For a first-time mum, breast pumps might look daunting, but they make life so much easier if you decide to breastfeed your baby. A breast pump allows you to extract milk to feed your baby via a bottle. They can also help relieve engorgement when your breasts feel painful, boost your milk flow, feed twins or premature babies or keep milk levels up when your baby is struggling to feed. They are also handy if you want to share the feeds with your partner, or continue breastfeeding once you return to work.
There are a number of different options available – single, double, manual and electric. But how do you choose the best one for you?
How to choose the perfect breast pump:
How natural do you want it to feel?
Of course, it won’t fully feel like it does when you’re feeding your baby, but electric breast pumps work to closely imitate breastfeeding. Most will operate with a two-phase programme, the first stage stimulating the flow, the second copying the longer sucking motion of your baby when feeding.
How often will you use it?
If you’re only planning on expressing occasionally, a manual pump is often a much cheaper investment and can cost as little as £15. They are also far more discreet than an electric breast pump, so if you’re expressing in a toilet cubicle at work, this is probably the preferred option.
That said, manual breast pumps are much more labour intensive, so if you’re in a rush and want to express milk quickly and efficiently, an electric breast pump is worth investing in.
If you’re feeding twins, or are going to be separate from your baby for a longer period, using a double pump is a good option. Recent scientific research also suggests there are benefits to double pumping, as it stimulates an additional milk ejection and have been found to stimulate prolactin levels, meaning you pump a higher volume of milk, but also the milk pumped has more fat, with a higher energy content for your little one.
How much money should I spend on a breast pump?
If you’re on a tighter budget, a manual breast pump is definitely the cheapest option, and with a bit of practise, will still get good results.
How hard is it to use a breast pump?
The first time you get your breast pump out of the box, it will look terrifying, but you’ll soon get used to expressing. Ensure you don’t have any clothing trapped under the shield and lean forward slightly to stop milk spilling out of the pump. You will be able to sterilise most parts of the breast pump, but check the manufacture instructions beforehand. When carrying your breast pump round with you, keep parts in a zip-lock bag or a sealed container. It might also worth investing in storage bags for freezing your milk, which can be defrosted in the fridge overnight. All breast milk can be refrigerated for a maximum of two days.
The best breast pumps to buy:
We've summed up the best breast pumps on the market here.
Best double electric breast pump for fast expressing: Lansinoh 2 in 1 Double Electric, RRP £165, Amazon
An award-winning breast pump, the Lansinoh 2 in 1 Double Electric pump has a dual-pump functionality to mirror your baby’s feed. It’s a very effective pump and is great value for money. The pumps themselves are soft, the bottles are a good size and the screen is big and easy to see – perfect for those bleary eyed first days with your newborn. The pump also uses batteries, making it super portable and the timer is a nifty feature.
The downsides? You’ll need both hands, so it can be tricky to change the settings whilst pumping. It’s also quite noisy, so you won’t want to use this too close to your sleeping tot. It is however, excellent quality and a great buy if you’re looking to express a lot of milk quickly.
The Nuby Natural Touch is comfortable and simple to use, with five different settings for suction and speed that are all easy to navigate. These settings allow you to adjust the pump to your flow, preventing soreness. It’s compact and easy to store when not in use and is a doddle to dismantle and sterilise. It’s also pretty quiet which is a big plus.
That said, it’s not the most effective breast pump – it draws out milk well, but there’s others on the market that do so a little quicker, so if time is of the essence, it might be worth spending a little more.
If you’re looking for a well-known brand you can trust, it’s Medela. This is a highly effective little breast pump and the starter kit has everything you could need, including breast pads, nipple cream and Quick Clean Sterilisation bags. The pump itself is user friendly and efficient, allowing you to pump a good quantity of milk without taking up too much time.
This is also a good pump if you’re planning to take it with you on the move. The only negative we can find is that it is a little noisier than others on the market, but if you don’t mind this, it’s a good choice.
For around £20, you get a great little breast pump that is highly efficient when it comes to expressing a lot of milk in a small amount of time. The Medela Harmony is one of the smallest on the market and could definitely fit into most handbags with ease. The pump itself is comfortable to use and the spring handle allows you to express at different angles, whilst being gentle.
This little manual pump also offers two speeds – push the top and get a short, gentle suction to stimulate flow, then push the handle in once let-down starts.
Sometimes, it’s all about sticking with that brand you trust. Medela have been around for a long time, and their iconic Swing design hasn’t changed much over the years. The Swing Maxi provides fantastic support, with maximum comfort. It’s pretty portable and lightweight for a double pump and has a range of different vacuum levels and settings to suit your needs and comfort.
That said, compared to other double breast pumps on the market, there’s no screen or digital display, meaning you’ll have to get old-school when it comes to keeping track of how long you’ve been pumping.
This Lansinoh breast pump is a good bit of kit, in a compact, lightweight package. With six different adjustable settings in each of the two phases, Lansinoh have designed this to be small but comfortable. It’s the same technology as the double pump we mentioned above, and like the double, the breast shields have a soft silicon ring to maximise comfort.
The digital display is a super handy feature as it keeps track of how long you’ve been expressing, allowing you to switch off, catch up on trash TV, or multitask like the supermum you are!
This little electric breast pump is one of the most comfortable on the market. It has good suction without pinching and the massage cushion on the breast cone is a nice feature. The pump design also means you don’t need to lean forwards to make sure all of your milk ends up in the bottle which is a game changer. The batteries have a good lifespan and the pump is easy to clean and sterilise.
All in all, this is a great little breast pump, however it’s pretty noisy compared to some of the others on this list.