Best Manual Breast Pump 2019

Medela Harmony review

Looking for a serviceable pump that costs about as much as your fortnightly nappy bill? Meet the Medela Harmony. If you’re planning to express occasionally, or if you’re looking for a manual device to use as a backup for an electric, then this breast pump may be the ideal choice. It’s light and comfortable to use – and it will easily fit into your handbag too.

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Verdict in 10 seconds

  • An attractive, but effective, manual breast pump
  • At less than £30, it's an affordable option for most parents
  • Portable and slimline

Watch our one-minute video review

Pros

  • Lightweight, but durable
  • Compact – 20 cm at its highest point
  • Quiet and discreet
  • Easy to take with you wherever you go
  • Doesn't need plugging in at the mains
  • Great value for money – low budget, but still feels like a high-quality product
  • Five breast shield sizes available to buy
  • Comes with a Calma bottle teat, designed to suit breastfeeding babies
  • A thoughtful design, with gentle breast stimulation

Cons

  • Open system pump
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty expressing – designed for mums who mostly breastfeed
  • Only one bottle and breast shield supplied
  • Short warranty period
  • Replacement breast shields are a steep £13.99

What are the key features?

  • Simple design
  • Comfortable to use with an ergonomic twist handle
  • 2-Phase Expression technology – two suction speeds, one of which simulates a baby's natural suction rate

What are the specs?

  • Open system
  • BPA-free materials
  • One year warranty – consumable parts excluded
  • RRP: £24.99
  • Comparatively low resale value – maximum of around £10
  • Extras you can buy: microwave bags (£12.99), Breast Milk Store and Feed Set (£24.99) and cooler bag (£26.99)

What’s in the box

  • 1 PersonalFit breast shield (24 mm)
  • 1 handle
  • 1 two-component connector
  • 1 diaphragm/stem with O-ring
  • 2 valve membrane
  • 1 valve head
  • 1 multi lid
  • 1 bottle
  • 1 bottle stand

medela breast pump

What are the benefits of a manual breast pump?

For those times when you might want to express, rather than breastfeed, a manual breast pump can come in very handy – they're ideal for occasional expressing and usually come with an attractive price tag.

If you're planning on using a bulky electric pump, such as the Ardo Calypso Double Plus, then an easy-to-use, manual pump could also be the ideal backup, particularly for expressing on the go.

How easy is the Medela Harmony to assemble?

The instructions for the Medela are very easy to follow and are also available to download online if you lose the paper copy.

There are four videos on the website for you to take a look at for extra guidance – instructions for use, how to clean, information on general Medela breast pump use, and information about the Harmony's 2-Phase Expression technology. There are other useful downloads and links on the website too.

While this breast pump will need to be cleaned and sterilised before use and while there are a few parts to put together, it only take about five minutes to assemble. You have everything you need in the box to start pumping straight away.

Parts are also easy to replace using the Medela website, where customer service details can also easily be found. It's worth noting, though, that none of the parts come under warranty, so you'd have to replace them yourself at an extra cost.

How does it look?

The Medela Harmony aesthetic is simple – it's fuss-free without looking cheap or clinical. The bottles have a pretty design too.

It’s a particularly diminutive pump – slimline, and 20 cm at its highest point – so, while its portable, it isn’t really suitable for heavy-duty expressing. There are, however, two-in-one pumps, like the MAM 2-in-1 (a manual and electric pump), that offer the best of both worlds.

How comfortable is it?

The BPA-free plastic is elegantly shaped, the volume markings clear and the ergonomically designed lever smooth and pleasingly tactile, which means that you won't find it tiring to use.

The handle twists so that you can get the best angle to pump without having to move your arms into uncomfortable positions. The lever has a soft rubber cover that makes this easier too.

Our tester, Sam, found that she always felt relaxed and comfortable when using the Medela.

How do you use the Medela Harmony and what's it like to use day-to-day?

The Harmony has 2-Phase Expression technology, which is fairly uncommon for manual breast pumps. To stimulate milk flow, you start by using the shorter side of the handle – the suction speed will be the same as that of a hungry baby.

