As a new mother, or even a second- or third-time mother, breastfeeding demands and enables a special relationship with your newborn. Nothing quite aids this connection as much as a cheap breast pump, particularly if you don't expect to be with your baby 24/7. Good manual breast pumps can be had for about $30 and good cheap electric breast pumps cost less than $160; high-end breast pumps, by contrast, go for $400 and counting. Paying upscale prices gets you a model that's faster, more efficient, and easier to use, but legions of women who choose cheap breast pumps report they manage just fine and their babies thrive just as well.
Cheap Breast Pumps Buying Guide
There are two types of breast pumps, manual and powered, and the latter is almost always more expensive. There are also two pumping styles -- single (one breast at a time) and double (both breasts simultaneously) -- but double is an option only with a powered breast pump. According to , the time it takes to empty both breasts with hospital grade breast pumps that will set you back at least $1,000 is about half what it takes when using a non-hospital grade pump. These super high-end pumps also come closest to mimicking a baby's real sucking, which may enable the mother to produce more milk.
But if a hospital-grade breast pump doesn't fit your budget, not to worry. There are good cheap powered and manual breast pumps for personal use on the market, and choosing one that suits your nursing needs shouldn't be difficult. Cheap powered breast pumps are relatively small, portable, adjustable, comfortable, and efficient -- they don't, however, help a mother produce more milk. Pumps of this type run on batteries or must be plugged in, and double powered breast pumps are pricier than single powered breast pumps. If electric pumping isn't your style, you can opt for a low-cost self-operated breast pump that's always single and obviously requires more effort than the powered models.
According to experts at Breast Pump Comparisons, the three main brands are Medela, Phillips AVENT, and Ameda. Take the time to do your homework before you buy because many vendors do not allow returns. Factors to consider when choosing a cheap breast pump include the power source, the style, the breast shield, the pump cycle, and accessories. The breast shield is important because this is the part that goes over your nipple, so fit is critical; choose a breast pump that offers shields of different sizes or shields that can be adjusted. The pump cycle describes how the pump works, and a cycle is defined by the number of sucks completed each minute and by the suction level. Power source indicates how the breast pump is operated -- some come with battery packs, others need an electric outlet, others can be used either way, and some, of course, draw on mother power. Extras include items like bottles, lids, carrying bags, nursing pads, and ice packs.
Of the low-cost breast pumps we researched, our favorites are the Medela Harmony (starting at $28), a single manual breast pump that's efficient and mother-friendly, and the Ameda Purely Yours (starting at $158), a double powered breast pump that features adjustable cycles and suction. Following close behind are the Simplisse Manual Breastfeeding Companion (starting at $30), a single manual breast pump with an unusual breast cup design that enhances comfort, and the Medela Swing (starting at $110), a single powered pump that imitates a baby's nursing rhythm. One cheap breast pump we aren't crazy about is the single powered Evenflo Comfort Select Performance Single (starting at $50) due to performance issues and sparse product information.
Note that breast pumps are considered medical devices and are regulated by the .
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Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
Electric Breast Pumps, Manual Breast Pumps
Manual Breast Pumps and Powered Breast Pumps.Breast pumps are separated into two categories by the : manual and powered (or "electric"). There are also two pumping styles, single and double.
Manual breast pumps are the cheapest type of breast pump and are always single pumps, which means a nursing woman pumps from one breast at a time by squeezing or pressing a handle that creates a sucking motion and empties the breast of milk. Some manual pumps are designed to be used one-handed, but many others require two hands. Manual breast pumps like the Simplisse Manual Breastfeeding Companion (starting at $30) and Medela Harmony (starting at $28) are small, portable, and quiet. On the downside, it takes a relatively long while to empty the breast (sometimes not even completely) and a mom's hands can grow tired from the pumping motion.
Powered breast pumps are either single or double and require minimal effort by the nursing mom because the machine's motor controls the sucking motion. Single powered pumps like the Medela Swing (starting at $110) cost less but only work on one breast at a time; double powered breast pumps, like the Ameda Purely Yours (starting at $158), work double duty but generally cost more. Cheap electric breast pumps are also portable but are bigger and heavier than manual breast pumps; they're louder, as well, regardless whether the motor is powered by a battery or current from an electric outlet. The advantage of electric breast pumps is their speed, especially if you're using a double powered pump. The FDA also notes that many models let a mother adjust the suction and cycle to more closely reproduce the natural nursing pattern of her baby. Although this feature is less common among cheap electric breast pumps, it's a big selling point for the Ameda Purely Yours.
