Are you looking for the best manual breast pumps that fit your lifestyle? Whether you’re a working-out-of-the-home mama or someone who needs occasional pumping, we’ve got you covered.
Pumping can evoke strong emotions into any mama who has tried it – from happiness to hatred to complete panic. For me, my first go around with pumping was a disaster. Chapped nipples, ill-fitting flanges, leaking milk, improperly stored pouches. It was painful to breastfeed but also painful to pump, and I wasn’t sure what to do.
I was fortunate to have women come alongside of me who could explain what was going wrong with pumping (although no one was ever able to figure out the painful breastfeeding completely). A better pump, correctly fitting pieces, and a schedule helped tremendously.
Since I also traveled with and without my baby, I needed something small and discreet to tuck into my bag that I could use in a pinch. It had to be a manual pump – since I didn’t want to mess with wires and extra tubes in a car or a plane’s bathroom.
The Difference Between a Manual Pump and an Electric Pump
It may seem obvious but the largest difference between a manual pump and an electric pump is that a manual pump is used by the user physically pushing a lever to suction the breast and express the milk. It is a simple device that doesn’t require batteries, an electric outlet, tubes, or wires. It is extremely quiet and easy to clean but it often takes longer to express the milk and can get quite tiring if you are using it for a full pumping session.
An electric pump does all the work for you. You simply attach it to your breasts, push a button, and the pump uses suction to express the milk for you. Many women choose electric pumps when they have to pump on a regular basis, need to pump for a longer period of time, or if they are trying to express larger amounts of milk. Electric pumps are often bulky with several parts, wires, and tubing that must be cleaned and sanitized after use. They need either batteries or an electrical outlet and they can be quite noisy.
Why Choose a Manual Pump Over an Electric Pump
Are you still unsure of whether you should opt for an electric or manual pump? Many women often go straight for the electric pump because of its convenience and ease of use, but others lean towards a manual pump especially if they aren’t using the pump all the time or only need an occasional pump to help with breastfeeding issues. Here are some reasons why a manual pump might be best for you:
- It is easy to use– Manual pumps are easy to use. There are no buttons, wires, or different levels of suction to try and figure out. You just place it on your breast and squeeze the lever.
- You only need it occasionally– A manual pump might be the best option if you only need it very occasionally. If you aren’t pumping every day or even every week, a manual pump may be just fine to get you a few ounces here and there for when you are away from your little one.
- It is cost-effective– Manual pumps are significantly cheaper than electric pumps. If you only need to pump every once in a while, then there is no need to spend hundreds of dollars on an electric pump.
- It can help with breastfeeding issues– Manual pumps are great for helping stimulate your breasts to produce more milk. You can put it on right after a feeding to help tell your body to continue producing milk. It can also help stimulate let-down before a feed or help give you slight relief from over-production or engorgement.
- Manual pumps are quiet and discreet– Unlike electric pumps, manual pumps barely make a sound. When you are in a public space like an airplane restroom or even a dinner party where you don’t have the space or the ability to use a large pump, a manual pump can come in quite handy. They are small enough to fit in a purse and don’t make any real audible sound when in use.
- Easy to pack when traveling– If you happen to be traveling away from your baby or you simply don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in public, you can easily whip out a manual pump. Electric pumps take up quite a bit of space when traveling and most require their own bag for all the parts. One thing moms don’t have is extra arms to carry more stuff. But a manual pump allows mom to simply stick it in her diaper bag or purse and pump easily on the go without looking for an electrical outlet or setting up a small city’s worth of equipment in a public place.
In the end, it is a personal preference on whether a mom decides to use a manual pump or an electric pump. Some moms find it convenient to have an electric pump at home for longer pumping sessions and a manual pump for on the go.
How to Use a Manual Pump to Help with Breastfeeding Problems
Many moms use manual pumps to help with breastfeeding problems and issues. Whether you are experiencing underproduction, over-production, delayed let-down, or engorgement issues, a manual pump can help work with your body to get your milk production just right. Here are some ways a manual pump can help with common breastfeeding problems and issues:
- Underproduction– If you find yourself creating too little milk, you can use a manual pump to stimulate milk production after a feed. Pumping manually allows you to control the time and the pressure of the stimulation and offers just a little stimulation to help boost milk supply.
- Overproduction– Since manual pumps are not quite as strong as electric pumps, they are often a good option for overproduction. If you are only nursing one side at a time, you can relieve the unused side during a nursing session by just pumping a little bit for comfort without worrying about over-stimulating your breasts to produce more milk.
- Delayed Let-Down- Use the manual pump on the side your baby isn’t nursing on to stimulate your let-down. You can also use it for a few minutes before you start nursing to help stimulate let-down.
- Engorgement– When you and your baby decide to end your nursing journey you may experience a level of engorgement. Engorgement can be quite uncomfortable, but by using a manual pump you can express just a little bit of milk to relieve the discomfort without over-stimulating your breasts to create more milk.
Choosing the Right Manual Pump
I’ve tried a few of these below over the years, others come highly recommended by moms (and often dads who write about their partner’s experience with the pump!). They offer different benefits for different people and life circumstances.
Each life situation requires a little different angle on pumping – do you need something super quiet? Maybe you travel and want a pump that’s easy to clean. Perhaps you’re having a harder time with letdown. No matter what, don’t fear- there is a pump out there for you!
