Manual Breast Pump Buying Guide

    By Lisa Hayden / April 7, 2024
    Top 5 Best Manual Breast Pumps

    Manual Breast Pump Buying Guide

    If you're ready to go back to work or if you’re going to be leaving your baby with a carer or babysitter, using a breast pump will make it possible for your baby to get the best nutrition from your milk even when you're at work or not around. 

    To get the hang of pumping milk, it's best to practice it for a few weeks before you completely rely on the pumped breast milk for the baby. Pumping also benefits the mother in a way that they don’t have to be on call every time they have to feed when at home. Your partner (or the helper) can feed the baby your milk from the bottle, helping you to get uninterrupted sleep or even take a break from baby care. This’ll also help daddies bond with the baby!

    Why are Breast Pumps Needed?

    A good breast pump is an excellent tool to have available when you need, but is it for everyone? Ideally, you would need a breast pump if:

    • The baby is not nursing well (or maybe not nursing at all). In such cases, a quality pump is the best way to maintain milk supply.
    • You are inducing lactation for a baby you did not give birth to or you are looking to increase milk supply. In both these cases, a pump is not necessary but can speed up the process.
    • You’re planning to return to work and want to provide milk for your baby.
    • You could be planning occasional separations from baby for more than a couple of hours.

    There are some reasons that could make the breast pump an absolute necessity:

    • Engorgement: Some parents like the option of having a pump available to help with engorgement after the milk comes in, thus, this is certainly a valid reason for getting a pump. However, frequent nursing could prevent or keep engorgement to a minimum; plus if you pump when engorged, the breast tissue could get easily damaged. It’s best to avoid excessive pumping duration or suction when engorged.
    • Time alone: Most parents would like some time out for themselves and leave baby with a caregiver. This is when a pump comes handy. However do remember that the amount of time you get between feeding will eventually increase as your baby gets older.
    • Illness, Surgery and Medications: A pump is definitely at such times. If you are unable to breastfeed your baby due to sudden illness or a surgery, it is certainly very helpful to have expressed milk in the freezer. In certain rare situations where you need to take medication that is contraindicated, expressing milk is the way out to ensure your baby is fed and nourished.
    • Baby won’t nurse: Occasionally a baby may have problems nursing at birth or later on (could be due to illness, surgery, etc,). You can rent or purchase a pump if needed.
    Manual Breast Pumps Buying Guide

    How to Choose a Breast Pump

    Before we look at choosing, let’s begin by understanding the different kinds of breast pumps that are available in the market and what does each cater to.

    Types of pumps - Breast pumps has two categories: manual - hand operated and electric / battery-powered.​

    For moms that are returning to their full-time work or are away from the baby frequently, the top-end electric breast pumps would be a popular choice. They are automatic, have adjustable levels of suction to avoid nipple from being pained and also have variable cycling times. Double electric breast pumps are great for moms who pump more than once a day and are considered the best breast pumps for working moms.​

    Manual breast pumps are best for just a short time separations on baby – for example, a mom who needs to leave the baby with a member of the family or a sitter and doesn’t want to use formula milk. These breast pumps are portable and affordable; thus appealing to mothers who are not well-off or can't afford to buy a high en or electric breast pump. These is a more natural feeling as they are almost similar to a baby's sucking compared to the electric breast pump models. Also, the suction can also be controlled by hand. These work great with moms that pump once a day.​

    Hospital-grade breast pumps are for moms that find it difficult to nurse during the first few weeks after birth, or if the baby isn't able to nurse enough to build up the milk supply. These are stronger than the electric pumps available in the stores and can be rented. Mostly used with preemies and these pumps have a rapid suction rhythm that pumps milk from the breasts at almost the same rate like a nursing baby. These are for moms that are having trouble breastfeeding.

    We’ve also got great tips on how to pump as well as express more milk. Make sure you check that!​

    What to consider while choosing a Manual Breast Pump?

    We’ve put together some questions to help you evaluate when picking out the best manual breast pump.