You switch to the longer side once the milk is flowing – the suction speed is slower here, which will allow you to express more milk.

For a manual breast pump, the Medela Harmony is extremely efficient – some Mumsnetters have found the Medela to be just as, if not more, successful at getting plenty of milk as an electric pump.

Expressing is a personal experience. Sometimes you can fill a bottle in 20 minutes and other times you struggle to get a fifth of that.

With the Harmony, you can typically express in a short amount of time (although this will, of course, depend on the wearer), which means that you can pump during your lunch break and on the go – basically whenever and wherever you need to.

Sam generally found it hard to pump in any position other than seated for most, if not all, the breast pumps she used, so the same applied when using the Medela. She didn't need to lean forward when using it though, so could assume a relaxed position throughout.

As well as being easy to use, the Medela Harmony is not heavy or cumbersome – it’s a very straightforward bit of kit and useful when you need to express, whether due to engorgement, to keep up supply or supplement regular breastfeeding.

How safe and stable is it?

The breast shell is plastic and one size. There are five alternative sizes (available to buy from Medela) and the PersonalFit aspect helps to prevent nipple trauma.

The pump and bottles are well-made, durable and up to the rigours of busy family life.

While you will need to use Medela bottles with this pump, which some mums may find limiting, the bottles are shatterproof and available in two different sizes – 150 ml and 250 ml.

Discretion and convenience

Our tester, Sam, said she would be happy to use this pump at work and when out and about, but only in a private space – it’s quiet, discreet and easy to transport.

It would be good if a travel bag was included to keep everything in one place, but it can just as easily be popped in a handbag. It's also simple to store when not in use.

The Medela Harmony is a really good manual pump. It's small, quiet and easy to use. I went to the cinema with friends and actually pumped out a full bottle without anyone noticing!

How easy is it to clean?

The Medela Harmony is an open system pump (which is one of its downsides) with an opaque plastic vent lodged in the funnel, but it isn't unhygienic. While there are a few separate parts, it’s simple to take apart, clean and then reassemble.

You can boil the parts or use a dishwasher, a sterilising unit or a microwave – the bottles are dishwasher- and microwave-safe.

The bottles hold up well to cleaning generally, however, if you’re using a cold water steriliser, you’ll need to dry the bottles to rub off any water marks, which will leave them looking like new.

What about value for money?

Having a new baby can be a financially anxious time, so while we extol the genuine virtues of the top electric breast pumps, the truth is that shelling out more than £100 for one may well be beyond many families’ reach.

The Medela Harmony is a good investment for the start of any expressing journey, especially if you're using a breast pump for the first time.

It may be a no frills breast pump, but it's also really efficient and represents good value for money.

Perhaps most attractively, the Harmony comes with a Calma bottle teat, which is specifically designed to suit breastfeeding babies. The Calma bottle is £15.99 on its own, so its inclusion here represents excellent value.

Final verdict?

Medela is a highly respected breast pump brand, and even the tiny, lower-budget Harmony feels high-quality.

If you want a simple bit of kit that's small enough to use on the go, then this hardwearing pump is perfect for the job. It'll help new mums kickstart their breast pumping journey, but won't break the bank in the process.

About Mumsnet Reviews

All Mumsnet product reviews are written by real parents after weeks of research and testing – this includes recommendations from the Mumsnet Talk boards. We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust. Sometimes, we earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. However, we never allow this to influence our coverage. Read our how we test page to find out more.

For more information about what to look for when buying a breast pump, check out our buyer's guide.

All prices correct at time of publication

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Awards

  • Best Manual Breast Pump 2019

  • Best for Budget 2018

How we test

After lots of research, we handpicked and tested 15 of the most popular breast pumps on the market, as rated on Mumsnet and beyond. Find out how we tested them.

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Mumsnet Talk

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Breast pumps

Buyer's guide

It's a subjective process, this breast pump lark, and choosing the right one for you can be tricky. Whether you're looking for a manual or electric, single or double, here's what you need to know when buying a breast pump.

Read more »
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