For mums who decide to breastfeed, finding the best breast pump can be a life-saver.
There are lots of reasons why a mum might choose to express breastmilk. Maybe you’re breastfeeding but want to enjoy a night out –or just an early night!– while your partner takes care of the nighttime feed. Perhaps you’re returning to work and want to enable a caregiver to bottle-feed your breast milk to your baby. Perhaps you have twins! Even if you’re not planning to give feeding duty to anyone else, a breast pump is still worth having since expressing even small quantities of milk can bring relief if your breasts are engorged or swollen, and many mums express between feeds to boost their milk supply.
What is a breast pump?
A breast pump is an electric or manual device that extracts milk from a lactating mother. The extracted milk can be stored in the fridge or freezer to be fed to your child via a bottle at a later time (all breast milk can be refrigerated for a maximum of two days. Please make sure you follow all the best practices when storing your breast milk). There are a number of different options available – single, double, manual and electric. But how do you choose the best one for you? We have selected the best ones that have been tried and tested by our mum testers who also gave us valuable feedback on each one. So without further ado, meet our mum testers!
- NAOMI: 37, from Dover, is mum to Lyla Harper, five weeks. "I travel a lot with work so I need a quiet, compact pump I can take with me."
- GEORGINA: 37, from Greater London, is mum to Isla, three months. "My baby is easily distracted, so I’d like a quiet pump that won’t disturb her."
- LUCY: 27, from Wigan, is mum to Ernest, six months. "I go back to work soon, so I’m looking for a comfortable pump that’s quick and easy to use."
What are the best breast pumps in 2019?
Here are our top picks for the best breast pump 2019 you can find to buy in the UK.
Oh, this is clever. It’s the world’s first wireless, wearable breast pump and it’s completely hands-free – just pop it inside a standard nursing bra and start expressing! You can control it remotely via the free app, which also monitors milk volume and tracks pumping history. It’s truly silent, so you can pump discreetly in public or with a sleeping/feeding baby nearby. With just five parts, cleaning and reassembling it takes literally seconds. Check out our full Elvie Breastpump review here.
Our mum testers' opinions:
Naomi (5W): I was sceptical but this is great – a real investment for busy mums. Controlling the pump via an app on my phone seemed strange initially but it’s actually much easier than faffing around with the controls. You can get on with doing chores at the same time as expressing, though it did leak when I wore it while attempting to make a bed! Choosing the right nipple guard is vital. There’s minimal equipment to wash and sterilise. And it really is silent!
- Georgina (3M): A game-changer for working mums! It fits neatly inside my bra so I can express easily and discreetly at work. I was sceptical about it but it’s by far the most comfortable, quiet and easy-to-use pump. It’s virtually silent – brilliant for pumping at the same time as feeding Isla, who’s easily distracted. Along with the Medela pump, this produced the highest milk output for me. I found I only needed to charge this pump every three days.
- Lucy (6M): My favourite. It goes unnoticed under loose clothing and it’s very comfortable, efficient and easy to use. It’s so small that it’s easy to transport and sterilise, yet it holds a surprisingly large volume of milk. The biggest advantage is that it leaves both hands free – this was the only pump I managed to use at the same time as feeding Ernest – and it’s so quiet that I felt totally comfortable pumping in public.
- It's an award-winning breast pump
- It’s a very effective pump and is great value for money
- It is excellent quality and a great buy if you’re looking to express a lot of milk quickly
- The pump also uses batteries
- You’ll need both hands
- It’s also quite noisy
Our mum testers' opinions:
We love that this comes with so many accessories, including a microwave sterilizer, so it’s really excellent value for money. You can use this pump via mains power or batteries, and it’s perfect for travel use and holidays. There are several levels of intensity and the silicon cup is soft and comfortable, but there are lots of parts so it takes a while to clean and reassemble.
- Naomi (5W): This works via mains electricity or batteries so it’s very portable. It has multiple settings but, unlike some of the pumps we tried, no stimulation mode. It’s sleek and simple plus easy to assemble and use, but it’s so loud – I couldn’t hear the TV over the noise! I like being able to express straight into a bottle and the fact that it comes in a handy storage box.
- Georgina (3M): Very impressive for the price. It performed really well and comes with several accessories, including a steriliser kit, which adds value to an already reasonably-priced item. It’s easy to set up and very comfortable to use. It’s easy to get an air-tight seal, which meant I achieved a high yield of milk on a lower suction setting. Fiddly to reassemble, though, and far too noisy to enable me to express whilst feeding.
