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How to Choose a Breast Pump: A Complete Guide

How to Choose a Breast Pump: A Complete Guide

Apria Editorial |

Breast milk pumping is not a brand new or emerging trend. Mothers have been expressing breast milk since the 1500s, and breast pumps have been around for almost two centuries.

Advancements in pump design and efficacy have enabled women to express comfortably, efficiently, discreetly, and long-term.

Whether you're contemplating breast milk pumping because you need to return to work, or transitioning to bottle feeding, the concept can seem overwhelming. Let alone the number of available choices on the market: wearable, electric, manual, wireless, double, uh?

With this handy guide from ApriaHome, you'll be able to find the breast pump that suits your needs.

What Are Breast Pumps?

Breast pumps are medical devices that are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Breast pumps are mechanical devices used by nursing mothers to remove milk from their breasts. Breast milk pumped through a breast pump is termed expressed milk.

They are either manual (powered by hand or foot motions) or automated (powered by electricity). Breast pumps are made up of three parts: a suction cup placed over the nipple, a funnel, and a collection container. The pump simulates a baby's suckling action to extract milk. Once the milk is extracted and collected in the bottle, it can be frozen for storage.

Breast pumps are useful in a variety of scenarios, including:

  • Transitioning baby from breast to bottle
  • Returning to work or school after maternity leave
  • Reducing pain and discomfort associated with accumulated breast milk
  • Providing breast milk when baby is in the care of a babysitter, relative, or daycare
  • Maintaining or enhancing a woman's milk production
  • Alleviating clogged milk ducts
  • Pulling out flat or inverted nipples to make it easier for a nursing infant to latch

How To Pump Breast Milk

Typically, a breast pump is held in position by hand, a nursing bra, or a band.

Breast pumps collect milk from the breasts in a cycle of applied and released pressure. They work by sealing the nipple and applying and releasing a vacuum around the nipple, which causes milk to be expressed from the breast.

No matter which pump you choose, there are a few basics that will ensure you get the best possible experience:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and ensure the equipment is adequately cleaned before you begin.
  • Start by massaging both breasts to ensure comfort and the best results.
  • Establish a consistent pumping routine, especially when you are away from baby for extended periods; this helps maintain lactation.
  • Pumping shouldn't hurt; consult a health care professional or lactation consultant at any time you experience any severe discomfort or pain.

Each pump is somewhat different; ensure you look at the instruction manual before use. Many manufacturers offer how-to videos that are readily available online. If you have any specific question questions, you can contact a lactation consultant.

How To Use A Manual Breast Pump

  • A manual pump can only pump one breast at a time, but they are useful for quickly relieving breast milk accumulation or as a backup if an electric pump fails.
  • To use, center the nipple on the flange/breast shield (the cone-like component that fits onto the breast). Squeeze the lever or bulb until the flange seals onto the breast; this will extract milk.
  • Pump for 10 to 20 minutes or until the milk stops flowing. Then move on to the other breast.

How To Use An Electric Breast Pump

  • Center the nipples in the flange or breast shield. Lean slightly forward and activate the pump.
  • Maintain a moderate pump speed and low suction. This replicates a baby's suckling motion, The more intense settings can cause discomfort.
  • Pump for 7 minutes. Initially, you may see nothing coming out; this is normal. After a few minutes of pumping, you will experience a "let-down sensation" when the milk begins to flow.
  • Stop the breast pump for 1 minute and massage the breasts from the armpit to the nipple.
  • Continue pumping for 7 minutes before packaging milk for storage and refrigeration.

Never store breast milk in non-breast milk-specific disposable bottle liners or plastic bags. Freshly pumped milk can be preserved for up to four hours at 77°F or cooler (room temperature) and refrigerated for up to four days.

It is essential to pump for 15 minutes, regardless of whether or not milk is flowing, because the breasts are stimulated by pumping to sustain milk production. Some mothers observe that their production declines over time if they do not maintain consistent breast pumping.

Different Types Of Breast Pumps

Breast pumps are all made up of the same core components:

  • Breast Shield or Flange: A cone-shaped cup that seals over the nipple and the surrounding circular region.
  • Pump: Generates the mild suction that allows milk to be expressed. The pump may be mounted to the breast shield or connected to the breast shield through plastic tubing. A manual pump works with manual compression by hand or foot.
  • Milk Container: A separate container that attaches behind the breast shield and collects milk for storage. The container is usually a reusable bottle or a disposable bag.

Manual Breast Pump

Manual breast pumps are often less expensive, quicker to operate, and have fewer settings than electric models, but you will have to perform all the compression while you pump breast milk yourself. The fundamental design of a manual breast pump is quite constant across models and manufacturers.

A manual breast pump operates by simulating a nursing baby's sucking motion. A breast shield is placed over the nipple, and then a handle is manually compressed to create a vacuum over your breast, stimulating milk flow.

