Breast pump buying guide

  • How to choose between using a manual pump, battery-operated pump or an electric pump.
  • Choose a pump with parts that are easy to clean between uses.

Breast pumps are meant as an alternate way of expressing your breastmilk when your baby is unable to nurse directly. Here are some of the most common reasons why you may need to use a breast pump:

  • If your baby is born premature or late pre-term.
  • If you’re separated from your baby for one or more feeding sessions at any time while trying to exclusively breastfeed.
  • If you have flat or inverted nipples and your baby is struggling to latch on.
  • If your baby is unable to effectively and efficiently breastfeed.
  • If you have to temporarily stop breastfeeding due to specific medication use or other medical therapies.
  • If you experience engorgement and your baby is unable to latch on to provide the needed relief.


Types of breast pumps

Choosing the right breast pump can be overwhelming, but it’s easier if you break it down into steps: first consider the reason for needing the pump, then the availability, and finally the cost. Here is a list of types of pumps that are available:

Hand expression
The first option for a free, readily available, efficient and effective milk expression is hand expression. It’s good for occasional needs and is helpful when using it in combination with a pump, a method called “hands-on pumping,” to further increase the amount of expressed milk per pumping session.

Hand pumps (manual pumps)


  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Good for occasional pumping.
  • Relatively inexpensive.


  • Only pumping one breast at a time.
  • Hand, wrist or elbow may fatigue before pumping session is over. 

Battery-operated and semi-electric pumps


  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Automatic suction cycles means quicker pumping.
  • No hand, wrist or elbow fatigue.
  • Sometimes covered by health insurance.


  • Usually only pumping one breast at a time.
  • More expensive than hand pumps.
  • Less powerful than electric.

Personal electric pumps


  • Lightweight and portable.
  • More efficient pumping sessions.
  • Meant for frequent daily use.
  • Able to dual pump.
  • Suction and speed cycle adjustment features.
  • Sometimes covered by health insurance.


  • More expensive than hand and battery pumps.
  • Not intended to be shared, as milk may enter the pump engine.

Note: A collection cylinder that can be fitted with a special nipple to feed your baby is a nice feature with many of the electric pumps. This eliminates the need to transfer the milk and decreases the chance of contamination.   

Hospital grade pumps


  • Most efficient milk expression to establish or re-establish milk supply.
  • Meant for frequent daily use.
  • Have the best speed cycles and suction levels that will stimulate milk production.
  • Most hospitals have a rental program for these pumps.
  • Sometimes covered by health insurance.


  • Expensive, if not covered by insurance.

How to clean

  • Purchase a pump that disassembles, so it’s easy to clean.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for sanitizing and cleaning your pump prior to the first use.
  • Wash breast pump parts with warm soapy water after each use, to reduce bacteria risks for your baby. 
  • Repeat sanitizing of parts will be particularly necessary if you or your baby ever need treatment for thrush, a type of yeast infection that is commonly diagnosed in babies.
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