Updated: May 28, 2020
In addition to all the incredible health benefits for both baby and mom, breastfeeding is an amazing bonding experience. While all you technically NEED to breastfeed is your baby and your breast, there are a few products that make breastfeeding easier and also possible if you will be separated from your baby, like a breast pump.
A breast pump is one of the most important products you will purchase. It is a tool that you will use throughout your breastfeeding journey with your baby. Whether its the first few days and weeks as you are getting started, if you need to be separated from your baby, times when your partner wants to do a feeding, or later when you need to return to work, having the right breast pump can an important part reaching your personal breastfeeding goals as it is what you will use to provide food for your baby when you cannot be there in person. A pump that helps you get your milk out efficiently will ensure that you maintain a good milk supply and that your baby has more than enough milk.
When it comes to pumping, Comfort is really #1
Not only does having a comfortable pump help in making the whole experience more pleasant, but it is also one of the most important factors in helping you get your milk out. Milk is only expressed when your body releases the hormone oxytocin. This is the same whether you are nursing at the breast with your baby, or using a breast pump. It is impossible to get your milk out effectively without this release and pain can prevent the release of oxytocin. Having a pump that is painful will interfere with this critical and basic hormonal process and therefore interfere with your ability to release your milk.
Whether you are a new mom, a beginner at breastfeeding, or simply new to breast pumps, before you make your choice, you’ll want to make sure you know which features are most important and an absolute must-have. With so many choices on the market today, how do you choose the best one for you? No worries, we’ve got you covered.
How Do I Choose My Favorites?
I choose products based on the overall VALUE it offers. This is a combination of the features it offers for the best price and always includes safety, functionality, and ease of use. This does not always mean the product is the least expensive one in the category, but affordability is definitely a plus in getting my Experts Top Choice.
Top 3 Must-Have Features to Look for in a Breast Pump
What really matters?
A Closed System
The very first thing I always look for when choosing a breast pump (or deciding if a particular breast pump is even a viable option) is whether it has a closed system. You want to have a barrier between your breast milk and the pump tubing. This will prevent your breast milk from potentially back-flowing into the tubes and even into your motor. An open-system breast pump (one without this important barrier) will be nearly impossible to keep clean and hygienic since even small amounts of milk that get into your tubing or motor will grow mold, bacteria, and viruses that could possibly contaminate your milk. Unlike other “baby products,” this product is medical equipment that needs to stay clean and hygienic. With possible hidden dangers lurking inside dirty tubing, an open-system is a clear non-starter in my opinion.
Adjustable Speed and Suction
Mothers are all different, and their individual speed and the suction level needed to create a to release of milk (or "let-down") will be different, too. Having a pump with the ability to control the speed and suction, having many setting options, AND having the ability to control them independently are critical functionality features that should be at the top of your list. Pumping is not just turning on and turning up the dials. You need independent controls in order to stimulate an oxytocin release and get your milk out faster and more effectively. This is essential to be able to maintain your milk supply and provide your baby with your precious milk, something only you can do.
Multiple Flanges (size, material, and design)
When considering both functionality and comfort, the breast pump flange (the part that goes up against your breast) will need to be part of your decision-making process. Breast Pump flanges come in different sizes because breasts and nipples come in different sizes and the flange will need to fit your breast and nipple properly in order to work and allow you to express milk effectively and without pain. A flange that is too small or too large will not stimulate the oxytocin release needed to get your milk to let-down, and will not compress in the right spot to express the milk out your breast. Having a pump that not only makes different sizes but actually comes with multiple sizes is a home run because the best way to know which size you need is to try it out. A properly sized flange will help you be more comfortable and also help you get more milk out!
Expert's Choice - Best Overall Value Breast Pump!
The Evenflo Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump pick is designed to maximize the milk output with soft flanges, it's gentle and comfortable, and comes with a long warranty.
First and foremost, the Evenflo Advanced is a true closed system. The barrier (called a diaphragm) prevents any milk from entering the tubing and contaminating the pump. Your milk is protected and so is your baby.
Independent, adjustable speed and suction controls put you fully in control. With 32 total settings, you can simulate what your baby does at your breast and learn how to get multiple let-downs of milk and maximize your output.
Best flanges - hands down. This pump comes with three of the most common size flanges included!. There are three additional sizes available that you can purchase separately if needed.
Angled, sit-back flanges prevent slouching and allow you to sit up and back while pumping to keep you comfortable and prevent the back and neck strain that comes with leaning forward to pump. This is a unique and much-appreciated feature you will not find in most pumps on the market, even ones with a much higher price tag.
Their flanges are velvety soft! Made of silicone, it creates a soft cushion effect on your nipple to pump with maximum comfort, while creating a seal to your breast that maintains suction. This is another thoughtful feature that moms love!
Multiple power options including an AC adapter, car adapter (sold separately), or the use of AA batteries, allowing for increased portability and dependability.
The pump is very quiet and also lightweight at only 1lb, making it an ideal pump to take back and forth to work.
Complete with a 3-year warranty (longest on the market), you can feel confident in its design and quality, and understand why we voted it our BEST OVERALL!
In addition to all these great features, the Evenflo Advanced has conveniently integrated bottle holders to prevent spilling, and is also portable, lightweight (at only 1lb), and very quiet, making it an ideal pump to take back and forth to work. When it comes to the features that matter, Evenflo nailed it with this breast pump. It was voted our Experts Choice because it is a well-designed breast pump that is not only comfortable and convenient but also has every feature on our must-have list and then some!
