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What's Important When Choosing a Breast Pump

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

For many nursing mothers, their breast pump becomes a best friend during their breastfeeding journey. It’s an essential piece of equipment for nursing moms, even if you’re planning on nursing exclusively from the breast. If you’ve taken a look at the options out there, then you already know there are many options to choose from – and if you’ve never used a breast pump before, how do you know which one to choose?

Electric or manual? Closed system or open? New or used? Which breast pump is best for you? Here’s what to consider when choosing a breast pump.

Manual or Electric – Does It Make a Difference?

There are two main types of breast pumps – manual and electric. A manual breast pump works via a hand pump that you operate yourself. These types of pumps are good for nursing moms who pump infrequently. If you’re pumping more frequently, the hand pump mechanism can be tiring to use. Plus, these pumps are not designed to handle higher output[ND1] , so parts tend to break or need replaced sooner. Also, it’s next to impossible to pump from both breasts at the same time with a hand pump.

Electric breast pumps are motor operated. They are electric but many today come with battery and AC and car adapter options. Electric breast pumps are sturdier, and a high quality one will serve you through your entire breastfeeding journey. If a problem does arise, most are under a manufacturer warranty. There’s also a convenience factor with electric pumps. There are hands free options that enable you to care for baby, or nurse from one breast while pumping from the other. Unless you’re pumping very infrequently, an electric pump is often preferred.

What Is the Difference Between Open and Closed System Pumps?

When looking at electric pumps, one of the main decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want an open or closed system pump. It sound high tech but the main difference between the two is whether there’s a barrier between the breast pump and the milk your express. You might also see this barrier referred to as a media separation.

What the barrier in a closes system does is essential prevent the milk from overflowing and backing up into the pump mechanisms, such as tubing. Closed systems have overflow protection so that there isn’t a risk of backflow. While the risk of contamination is low with an open system pump, choosing one with a barrier is viewed as a more hygienic option.

Many moms prefer closed systems because there’s less concern about contamination, and closed systems are generally easier to clean. This is still a personal choice, and there are high quality open system as well. One thing to consider is if you’re purchasing a used pump, borrowing or renting, choosing a closed system becomes more important. You can purchase new tubing and additional parts for a closed system, ensuring that you’re getting the most hygienic option.

Should You Choose a New or Used Pump?

You can choose a used breast pump, but there are a few things you want to keep in mind. First, according to the FDA, you should only opt for a used breast pump that was specifically designed for multiple users. Otherwise, the FDA recommends that all other breast pumps should be used only by one woman to reduce the risk of contamination since it’s impossible to guarantee that a pump has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. An example of multiple user pump that’s suitable for use is one that’s provided by hospitals, either for new mothers to use during their stay or to rent.

It’s also important to keep in mind that using a second-hand or borrowed pump that isn’t intended for multiple users may violate the manufacture’s warranty. This can be problematic if issues come up with the pumps performance, especially if you paid a lot for the pump in the first place.

Cost is of course a concern for many nursing mothers. A good, high quality breast pump isn’t cheap, which is the reason that many moms toward used pumps as an option. There’s another option here that you might not be considering, and that’s you may be able to get your insurance to pay for the pump.

Will Insurance Pay for Your Breast Pump?

While a high quality breast pump can be expensive, the good news here is that most insurance plans will completely cover the cost of a new breast pump as outlined withing the Affordable Care Act. According to the ACA, health insurance plans provide coverage for breastfeeding support, which includes equipment.

Of course, stipulations are going to vary among insurance providers. Some will cover one specific type of pump, for example electric vs manual. Others will be more restrictive as to exactly when a woman can access coverage for a breast pump. While you might be eager to get all your breastfeeding equipment before your new little one arrives, your insurance may dictate that you must wait until after birth.

To understand the specifics of your breast pump coverage, the best plan is to contact your insurance provider to learn of your full benefits. Once you’re certain of your coverage, speak to your doctor who will provide a prescription for a new breast pump at the appropriate time.

