The beginner's guide to buying a breast pump

Shopping for a breast pump is not something you perhaps envisaged yourself doing in those heady, early pregnancy days. Indeed lots of mothers choose not to express, but if your child needs to be tube fed, you want to be able to leave them with breast milk so you can go out or go to work, or you'ld like your partner to take a share of the night feeds and don't want to use formula, then you're going to have to get your head round one of the odder pieces of baby equipment.

For a start they mostly look like instruments of torture, particularly for those whose breasts are already protesting about the amount of suction they're getting. But if you're one of the many who plan to express, here are some of the decisions you'll need to make.

Electric or manual?

Electric pumps are usually more speedy and efficient at extracting the milk. But on the downside they can be noisy and you have less control over the strength of the suction, so they're not always ideal for sore nipples. They don't come cheap either, so are more suitable for those who think expressing will be part of their regular routine.

The manual pump can be a lot more fiddly to assemble, but it's usually quiet and you can more easily control the speed and suction, so theyíre useful if your breasts are engorged (either to express milk or simply take some of the "hardness" away prior to feeding) or on bruised or chapped nipples which are too sore to feed from. They're cheaper than their electrical counterparts so a popular choice if you think you'll only want to express occasionally.

Once you've made your mind up on manual versus electric the other things to consider are:

Ease of assembly

Are there lots of fiddly bits that are going to baffle a sleep deprived mum and/or get lost in the steriliser? The answer for many pumps is yes, but once you get the knack it's usually not too bad and there's a certain sense of satisfaction from being able to do something extremely complicated on two hours sleep. Still if "the Krypton Factor" wasn't your favourite show it might be worth opting for one that reviewers deem easy to assemble.

Ease of use

Can you use it one-handed? Some women find that the best way to get a "let down" reflex is to feed the baby on one side and express on the other. Others just want to be able to read a book, have a cuppa and express at the same time.


Can it be sterilised in a microwave steriliser? Does it come apart easily for cleaning?


An important factor if you're thinking of expressing at work or if you don't want to miss your favourite TV programme.

Power source

If it's electric can it work from mains or battery?


Again, this may be important if you want to express at home and at work.

Last updated: almost 2 years ago