Types of Breast Pumps

Which Kind of Pump Do You Need?

Breast pumps are used to remove and collect milk from your breasts. Once collected, the milk can be immediately fed to your baby or stored in breast milk storage bags and containers to be used at a later time. You can use a hand expression technique to remove your breast milk; however, depending on how often you need to express, you may find it easier and more convenient to use a pump.

You may choose to use a breast pump if:

  • You need help to pull out flat nipples or inverted nipples.
  • You want to provide breast milk to your child while you go out for a short period of time.
  • Your baby is a preemie or in the hospital and can not breastfeed.
  • You are returning to work or school.
  • You need to occasionally relieve the pain and pressure of engorgement.
  • You have stopped breastfeeding and would like begin relactating.
  • You wish to establish a milk supply for an adopted baby.
  • You would like to increase your milk supply.
  • You need to temporarily wean your child.​

Whatever the reason may be, most breastfeeding moms find it useful to have a pump on hand. But, which one should you choose? There are so many types, styles, and brands of breast pump available that it may be difficult or overwhelming to pick one. To find the pump that's right for you, you should think about your budget and how much time you will spend


Manual Breast Pumps

African American woman holding milk in breast pump

JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Manual pumps are breast pumps that you operate by hand. You may need to squeeze a trigger button or slide a cylinder back and forth to create the suction that will remove the milk from your breasts. These pumps tend to be small, inexpensive and easy to store for traveling. They work well for short-term use or occasional pumping. However, if you will pumping often or removing a large amount of breast milk when you pump, using a manual pump might be time-consuming and tiring.


Battery Operated Breast Pumps

Breast pump

Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

A battery operated pump can be a good option if you only need to pump once a day or less and you do not want to use a manual pump. Since they are typically not strong enough to stimulate milk production or maintain a milk supply, you will still need to put your baby to the breast for most feedings. Battery operated pumps are usually small, portable and fairly easy to use. However, they do require batteries which can become costly to replace over time. You will also want to keep extra batteries on hand in case you need them.


Electric Breast Pumps

electric breast pump

Jaime Grill / Getty Images

If you need to pump very often an electric pump will give you the best results. Electric pumps are stronger and more powerful so they can be used to help establish, maintain and increase your milk supply. These pumps are the most efficient which can save you a lot of time, but they are also more expensive, larger, and require a power source.


Bulb-Style Pumps

Bulb-style, bicycle horn breast pump

Bulb-style breast pumps, also called bicycle horn pumps due to their shape, are not recommended. They are unsanitary, inefficient, and can cause harm to your breasts. Avoid using bulb-type breast pumps.


Used Breast Pumps

Certain breast pumps can be used by more than one person. These pumps are designed in a way that they can be sterilized and the parts that come in contact with breast milk are disposable. These are usually the pumps that you can rent or use while you are in the hospital. Most personal breast pumps are only intended to be used by one person. They cannot be completely sterilized and even with new breast shields and tubing, there is still a risk for the transmission of an infectious disease. Before using any pump that has been used by someone else make sure that it is safe to be used by more than one person and that it has been properly sterilized.

For more information about breast pumps talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant or your local La Leche group. They can help you to determine if it would be better for you to rent or buy a breast pump, and which type of breast pump would work best for your specific situation. The WIC program may also help you to obtain a breast pump. Contact your local WIC office to see if you qualify.

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  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition. Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Used Breast Pumps. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2012