Breast Pumps Breast Shield.Breast pumps always come with a breast shield, but with most lower-priced models, it's one size fits all. Experts at say this may work for some women but those with larger breasts and nipples may experience discomfort and produce less milk. The best insurance is to buy a breast pump that comes with breast shields of different sizes or offers the option of purchasing different sizes separately. Most low-cost breast pumps only come with one breast shield, so extras must be purchased from the manufacturer or vendor; note that most breast pumps only work with the shields made for that brand.Among the best cheap breast pumps on our list, both the manual Medela Harmony and powered Medela Swing include one breast shield, with additional sizes sold separately. The double powered Ameda Purely Yours comes with one-size breast shield but the pricier Ameda Purely Yours Ultra (starting at $279) features three different sized breast shields (if these don't fit, there are six other sizes you can buy separately). The First Years: Double miPump (starting at $64), another inexpensive double powered breast pump, comes with a flexible-fit breast shield that's supposed to be softer and more yielding, so there's no need to buy different size shields. The Simplisse Manual Breastfeeding Companion does away with a breast shield altogether and instead uses a soft breast cup that conforms to any breast size and moves with the breast during expression for better comfort. We didn't find any information about breast shields sizes in the Evenflo Comfort Select Performance Single (starting at $50), although it comes with four disposable nursing pads.
Breast Pump Speed
Breast Pumps Pump Cycle.A nursing baby typically sucks 45 to 55 times a minute, so the closer a breast pump gets to that rate, the better. Breast pump speed is described in breast pump packaging as cycles per minute, or CPM, and is only relevant for powered breast bumps. Breast Pump Comparisons cautions against buying a cheap breast pump with cycle speeds lower than 25 per minute.Suction draws milk out of the breast, and in powered breast pumps suction is related to cycle speed. Experts at Breast Pump Comparisons say the suction should fall between 0 mm Hg and 250 mm Hg, while anything over 250 mm Hg can be painful and could cause breast trauma. Some powered breast pumps come with adjustable speeds and suctions, which is ideal because the nursing mom can actually set the pump to work at a speed that almost replicates that of her baby. But again, as with breast shields, adjustability is limited in the budget end of the breast pump market.
Among the cheap breast pumps we researched, the cycle and suction technology varies. The Ameda Purely Yours is one of the few adjustable models and features 32 cycle and suction combinations. The Philips AVENT Electric Breast Pump Uno (starting at $99) is another; this cheap electric breast pump is not only completely adjustable, but it boasts a unique electronic memory that learns and remembers your preferred combination of breast pump speed and suction. The Medela Swing offers a two-phase expression technology that mirrors a baby's natural nursing rhythm and includes a stimulation period with cycle speed of 120 CPM and suction of 50-140 mm Hg, and an expression mode with cycle speed of 45-72 CPM and suction of 50-250 mm Hg. The single powered Evenflo Comfort Select Performance has suction settings between unspecified levels of "min" and "max" and provides suction troubleshooting information in the product description.
Manual breast pumps, like the Medela Harmony and Simplisse Manual Breastfeeding Companion, don't have set cycle speeds or suction action. Nursing mothers determine the speed and suction through their own pumping efforts. Milk expression with manual breast pumps tends to be a slower process and involve less suction, which is a key reason why user reviewers often give these cheap breast pumps lower ratings than the powered models.
Breast Pumps Power Source.How a breast pump gets its power is another factor to consider. The cheapest breast pumps are manual, meaning you, the nursing mom, do all the work. Alternatively, cheap powered breast pumps draw their juice from a battery or an electric outlet. If you know you'll be in situations where you'll need to pump and electricity is not available, you'd be better off with a battery-operated or manual breast pump.Some low-cost breast pumps, like the Ameda Purely Yours, feature power versatility. This model runs on electricity or battery and comes with a car adapter for added convenience. The Medela Swing, Evenflo Comfort Select Performance Single, and The First Years: Double miPump draw on battery or electricity, while the Philips AVENT Electric Breast Pump Uno can be used manually, with electricity or batteries. The Medela Harmony is hand-powered but can be upgraded to run on electricity with the purchase of a Symphony or Lactina conversion kit (available from their site), and the Simplisse Manual Breastfeeding Companion is just that -- simply manual.
