Disclosure: this article contains affiliate links. All opinions are 100% my own.
Why I wanted a manual breast pump
When I decided I wanted to breastfeed and started thinking about breast pumps, I learned there are manual breast pumps and electric breast pumps. I immediately dismissed the manual pumps. They just seemed so… antiquated.
Fast forward a few weeks into my pumping career (with my double electric pump) and I realized I needed a manual pump. I was going on an upcoming road trip with family and they wanted to be able to give my son bottles. Plus, at the time, breastfeeding was really painful and I liked to have a break from direct feeding now and again.
Of course, I could have used my double electric pump to single pump and plug it into the car charger. But no, I needed something simpler to use on the go.
What are manual breast pumps and how do they work?
So, how does a manual breast pump work? Most are quite simple and include a flange that fits onto your breast and simple mechanism to create suction. Nearly all are operated by hand these days (as opposed to being operated by a foot pedal).
Since a manual breast pump is operated by hand, you are in complete control of the pump’s sucking speed. What is more difficult to control, however, is the suction level. When I first started using my manual pump the suction felt really strong. To avoid the really strong suction I could just push the pump handle down half way, but this was much easier said than done.
Surprisingly, I adjusted to the manual pump’s stronger suction really quickly, and I’ve never looked back since. My manual pump has been a great investment. I use my double electric pump daily when I’m in the office, but the manual pump still gets used a lot. Client meetings all afternoon? Bring the manual pump so I can use it anywhere, anytime. Want to pump one breast quickly before bed with minimal hassle? Use the manual pump.
Since you control the pumping speed by hand with manual pumps, it can be really efficient to express your milk because you can trigger let down, and then hold down the pump handle as your milk streams out for quite some time, and then repeat the process. This draws your milk out really quickly – with an electric pump the suction speed can only go so slow, but with the manual pump you can maintain suction for 30-60 seconds and draw out quite a bit of milk in the process.
Do you need a manual breast pump?
It might seem like overkill to own more than one breast pump. I forget this sometimes since I have quite a few pumps – but I would say any mom who spends time away from her breastfed baby on a regular basis should have an electric and a manual pump. Manual pumps are generally much less expensive than their electric counterparts, too.
Which are the best manual breast pumps?
When it comes to manual pumps, I have two favorites that I think are clear winners in terms of comfort, ease of use, and assembly. However, if you have a double electric pump, it is often beneficial to get a manual pump of the same brand because the parts will be compatible or even interchangeable.
I say ‘often’ beneficial to have an electric and manual pump of the same brand, because there are some manual pumps that I find horrendous, despite being from brands that make excellent electric pumps. The prime example here is the Ameda Manual Breast Pump – it is super fragile, difficult to assemble, and forces you to hold your hand at a very awkward angle while squeezing uncomfortably. I love my Ameda Purely Yours electric pump, but was hugely disappointed by their manual pump.
The two best manual pumps are:
Philips Avent Comfort Manual Breast Pump – This pump wins on comfort and ease of use with a cushiony silicone flange and only a few parts.
Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump – Ideal for women already using a Medela electric pump or for those who need a non-standard flange size. Offers two expression settings to easily stimulate letdown.
Other manual pumps worth considering include:
Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump – Offers two expression settings to easily stimulate letdown.
Nuk Expressive Manual Breast Pump – Comfortable thanks to silicone flange and typically a few dollars cheaper than other reputable manual pumps.
The manual pumps I do not recommend are:
Ameda Manual Breast Pump – Very uncomfortable to grip, makes the job of expressing milk quite difficult. Also very fragile.
Dr. Brown’s Manual Breast Pump – Too many parts and hard to get good suction.
Conclusion – you need a manual breast pump!
So, that’s my two cents on manual breast pumps. They are incredibly convenient and while they are tiresome to pump with on a daily basis, they are very handy for travel or infrequent use. I think every mom should have one – you never know when you might need to be away from your baby and the manual pump gives you a very quick and convenient means of expressing some milk.
Interested in a manual breast pump not mentioned here? Have additional questions about manual breast pumps? Contact me and I’ll be sure to reply.