    Efficiency - This is one of the things that you need to look our for when choosing which breast pump to buy. We’re sure no mom wants to be spending their time hooked up to a milk machine. Most likely, your first question would be: can this pump render much milk enough for my baby and how long will it take? As far as the pumping time and quantity of milk issue goes, we would say this is somewhat subjective, because each mom will, of course, express and produce naturally with their own quantity of milk uniquely. We found out that most breast pumps produces almost same amount of milk consistently. To equate this with the pumps, the primary difference is the amount of time it takes to pump that certain quantity of milk.

    Comfort - Generally, most pumps are uncomfortable at the start, and slowly become more comfortable. Therefore, comfort is a great factor to consider once you decide to purchase a breast pump. We would suggest that some breast pumps are much comfortable as far as the breast flange is concerned. However, for others, it still depends on the way the pumping and suction settings work.​

    Usage Ease - How easy is it to use and set up a pump? This is of primary importance as you wouldn’t want to be spending a lot of time trying to make your pump work. This is of paramount importance if you pump milk exclusively, a working mother or an avid traveler and you need to use the pump in different places. You may like to ask these questions to yourself while considering the ease of use​

    • What are the parts and how many are there in this pump?
    • How quick is the setup, cleaning process and reassembling process?
    • Does it come with anything like insulated cooler where you can store the expressed milk after?
    Manual Breast Pumps Buying Guide 1

    Portability- If you have plans to travel often and you need to bring your breast pump, portability will also be on the top of your list. Women that travel with a breast pump do so mostly for two reasons - for vacation or work. If you consider portability, you have to consider the ease of use too. You’d like to be sure as to what storage the breast pump offers - an cooler for the expressed milk, preferably an insulated one, and a bag for the breast pump as well.​

    Hygiene - Most first-time parents are super concerned when it comes to hygiene. Therefore, this becomes important when purchasing a pump because it comes with many parts that you should clean after use to ensure that there are no molds or anything left there that may potentially contaminate the milk for your baby. 

    Key Features in a Manual Breast Pump

    New moms will of course do their ground work on the internet and read breast pump reviews before they get to finalizing what’s the best pump for them; and why shouldn’t they? Any mom would want the best for their child! Every mom that’s breastfeeding will have their own unique experiences along their journey. Some moms find that breastfeeding is uncomplicated and easy, while others say it's very challenging. Whichever your experience will be, all moms can better pursue breastfeeding when they have the support of husband, family, friends, and of course, with the help of a well-functioning breast pump. Now that we have covered aspects concerning the considerations while choosing a good Manual Breast Pump, we’re now going to look at some features of breast pump that you might purchase.

    Flange(s) that fit well: What’s a flange? These are the plastic parts of a breast pump that lets you put on your breast while pumping. The suction of the pump pulls the nipple to the flange. It is extremely important that your flanges fit properly. There are breast pumps that have flanges which are available in various sizes. You wouldn’t want the nipple to vigorously and constantly rub against the flanges as it can cause pain and eventually lead to bleeding, and/or infection. 

    Expressing in a dual phase way: Having a breast pump with two phases is essential because each of the phases will mirror what happens when the baby nurses. The first phase (stimulation) is where the baby takes frequent, short, shallow sucks (the let down). The second phase (expression) is when the milk falls in and the baby's suction become deeper and longer​.


    For moms that pump, pumping the milk, transporting and storing is important. Hence, accessories are vital for good pumping sessions, effortless transport of the pump and accessories; more importantly, efficient and safe storage of the precious milk. For some breast pumps, accessories such as tote bag, can be purchased separately. Some bags are available with additional accessories like bottles, tote bag, storage bags, lids and an insulated cooler where you can temporarily store the pumped breast milk until you find a refrigerator.

    It would be helpful to ask friends or family whether or not they needed a pump and if they did, what kind did they use. Please remember that most breast pumps are "single-user" products because of the risk of contamination and should not be borrowed or shared.

    Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump

    Our Recommendation

    Our top pick is the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump.

    If you need to check out some products, with our reviews of the Top 5 Best Manual Pumps, be assured that we’ve got you covered!