Lightweight Breast Pump
The Ameda Mya Breast Pump has double or single pumping options. It remembers the last settings thanks to its memory function and automatically powers down after 30 minutes. One charge lets moms pump for two hours.
Compact and lightweight for convenience and portability
Rechargeable battery for on-the-go use with or without having to plug into an outlet
Closed system for the prevention of milk backing up into tubing or in the motor
Integrated (and snug) bottle holders on the motor create a small footprint while also protecting your milk from unintentional spills!
Multiple flanges available
Various adjustable speed and suction controls for comfort and personalization
The Ameda Mya Breast Pump is a good choice for new and expecting mothers. With its small design, closed system, and customizable controls, the Mya has all of our must-have features with one exception. With only one size flange included with the pump, you would have to buy additional sizes. For the price we would like to see more options for moms.
Breast Pump with an App
Bluetooth compatible, pairs with the Baby 2.0 app to automatically track pumping sessions. It’s fully customizable with 3 pumping styles, 8 suction levels, and 2 flange sizes.
Portable and lightweight with an AC adapter or batteries for complete convenience
The hygienic closed system keeps your baby safe from contaminants while protecting the pump so you don’t have to replace parts
Adjustable speed and suction controls for encouraging milk production
The pump comes with two flange sizes included
Also connects to an app on your smartphone to track your pumping sessions
We included the Lansinoh Smartpump here because it does meet the majority of our requirements...closed system, small and lightweight, multiple flange sizes included, etc. While there are multiple settings on this pump and moms can choose the suction level that is best for her, we would prefer to see fewer “presets” and more options to customize the settings. The pump is also a bit on the louder side and only comes with a 90-day warranty.
Popular with Moms
All Spectra Baby USA parts that come in contact with breast milk are BPA/DEHP free. It features a built-in nightlight for night pumping and many settings that let mom customize her pumping.
A closed system so you don’t have to worry about the motor, mold, or cleaning the tubing
Multiple speed and suction settings, to put mom in control
Two flange sizes come included for comfort and fit
Two-year warranty included for an increase in confidence
The Spectra S2 is one of the most popular pumps with moms with many of the recommended features included. Closed, clean system, multiple flanges, customizable controls for maximum output, and a two-year warranty (which is great). It is larger and heavier (at just over 3 lbs) when compared to the other pumps that made our list. That combined with the fact that it does not have a battery option, makes it a less ideal pump for working moms who may need something more portable and adaptable.
Two-phase technology will automatically go from let-down to expression mode. The illuminated touch screen display and the rechargeable battery lets moms pump anywhere, anytime.
Closed system for cleanliness and dependability
Independently adjustable speed and suction controls for increased milk production
Two different size flanges for comfort
Multiple battery options for convenience anywhere
The Medela Sonata is one of the newer additions to the Medela line of pumps. It has a closed system to protect your milk, a huge upgrade from the common Pump In Style model that still has an open system and is very difficult to keep clean. It also has an app you can connect to track your progress and your settings. The Sonata comes with the two-phase technology that will automatically go from let-down to expression mode, which may be convenient for some moms if those are the right settings for them. It has a rechargeable battery to be able to “unplug” and have more flexibility although the pump is heavier than others we have mentioned, weighing in at over 8lbs. With only two flange sizes included at this price, we would love to see a little more included.
Additional Features To Keep In Mind When Choosing A Breast Pump
To ensure your ability as a busy mama to keep up with your supply, you want a pump with full power options. The ideal selection has not only an AC adapter for your wall outlets but also a separate car adapter, and the ability to run on batteries for cordless use anywhere. You never want to miss a pumping session because you are not near an outlet.
Portability (size, weight, bottle holders)
For most moms, pumping means bringing your breast pump to work or trying to fit it into your routine even when at home. A lightweight breast pump with a smaller footprint will make things much easier, from traveling with it to just being able to sit snugly on your night table. Integrated bottle holders that hold your collection containers in place is another plus. The last thing you want is to spill that precious “liquid gold” after you've worked so hard to pump it!
To me, the warranty is like a promise that the pump you are buying is of high-quality and without defect - that is the manufacturer’s guarantee and confidence in their product. Furthermore, since breastfeeding can last for years, so too should your pump. Look for a breast pump with a long warranty (or at least a year) to get the most out of it and know that your purchase is secure.
The Right Breast Pump Spells Success For Mom And Baby
Nothing is more important than your baby’s health, and breastfeeding and breast milk are key to that and why choosing the right breast pump is so important. Hopefully, my guide to the most important features to look for in a breast pump will support you in choosing the pump that is best for you.
Shari Criso MSN, RN, CNM, IBCLC
Founder of MyBabyExperts.com
For the past 30 years, supporting and caring for new and expectant mothers has been not only my career but my passion. From providing guidance during those sacred months of pregnancy to delivering over 600 babies, supporting thousands of new moms to breastfeed, and helping them discover and find the best possible baby products - I have done it all! As a mother myself, I understand how challenging new motherhood can be. As an RN, a Certified Nurse Midwife, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant I spend my days supporting and educating moms worldwide. With my Amazon Live Channel, With my social platforms and, and online breastfeeding classes and hundreds of episodes of my WebTV show, My Baby Experts, I am committed to serving mothers in this important stage in life and beyond. Allow me to help you overcome the fear and celebrate the beauty of motherhood.