- Lucy (6M): A very efficient, comfortable pump, thanks to the massaging silicon cushion and the tilted design, but there are so many parts – it took longer to assemble the pump than to express! It’s by far the noisiest pump and very bulky. It’s very reasonably priced though and, if you’re pumping occasionally and only at home, then this will do the job very comfortably.
- Comfortable and simple to use
- Has five different settings for suction and speed that are all easy to navigate
- Adjusts the pump to your flow, preventing soreness
- Compact and easy to store when not in use
- Pretty quiet which is a big plus
We say: With three phases to encourage milk flow and nine-speed settings, this pump is designed to mimic your baby's feeding action and produce more milk in less time. Touch-screen technology makes it easy and intuitive to operate, and it can be used either via mains power or rechargeable batteries so it’s a good choice for using away from home. It can convert easily to a double pump with an adaptor kit (sold separately).
Our mum testers' opinions:
- Naomi (5W): This is great value for money. The design is sleek and the screen tells you everything you need to know, including the battery life and how long you've been expressing. The rechargeable function is great as you don’t have to be near mains electricity. You can hear the pump, but it's not a loud, distracting noise. I like that you express directly into a bottle so you can feed straight away.
- Georgina (3M): Versatile, user-friendly and good value. It’s comfortable but less effective than some of the other pumps and too bulky to be practical for use on the go. I like having the option to express from both breasts simultaneously but found that tricky to do. It’s very simple to put together and I like the sleek design and easy-to-use digital touch-screen. The timer function is very handy.
- Lucy (6M): I struggled with this pump and expressed very little milk. It’s heavy, bulky, noisy, and I found it uncomfortable to use. The pieces don’t seem to fit together well, and multiple bulky parts make it difficult to transport and clean. The touch-screen display is very easy to use, though, and I like the idea of dust caps for use on the go – if it was small enough to take out of the house!
- Highly-efficient when it comes to expressing a lot of milk in a small amount of time
- One of the smallest on the market and could definitely fit into most handbags with ease
- Comfortable to use and the spring handle allows you to express at different angles
- Offers two speeds – push the top and get a short, gentle suction to stimulate flow, then push the handle in once let-down starts
This is Medela's smallest and lightest pump and it can be used with batteries or via mains power, so it’s a good choice if you need a pump that’s practical for use at home and away. We love that it’s cleverly designed to be attached to your pocket or belt or hung from your shoulder or around your neck – no more being stuck in one spot while you’re expressing milk! Our testers found it efficient, compact and comfortable.
- Provides fantastic support, with maximum comfort
- Portable and lightweight for a double pump
- Has a range of different vacuum levels and settings to suit your needs and comfort
- 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
Our mum testers' opinions:
Naomi (5W): I found this simple and intuitive to assemble – without needing to read the instructions – and it’s equally easy to disassemble and wash/sterilise. The separate silicone cup has to fit snugly to ensure you don't lose suction when expressing. It feels slightly old-fashioned and not as modern as other brands, both in design and packaging. This is quite bulky compared to others but it’s an efficient pump and it’s not too noisy.
- Georgina (3M): Very easy to assemble and clean, and good value. It can be used with batteries, so it’s suitable for expressing on the go, although I found it pretty noisy – I had to turn up the volume on the TV! That said, this pump worked very well for me. I used the highest setting with no discomfort and, as a result, expressed larger volumes of milk than with other pumps in less than 15 minutes.
- Lucy (6M): The pre-sterilised bottles I use fit perfectly, which cuts down on washing up and reduces the risk of contamination. The batteries aren’t rechargeable (although it also runs on mains power) and it’s quite large with stiff buttons. It clips onto your clothing so you can move around while expressing and it’s very simple to use, comfortable and fairly quiet – I happily used it in public. The storage bag is useful, too.
This, lightweight compact breast pump has five adjustable suction levels, so you can select the strength to suit you. A compatible micro USB adapter is available if you want to use it away from home but you have to buy this separately. This is designed to mimic the way a baby naturally feeds and our testers all found it particularly comfortable and easy to use. A bottle with teat and sealing cap is included.
