Selecting a breast pump

Walk into a baby store and look at the wall of breast pumps. It is hard to make a decision about which one will be effective and comfortable for you!

Choosing the right breast pump may make or break your pumping experience. Let's look at some of the variables to consider when making your selection.

The basic parts of a breast pump will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. But these are typical.

  • Flange goes over the breast

  • Connector

  • Tubing attaches to a motor on a electric breast pump. In the case of a manually operated pump, a handle would be located here.

  • Bottle

Breast pumps can remove milk from one breast at a time or both breasts simultaneously. Of course, bilateral pumping cuts the time in half. In addition, it stimulates the hormones of lactation better.

Pumps call into four basic categories

  1. Hospital grade – Generally rental pumps used while establishing a milk supply if your infant is premature or ill

  2. Personal use pumps – Generally used by employed mothers at work

  3. Battery or small electric pumps – Generally used by employed mothers or for occasional use

  4. Manually operated breast pumps – Best used for occasional use

Selection criteria

  • Purpose

  • Age and health of infant

  • Comfort

  • Availability

  • Cost

  • Ease of use

  • Adjustable suction and frequency

  • Adjustable breast flange

  • Ease of cleaning

  • Universal collection container

  • Durability

  • Versatile power source

  • Portability

  • Safety


Is your infant premature, ill, or do you need to be separated from your infant for some reason? Select a hospital grade pump.

If you will be working and away from your baby for 8 or more hours, select a personal use pump.

If you will be using your pump occasionally, a battery, small electric or manually operated pump will be fine.

Age and health of your infant

If your infant is a newborn and your milk supply is not well established, choose a hospital grade or personal use pump.

Comfort while pumping

Select a pump that has adjustable suction levels and flanges so you can adjust them to your comfort.

Breast pump availability

Breast pumps may be available at your hospital, from your lactation consultant or at your local baby store.

Pump cost

Pumps range in price from about $35 to over $300. Rental pumps range from $1 to $5 per day depending on the length of the rental agreement.

Purchase or rent the best pump you can afford, it will make a difference!

Ease of use

The pump should come with clear instructions and be easy to figure out. If it is very complicated, you won’t end up using it.

Adjustable suction and cycle frequency

You want your pump to mimic the typical suction patterns of a baby at the breast.

Therefore the suction range should be adjustable up to about 240 mm Hg and cycle about 48-50 times per minute. Breast pump packages are not labeled with this information at this time.

Pump durability

What kind of a guarantee does the pump have? Is it likely that you can use it for this baby and
for another baby or two?

Adjustable breast flange

Many pumps come with a standard size flange (cup) that fits most women. However, if you have very small or very large nipples, you will need a flange that fits you properly.

You can tell if the flange fits you if it completely supports the areola and does not pull any areola into the flange,indicating it would be too large.

You can tell if the flange is too tight if the nipple is tight in the nipple tunnel, hurts, or does not empty the breast completely.

Ease of cleaning

Check the small parts. Is it likely that small, but essential, parts could slip down the sink and be lost?

Is the pump easy to reassemble? The pump should be washed with soap and water after each use.

Universal collection container

Most pumps will accept any standard baby bottle and it is convenient to be able to mix and match with any bottles you have handy. Others require their own particular size.

Versatile power source

It is useful that an electric pump can be plugged in, but also could be operated on batteries at other times. In the case of a power outage, you should be able to operate it manually.

Pump Portability

Where will you use your pump? Will there be times you will need to quickly put it in your purse or wear it as a backpack? Or will you always be sitting in a designated pumping room?


If it is operated by electricity, the pump should be rated by the Underwriters Laboratory as safe. Check to assure it will automatically cut off at suction levels above 240 mm Hg which could damage the breast tissue.