I’ve included pros and some of the more major cons to these. Keep in mind that all of them receive really high ratings on Amazon (and just about anywhere else they’re sold) so you can’t go wrong with narrowing it down and then choosing one from your list. Some are brand new to the pumping scene, others are old favorites that nearly every pumping mom knows and has used at some point.
The prices vary as well – Medela tends to be more expensive, and others swear that the much cheaper Bumblebee works as well at a far lower price.
We list our top ten recommendations for the best manual breast pumps on the market – some well known and others new to the scene.
One that seems to win over just about everyone is the It gets points for being great at engaging let down – which some mamas can struggle with. This 100% food grade and simple to use breast pump will change your life – truly. Fits perfectly into any handbag or baby bag and requires no hard work. Also the best travel pump you will find! Reviews warn of inaccurate measurements, but overall this product is something pumping moms love.
“Designed specifically to stimulate production. Painless and easy to travel with, it functions by using natural suction pressure.”
With over 22oo reviews (and 1,625 of those being five stars) we think this pump is one to consider. Unlike other silicone pumps, new 2019 model NatureBond pumps do not have pour spouts. In the new version, the spout is removed (advised by lactation consultants) to prevent any discomfort and “piercing” feeling on your skin. It’s a fantastic price and is recommended by lactation nurses from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital (USA). It also boasts the title of the #1 Silicone Manual Breast Pump in USA, UK & Canada. Reviewers rave about how easy it is to use.
“Hassle free and fits perfectly into any handbag or diaper bag.”
For women who have larger nipples, the Lansinoh Manual Pump is a good consideration. It has two-phase pumping which provides a more natural nursing experience. This pump includes 2 flange sizes (standard 25mm & large 30.5mm), and NaturalWave nipple, cap & collar. Some reviews mention the difficulty in cleaning it, but most agree that the amount of milk it can pull is worth it.
“Works with an ergonomic lever that is easy to press for expressing milk quickly and without hand cramps.”
This pump is the opposite of the Lansinoh in that it works well with women who have smaller nipples. This breast pump has been designed with only a few parts, which are intuitive to assemble, and easy to clean. Just another way we can make life a little easier. It has some reviews about the level of noise it makes, as well as being an “occasional” usage pump instead of a regular one.
“Those with smaller nipples will find that the extra cushioning provides a tighter suction, aiding milk collection.”
This pump is soundless and quick, so it gets the job done without needing cords or wondering what everyone hears in the next room. This pump is specially designed to collect the leaking milk while nursing on the other side. It pumps out the milk from your breast by the natural pressure. It is more gentle than using an electronic pump. There are a few reviews that mention the need for a travel lid and that it would be best for those with smaller nipples.
“Can remove just as much milk as an electric pump without the need for any power source.”
This is best for moms who are looking to pump occasionally. This pump is created with comfort in mind: Sit comfortably with no need to lean forward and let our soft massage cushion gently stimulate your milk flow. It’s lightweight and compatible with the Philips Avent Comfort electric breast pumps. Something to note: many reviews mention a squeaking noise.
“Compact, lightweight design of the pump body makes it easy to hold and position on your breast.”
For moms in need of a strong portable pump, the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump is a high-performing manual pump. This brand is always a top contender when it comes to electric and manual pumping. It is compatible with other Medela products (always a plus) and offers a non-standard breast shield size and two-phase expression. The Harmony Breast Pump includes (1) PersonalFit breast shield for comfortable and efficient breast pumping. Other sizes are sold separately.
“Manual controlled vacuum allows you to adjust the suction for the most optimal comfort level and efficient flow of breastmilk.”
The Nuk Expressive Manual Breast Pump is suitable for moms who would like to pump one-handed, and moms whose babies want the Nuk bottles. It is designed for occasional use when traveling away from home or as a back-up to your electric breast pump. It lets you control both suction and speed in order to customize your own level of personal comfort for efficient milk flow. The pump is also small, portable, and discreet for use anywhere at any time. One thing to note is this pump can’t be sanitized in the microwave.
“Ergonomic handle helps to minimize hand fatigue, lightweight to hold – weighs only 5.5 ounces.”
This cute little (super inexpensive!) pump comes with its dust cover and a star stopper to prevent spills. Reviews say that while it can be challenging to figure out the first time (one had to find a video on YouTube) once you get the hang of it, it’s a lifesaver. The Bumblebee Manual Breast Pump is made of food-grade silicone, BPA, PVC, and Phthalate free. Comes with 1 breast pump Stopper, 1 dust cover lid, 1 luxury pouch, 1 silicone breast pump, instructions, and a hardcover box packaging, which make it ideal as a baby shower gift.
“Collects up to 4 ounces/100 ml. Very light and perfect for traveling.”
10. SpectraBaby USA
Last but certainly not least is the SpectraBaby. Mamas rave about Spectra’s electric pumps (with good reason) and this one does the job with a cute design. It’s lightweight, and from a company that’s mommy-owned and run by lactation consultants and registered nurses. Spectra dedicates itself to mamas, and their pumps, manual and electric show that consistently.
“Powerful suction, help empty fast and efficiently, separate air and breast milk, anti-backflow.”
Still not sure which one to get? See if you can find a lactation consultant in your area who might be able to help. Ask a friend if you can use hers for a fitting (while keeping in mind that she may not want you to actually use it for pumping practice). Buy a few used ones as cheap as you can strictly to try them out, then purchase the one you’d like new.
Do you have a favorite manual pump we didn’t list? Let us and our readers know which one in the comments!
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