The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Manual Breast Pumps


  • Lightweight and compact - easily fits into a handbag
  • Quiet and easy-to-use technology
  • Cheaper price tag than electric breast pumps
  • Cheaper running costs


  • Operates more slowly than an electronic breast pump
  • Challenging to get into a steady pumping rhythm after a while of repetitive pumping

Our Recommendations:

Electric Breast Pump

Electric breast pumps support breast milk's efficient and effective expression and long-term breast milk production. Most models are incredibly easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to assemble. An electric pump allows mothers to gather more milk in less time than a manual pump.

Unlike a manual breast pump, the electric breast pump performs the compression automatically. This eliminates the need for you to pump manually, which can become straining.

The best quality electric breast pumps include features that may be adjusted or customized, such as:

  • Suction settings tailored to your baby's suckling patterns
  • Adjustable vacuum on breast shield
  • Higher pump-per-minute rates
  • Level indicators for unit measurements

The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Electric Breast Pumps


  • The quickest method of expressing breast milk
  • Effortless to operate
  • Includes additional features for improved comfort and storage
  • Wider variety of models to choose from, including hospital grade and double compression pumps
  • Easy to clean and sanitize
  • Easy to assemble


  • More expensive than manual models
  • Slightly noisier than manual models
  • Risk of contamination if components are not thoroughly sanitized

Our Recommendations:

Double Breast Pump

A double electric breast pump has two prominent features: The ability to pump breastmilk from both breasts simultaneously and a motor that generates suction for milk extraction.

A double breast pump not only cuts expressing time in half but also produces 18% more milk than pumping from each breast alone. This makes it an excellent alternative for busy, working mothers. Furthermore, the milk produced by repeated pumping has a higher fat and energy content. A high energy level implies enhanced breast drainage, which aids in lactation maintenance.

Our Recommendations:

Hands-Free / Wearable Breast Pump

The wearable breast pump is becoming the most popular choice regarding breastfeeding equipment, owing to the unparalleled ease and comfort they provide nursing mothers. Wearable breast pumps, or hands-free breast pumps, are ideal because they give the mothers unparalleled freedom to pump wherever they go.

Hands-free pumps are wireless; everything operates inside the pump, which sits within the bra, eliminating the need for external tubes, wires, or hanging bottles that limit freedom of movement. The milk is immediately pushed into the pump's spill-proof disposable collecting and storage bag or reusable container.

These pumps often come with a hefty price tag, and because they are intended for mobility, they are battery-powered, which can affect the reliability of access.

Hands-free breast pumps provide more support than other kinds of breast pumps. Wearable breast pumps not only fit easily in any ordinary or nursing bra but also make mothers feel more at ease while pumping in public.

Our Recommendations:

Choosing The Best Breast Pump For You

Choosing which breast pump is best for you depends on how often you plan to pump and where you are in your breastfeeding journey. This is broken down into three stages:

  • Initiation - the first 5 days
  • Building - days 6 to 30
  • Maintenance - beyond 30 days

A lactation consultant will be able to advise which pump will support the particular stage of lactation you are in, in relation to your baby's ability to latch and your ability to produce milk.

There are several other factors to consider when selecting a breast pump:

  • Your pumping requirements and lifestyle
  • Your baby's feeding habits
  • Your breast milk production rate
  • Price range
  • Portability
  • Suction strength/variability
  • Comfort
  • The pump's volume

When deciding what type to choose, you will also need to consider whether you want to express milk with a pump exclusively or if you will only need to express occasionally.

Breast Pumps & Accessories

Aside from the chosen pump, there are a few essential breast-pumping accessories you will need to invest in to get you started.

These include:

  • Nursing pads
  • Breast milk storage bags and bottles
  • Nipple shields
  • Nipple cream or gel
  • Breast pump backpacks and tote bags
  • Hands-free nursing bras
  • Sanitizing/steaming bags
  • Sanitizing wipes

Choose Convenience, Support, Optimum Health & Well-being With ApriaHome

ApriaHome offers unparalleled support and convenience for nursing mothers. No matter what your lifestyle requirements, we will have a breast pump option for you. We also stock a wide range of breastfeeding and maternity accessories, all from one convenient online platform. This ensures you can shop online no matter where you are and how busy your work or home life gets.

Looking for something specific? Get in touch with one of our experienced consultants who can guide you in the right direction.


LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Material in this newsletter is only: (1) provided for general health education and informational purposes, and to provide references to other resources; it may not apply to you as an individual. While Apria believes that the information provided through this communication is accurate and reliable, Apria cannot and does not make any such guarantee. It is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical advice, evaluation, diagnosis, services or treatment (collectively, "medical treatment"). Please see your healthcare provider for medical treatment related to you and your specific health condition(s). Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read on or accessed through this website. Reading this newsletter should not be construed to mean that you have a healthcare provider/patient relationship with Apria.