- It's in a compact, lightweight package
- Six different adjustable settings in each of the two phases
- The breast shields have a soft silicone ring to maximize comfort
- The digital display is a super handy feature as it keeps track of how long you’ve been expressing
Our mum testers' opinions:
- Naomi (5W): Easy to assemble and very compact – ideal for travel use. There's no timer display but I didn’t miss that feature. I like the built-in silicon cup as it doesn’t lose suction and fits more snuggly than pumps with a removable cup. It's easy to take apart and wash/sterilise, with no small fiddly parts to reassemble. The suction is powerful for such a small unit, producing a good amount of milk, but it’s noisy.
- Georgina (3M): I expressed a large volume of milk in a small amount to time. It’s really comfortable and very simple to set up. Its size makes it ideal for use on the go, but the power-bank you need isn’t included. The breast cushion is comfortable, easy to position and seals well. The teats provided are brilliant – I replaced Isla’s usual teats with these as she’s really comfortable using them and even takes a bottle better.
- Lucy (6M): Very compact and light but it’s noisy and the lack of a power-bank proved problematic – I could only use this within 1.5m of a mains plug socket. The pump was really comfortable to use and the breast cup fits really well. I was able to express large volumes of milk quickly and found the controls easy to use. I particularly like the LED indicator to show the vacuum strength and let-down setting.
Designed to mimic the way a baby sucks, this pump has a wide, breast-shaped teat to promote a natural latch, so it’s ideal if you’re combining breast- and bottle-feeding. The massage cushion feels soft and velvety against your skin. The gentle stimulation mode gets your milk flowing and there are three further settings so you can choose the one that’s most comfortable. Our testers found this intuitive to use and easy to clean.
- Easy to carry around
- One of the most comfortable on the market
- Good suction and massage cushion
- Pumping is easy to clean and sterilise
- It makes sure your milk ends up in the bottle without any mess
- it’s pretty noisy compared to some of the others on this list
Our mum testers' opinions:
- Naomi (5W): This is quiet to use, even on the strongest suction setting. The huge instruction booklet is daunting but the pump is actually pretty self-explanatory and easy to use. The silicon breast cup is comfortable and there’s a nice long cable from the plug so you don’t have to sit right next to a socket. The bottle supplied has a sealing disc, so it’s great for transporting milk after expressing. Breast pads are included, too.
- Georgina (3M): This was easy to set up and useful for expressing on the go, thanks to the compact design and optional battery functionality. This was by far the most comfortable pump I tried – the breast cushion is made of a delicate rubber that you can barely feel against your skin – but I only produced very small quantities of milk, just 1-2 ounces. It’s relatively quiet and it didn’t disturb Isla.
- Lucy (6M): I managed to express a decent quantity of milk after lots of practice. But, unfortunately, the seal leaked air, preventing the suction from working, so I had to keep resealing it. I like how easy it is to dismantle and clean. It helped me to sit very comfortably, thanks to the no-lean-forward design, but you really need to sit at a table to use it. It’s very quiet and the controls are simple to use.
Do you need a breast pump?
This is a personal choice. 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 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 might be worth investing in. If you’re feeding twins, or are going to be away from your baby for a longer period of time, using a double pump is a good option. Recent scientific research also suggests there are benefits to double pumping, as it stimulates additional milk ejection and has been found to stimulate prolactin levels, meaning you pump a higher volume of milk, but also the milk pumped has more fat, and higher energy content for your little one.
What type of breast pump is best?
There are two types of pump: manual and electric. With a manual pump, you place the breast cup over your breast and squeeze the handle to extract the milk, which collects in a storage container or bottle. With an electric pump, the expressing process is automated – you simply hold it to your breast and let the pump do the work. Electric pumps have variable settings so you can alter the suction and speed of extraction to suit your milk flow, and they’re generally quicker and more efficient at expressing milk than manual pumps. The big advantage of an electric pump is speed and convenience – you can put your feet up and relax while the pump collects your milk. Hospital-grade breast pumps are available to hire from hospitals and maternity units, too. These are electric pumps which are super-efficient at expressing a high volume of milk in a short period of time.
How do you choose a 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 closely to 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. You may wish to consider a breast pump that is easy to assemble and to use, lightweight, compact and durable. Also, with have a good suction power to facilitate the express process. See below the most important points to keep in mind when choosing a breast pump:
This is one of the most popular as you can adjust both speed and suction. You can have also single and double allowing to pump one or two breasts at the same time. You find them in plugs or batteries.
