What Breast Pump Style Is Best For You? A Guide

We've come a long way, mama! For most of history, women have had two options to express breastmilk: nurse a baby or squeeze it out by hand. To be fair, hand expression is a great technique to learn if you're lactating! But it certainly would be tiresome if you are trying to bottle feed or get time away from your nursling. Manual breast pumps have been around for a while, but the average Lansinoh or Evenflo hand-pump can run you $40 and certainly isn't hands-free. Modern technology - and by modern, I guess I mean everything post-Mad Max: Fury Road, has afforded moms who nurse loads of freedom! From Medela Pump-in-Style Advanced to the new Willow hands-free breast pump, there's a pump style to meet every mom's unique needs!

Manual Or Electric?

Which will work better for you?

Every breast pump is going to be either a manual pump or an electric pump. Manual pumps are powered by hand - you squeeze a handle while holding the pump onto your breast, and the pump creates suction. Breastmilk is drawn from the nipple, into the pump, and collects in an attached bottle. Most drugstores and major retailers carry manual breast pumps - I've found them to be $35-$50 in-store. Some women find that they respond better (produce more milk) for manual pumps! It's nice to have hands-on control of the suction power and duration at times. Downsides are pretty obvious - this is a slower method of pumping, and it requires you to use at least one hand at all times. It can also cause hand fatigue, or be more difficult to maneuver for moms with joint pain.

Electric pumps do most of the work for you! Most electric pumps are "double pumps" - that is, they can pump both breasts at the same time. This cuts pumping time in half (at least) when compared to a manual pump. Also, electric pumps tend to have custom pumping speed and intensity options. The majority of electric pumps run off of power from a wall outlet, which means your mobility is somewhat limited. Without a pumping bra, electric pumps require the user to hold the flanges onto their breasts - double pump means both hands are busy the entire time.

Closed Or Open System?

The Spectra pump is a closed system. Romper

If a pump has a closed system, that means that the pump motor itself never comes into contact with breastmilk. The pumps can be safely reused from mother to mother - like the hospital-grade breast pumps you can use if you've been admitted for care or are recovering post-delivery. An open system pump means that breastmilk can enter and contaminate the inner workings of the pump. This makes the pump unsafe to be reused. Most electric pumps offer closed systems, but it's a key point to research when you're shopping for a pump.

Proprietary Bottles Or Generic?

The Willow pump can only use Willow bags. Via Scary Mommy

Breast pumps usually come with a few collection bottles. Some even come with nipples, so you can pump and then directly feed baby from the same bottle! While most bottle mouths are standard - or wide mouth, one of the two - not all bottles can be used with each system. For example, my son took Latch bottles (wide mouth), but my Spectra pump had a narrow mouth opening. I ended up buying a converter ring so I could pump directly into my son's bottles. Some pumping systems are only compatible with their own brand of bottles or bags. Kiinde bags, a proprietary bag-in-bottle feeding system, offers adapter rings to fit all major brands so moms can pump directly. Without that adapter, purchased separately from your pump, the bags won't work for you.

Popular Pumps

Jenny Mollen Pumping Breastmilk
Will your breast pump make you popular? Probably not.

So how do the most popular breast pumps stack up with each of these factors?

Medela Pump-In-Style Advanced, commonly known as the PISA

Spectra S1 or S2

  • Electric, closed system, fits all standard-mouth bottles.
  • Pro: very gentle, S1 is battery-powered, fairly quiet.
  • Con: large, difficult to find replacement parts.


  • Manual, open system, one-piece collection and pumping.
  • Pro: hands-free, easy to clean, great for collecting leaks from non-nursing side.
  • Con: no adjusting suction intensity or speed.

Ameda Purely Yours

  • Electric, closed system, fits all standard-mouth bottles.
  • Pro: Compact, custom pumping speed/intensity.
  • Con: suction isn't very intense, parts are difficult to find.


  • Electric, open system, only uses proprietary bags.
  • Pro: hands-free, discreet, quit, coordinating app tracks milk output, no leaks.
  • Proprietary bags are fifty cents a piece and can only be used once.


Which of these pumps seems to be the best fit for you? Tweet me your favorite pump and why you love it @pi3sugarpi3 with #PumpinAintEasy. 



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