Breast Pumps Extras.Some breast pumps come with a variety of frills, such as milk coolers, travel cases, and hands-free kits. While extras are certainly convenient, they can lead to higher prices. For the cheapest deals, choose a breast pump without all the accessories; for example, the Ameda Purely Yours is sold just as a breast pump, or for lots more money you can buy the Ultra version with a carrying bag, cooler, bottles, nipples, milk storage containers, additional breast shields, and more. Nonetheless, we found some low-cost breast pumps that feature a few extras. The cheap breast pumps on our list come with at least one collection bottle and lid. The Medela Swing and Evenflo Comfort Select Performance Single even come with carrying totes, while The First Years: Double miPump features a carrying bag, cooler, and ice packs.
Breast Pump Reviews
Breast pumping is a very personal thing for most women, so breast pump reviews are extremely subjective. Also remember that preferences for manual or powered, double or single, reflect the interdependent needs of mother and child. A working mother may decide a double electric breast pump is the best option while a stay-at-home mom may have enough spare moments for a slower single manual breast pump. Even so, we found that reviews for powered breast pumps are far more favorable than for manual models, largely due to ease of use and efficiency. In fact, very few manual breast pumps garner good reviews at all, although we found a couple that do. The performance features getting the biggest play in breast pump reviews include comfort and ease of milk production and clean up.
Breast Pump Comfort.A woman's breasts can get very sore and irritated during breast feeding, and no one wants a breast pump that contributes to the pain. Based on the breast pump reviews we read, women expect breast pumps to be somewhat uncomfortable but not painful, which can happen when a pump suctions too hard or pulls excessively. Our picks for best and good manual breast pump find favor with nursing mothers despite the negative rap about hand-pump models in general. A user review posted on Associated Content says the manual Medela Harmony is so comfortable that you may be fooled into thinking there's no pumping going on. Comfort is the major compliment handed out to the Simplisse Manual Breastfeeding Companion, a model The Fashionable Housewife blog says creates an entirely different and much preferred sensation than many other breast pumps; in particular, the breast cup is very soft and there's no pinching.Several powered breast pumps we researched also earn high praise in reviews. On Amazon, nursing mothers rave about the Ameda Purely Yours, saying the adjustable suction and speed are key to making this pump extremely comfortable. The Medela Swing likewise finds enthusiastic fans among those posting breast pump reviews on Amazon, where users write that it's efficient, easy to use, and comfortable; one describes the breast shield as soft, and the suction and speed just right. Another cheap breast pump that earns decent ratings is the Philips AVENT Electric Breast Pump Uno; user reviews on Babies R Us like its comfort and user-friendliness, although some report it's a bit loud.
Breast Pump Cleaning.A breast pump must be easy to clean to reduce the risk of bacteria lurking in the pump parts and getting transferred into milk that's stored for a future meal. Users posting breast pump reviews on Epinions consider the Medela Harmony a cinch to clean because it disassembles quickly and comes with helpful instructions. Reviewers at both Amazon and Buzzillions report the parts of the Ameda Purely Yours require just a soak in hot soapy water and a review on says the three parts of the Medela Swing clean up with no fuss.
On the other hand, the Simplisse Manual Breastfeeding Companion comes in for some mild criticism on the cleaning front. A few breast pump reviews on BreastPumps.com and Amazon gripe about difficulties disassembling and re-assembling for cleaning, although most also point out that if you follow the very clear instructions, you'll quickly figure it out.
Breast Pump Milk Production.Because breast pumps are used when nursing moms are separated from their babies and for certain medical reasons, being able to produce the most amount of milk in the most efficient way possible is a must. According to breast pump reviews posted on the Target site, the manual Medela Harmony produces copious amounts of milk and many users say they prefer it over their electric breast pumps. The Ameda Purely Yours far outranks its competitors, assert breast pumps reviews on Buzzillions, and helps produce plenty of milk; one mother contends it's comparable to using a hospital grade breast pump and several others report it completely emptied their breasts quickly and effectively.We found similar comments in breast pump reviews on Walmart about The First Years: Double miPump, although some say the suction gives out a little fast. The Medela Swing also efficiently drains breasts of milk, say reviewers at Target, and does so in a very short time for a single powered breast pump. The Simplisse Manual Breastfeeding Companion earns accolades on Babies R Us for milk production, and some say the total volume exceeds what they produce with other models.
By contrast, milk production seems to be a problem with the Evenflo Comfort Select Performance Single. Breast pump reviews on Amazon and Target question whether the pump actually works. Users assert the pump is prone to breaking, the suction wears out after very few uses, and little milk is produced; some mothers even report their milk supply dwindled while using this pump.