a backflow protector to prevent milk from getting into the motor.

S1 is a fully rechargeable unit with an inbuilt rechargeable battery, providing portability and the convenience of pumping on the go. It has an ultra-quiet motor that operates at 45 decibels, equivalent to holding a conversation in a library.
Spectra S1

Suction levels are adjustable to provide a more natural flow of milk, allowing you to pump longer and to express the maximum amount of milk at one time.

The Spectra comes with a nightlight, which is handy if you are expressing at night but do not want to disturb your sleeping baby. It also has an auto timer with a display that offers you the precision at every pumping session. There are 2 x 5-ounce bottles included as well as nipples and lids for each bottle.

Buy on Amazon


Pros of Electric Pumps

  • Highly effective
  • Easy to use
  • Effortless expression

Cons of Electric Pumps

  • Expensive
  • Usually have a lot of parts and can be a pain to put back together.
  • Noise level
  • Requires a power supply

electric breast pump

Which is Best Electric or Manual Breast Pump?

Ultimately the right pump, may it be a manual or electric breast pump, will depend on your personal circumstances and preferences.

If you are only going to pump occasionally, have a low budget, or need something lightweight and portable, a manual pump would more than likely fit your needs.

However, if you are going to be pumping a lot, suffering from lactation problems, plan to return to work, and still wish to continue breastfeeding and have a higher budget then an electric pump is what you will be looking for.

Personally I have used a manual and electric breast pump while breastfeeding my own children. I found the manual pump to be ineffective, and time-consuming. I wasn’t able to express barely any quantity of milk.

With the electric one, it was highly effective and quick at expressing the maximum amount of milk at each pumping session. However, the one I bought was exceptionally noisy and not very portable. Although I did travel abroad with it in my hand luggage!

My advice to you is to do your research. Decide what is important to you, get advice from friends and family, stick to your budget, and then make your own choice based on what’s best for you.