This one requires your strength to squeeze the lever in order to create suction to express your milk. The advantages are: quieter, smaller and cheaper, perfect for trips and casually pumps on the go.
Hospital-grade breast pump
This one is the most efficient and expensive as it pumps really fast and strong making the activity more productive. They are very expensive and can be rented in some cases.
Do you need a single or double pump?
A double pump allows you to express milk from both breasts at the same time. This is indispensable if you need to express lots of milk very frequently, feeding twins or a premature baby, or you’re juggling breastfeeding and working full-time. Most mums find that a single electric breast pump is all they need, though. Some pumps, including one of the ones we tested, can be used in both single and double mode.
Where will you pump?
Most pumps have to be connected to a power supply during use, but some also run on batteries, which is handy if you want to take the pump with you to express while you’re at work or away from your baby. A battery-powered pump also means you can move around while you’re expressing milk at home. Some electric pumps are heavier than others, so choose a lighter, portable model that’s practical for use on the go if you plan to use it out of the house, and make sure the container is suitable for storing and transporting milk safely. Another thing to take into consideration is the noise factor. Electric pumps tend to be pretty noisy, which can be impractical if you’re expressing while your baby is asleep nearby, while she’s feeding on the other breast, or when you’re at work – or if you just want to hear what’s on the telly! But that’s improving and one of the pumps in this Big Test is virtually silent.
Some breast pumps come with extra features, including feeding bottles, breast milk storage bags (pump & save bags), cleaning equipment or auto cleaning plastic bags, breast pads, milk storage pot and soft massage cushion. Sometimes, the breast pumps can also have stimulation mode, rechargeable battery and charging via USB.
Choose a pump that’s quick and easy to put back together once you’ve taken it apart to clean and sterilise. Playing hunt-the-tiny-missing-part-of-the-breast-pump is not a game you ever want to play!
This fits over your breast inside the pump funnel. It’s essential it fits well to ensure maximum comfort and optimal milk drainage. Some pumps come with more than one cup so you can find the perfect fit – if your boobs are bigger or smaller than average, this option is well worth having.
You can control all the variables such as the suction level and the speed at which the pump extracts milk from your breast, via the control panel. You’ll need to experiment with the settings to find the right option for you.
If you’ll be popping the milk into the fridge or freezer to use another day, choose a pump with storage containers, or factor in the cost of buying these separately. Your milk keeps in the fridge for five days, so if you’re likely to always use it within that timeframe, you can save yourself a lot of faffing about by choosing a pump that lets you express milk directly into a sterilised bottle.
Some pumps come with a storage bag to help keep everything safely together in one place. Designed for travel use, it’s also useful if you plan to express at work.
If you like the thought of not being confined to one spot when you’re expressing, choose a pump that can run on batteries. One that uses rechargeable batteries is a must if you’ll be using it regularly but, if you’re the type of person who always forgets to charge your phone, a mains-operated pump might suit you better.
Expressing is much easier and far more efficient if you feel relaxed, so choose a pump that you find appealing to look at and comfortable to hold. Anything too clinical or cumbersome is likely to slow your flow.
Cleaning a breast pump
A breast pump must be thoroughly cleaned and sterilised after every use. This can be a quick and easy job or a serious chore, depending on how many parts there are to clean, sterilise and reassemble. So, if you’re likely to use it every day, avoid pumps with lots of parts that are easily mislaid. Or, for extra speed and convenience, opt for a pump that comes with its own steriliser.
General usage tips about the best breast pumps
- Always check if the breast pump is in the correct position to make sure you are getting most out of every pumping.
- The more organised you are, the more milk you are likely to get, as you will be stress-free and more relaxed. So, set up a routine to make sure you know how much time you need to do it.
- If you can, always choose plug electricals breast pumps, as they are usually stronger when connected than when with batteries.
Important: The electricals breast pumps have usually a two-phase programme, one is for stimulating the flow and the other copying the longer sucking motion of your baby when feeding.
Breast pumps safety tips
As you are dealing with your baby food, you need to make this process as clean as possible. You need to make sure that the material that is in contact with your milk is safe for food contact (BPA-free and 100% Food Grade Silicone). Also, you need to be able to sterilise most parts of the breast pump. Avoid sharing your breast pump with anyone.
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