Pros and Cons of Popular Breast Pumps

Overwhelmed by the choices of breast pumps? Here are the pros and cons of some of the most popular bumps on the market to help you make the choice for you and your baby.

Medela Pump In Style

The Medela Pump in Style is one of the most popular and well respected breast pumps on the market. Medela is the maker of several different models of breast pumps, including hospital grade models that are found in maternity units across the country.

Pros of Medela Pump In Style

  • Double electric pump allows use on one breast or both

  • Designed to mimic baby’s natural sucking pattern, including stimulation and expression

  • Produces more milk in less time

  • Comes with a portable carry tote and battery pack

  • Several sizes of breast shields available

Cons of Medela Pump In Style

  • Open system style pump can be more difficult to completely sanitize, although the risk of contamination is low

  • Some moms feel that the Medela Pump in Style is loud compared to other pumps

  • Pump is secured in the bag, which can make cleansing the bag difficult

Medela Freestyle


Another model by the breast pump experts at Medela is the Freestyle. While other Medela models are portable, the Freestyle is a favorite for moms who are often on the go.

Pros of the Medela Freestyle

  • One of the smallest and lightest pumps on the market

  • Double breast pump

  • Less cumbersome than traditional electric breast pumps

  • Rechargeable battery last for approximately 3 hours

  • Backlit displays and timer make it easy to use this pump in the dark

Cons of Medela Freestyle

  • This pump costs more than other Medela models, making it prohibitive for those on a budget

  • Some moms claim that the suction from this pump isn’t a strong as other Medela models

  • Noise can be an issue

Spectra S1 Hospital Strength Breast Pump


Spectra might not be as well known as other companies, like Medela but that make a breast pump that many moms easily fall in love with. Their Spectra S1 Hospital Strength breast pump is one of the most efficient on the market.

Pros of Spectra S1

  • Streamlined design is less “clunky” looking than some other major brands

  • Closed system pump offers overflow protection and eliminates contamination issues

  • Digital display allows you to set speed and suction separately

  • Quieter motor than some other major breast pumps

  • Includes timer and nightlight

Cons of Spectra S1

  • Spectra makes a less affordable model, the S2 but it doesn’t come with a rechargeable battery pack. You need to upgrade to the more expensive S2 get this feature

  • Doesn’t come with carrying case

  • Replacement parts may be more difficult to find

Lansinoh Signature Pro


Lansinoh is a well-recognized name in the world of breastfeeding supplies. They offer a nice budget friendly alternative to pricier pumps with the Signature Pro pump

Pros of Lansinoh Signature Pro

  • Budget friendly option costs less than half of many other models

  • Offers three pumping styles to mimic baby’s sucking patterns

  • Offers 8 suction levels

  • Lightweight and portable

  • Closed system with few parts to clean

Cons of Lansinoh Signature Pro

  • Only compatible with Lansinoh’s bottles and storage bags

Spectra S9 Plus Electric Breast Pump

The Spectra S9 Electric Breast Pump is great for moms who are looking for the ultimate in portability and function. This model from Spectra is small and discreet, making a good option for moms who travel frequently or pump at work and want a more discreet unit.


Pros of Spectra S9

  • Sleek model only weighs ½ lb., making it easy to carry anywhere

  • Can be used with Freemie and Willow cups for discretion and convenience

  • Offers 10 levels of suction in expression mode and 5 levels of suction in massage mode

  • Quiet motor, which is good for work or pumping while baby is sleeping

Cons of Spectra S9

  • Some moms prefer this as a backup or travel pump, rather than use as their main pump

  • You have to manually switch from massage to expression modes

Learn More and Connect with a Supportive Breastfeeding Community

Do you have questions about breastfeeding or wish you had a supportive community to connect with? We’re here to help you, answer your questions and support you every step of the way. Join us at the Luscious Letdown Breastfeeding Support Group on Facebook today.


Center for Devices and Radiological Health. (n.d.). Buying and Renting a Breast Pump. Retrieved March 26, 2020, from

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