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Buyer's guide to breast pumps

Manual or electric, a breast pump is great for continuing breastfeeding even when you're away from your baby.

Posted: 7 September 2010
by Laura Lee Davies

Breastfeeding gadgets - your guide to which breast pump

Even when you've got into the swing of breastfeeding, a breast pump can look somewhat ominous. The idea of hooking yourself up to a pump can be a little offputting but modern breast pumps are designed with you in mind and many mums find it a relatively easy way to collect and store milk for those times when they want their babies to have breastmilk but they can't be around to offer the breast.

Before you choose your pump, you might like to check out our essential guide to expressing, so you know what you'll be dealing with! Also, even when you're on a strict breastfeeding/non-formula regime, it's great to introduce a bottle once your baby has a settled breastfeeding routine. Firstly, it allows dad to get his first amazing experiences of sharing this time with you and your baby. Secondly, it will prepare your baby for bottle feeding if you are planning to return to work, have to be away from him or simply want some much-needed space on an evening out.

Before you start

You need to remember that, even if you are not going to feed your baby with a bottle yet, you will need to sterilise the breast pump every time you use it, so if you are buying a pump, factor in the cost of a steriliser too. To help you pick, check out our buyers guide to sterilisers.

Don't feel down hearted about your early attemps with a breast pump - mothers who have excellent flow when feeding and those who have successfully expressed milk with previous children often find that it takes a few gos to get into the swing of it.

You will find that expressing early in the day is probably going to produce more milk, but don't overdo it as your breasts will think you're feeding two babies and start to produce more than you need!

Planning ahead, you will be able to express plenty of milk to store (up to 24 hours in the fridge, three months in the freezer) so you don't need to express a day's worth of milk in one sitting.

Unless you are loyal to one brand for your bottles, pump etc, make sure you buy an expresser than can be used with most regular kinds of bottle.

Hand pumps

These are usually more convenient because you can take them anywhere (so long as you have sterilised them, of course) and they are cheaper.

They don't make the noise that electric pumps make and now there are many with a really good sucking action.

The Avent Isis Manual is a real favourite as its soft padded area around the breast doesn't seem to reduce its effective sucking action. Dr Brown's also do a manual pump which has a unique honeycombed effect around where you place your breast. The pulsating action of this layer against your skin is designed to help stimulate easier expressing.

However, as with many breast pumps, some of these models have quite a few fiddly bits and pieces to put together. (For example, the Isis has a little white plastic disc that it simply doesn't work without.)
You will eventually get into a rhythm with putting together any model you might land on.
Ameda do a very basic hand pump for about £15 but prices otherwise are usually around £25 to £35.

Electric pumps

These can make an irritating buzzing sound, but they are safe and can be a quicker solution for mothers with demands on their time. Electric pumps usually come with a battery option so you don't always have to be near a mains socket to use them.

Some come with a battery indicator to tell you when the battery power is low and/or a booster to maintain a regular expressing action even when the battery is due for a top up.

Whittlestone claim to have developed an expresser that works on a 'pulsation' basis rather than a suction system. This means it can be a lot more comfortable for women who find expressing hard work.

Avent have an IQ range which allows you to manually express at first, then use the electric system once the pump has got used to your flow and set itself accordingly.
Ameda have been going for 50 years and have all sorts of whizzbang features on their pumps to ease cleaning, pumping etc.

A few companies make models where you can express from both breasts at the same time. This might sound heavy-going, but they are modelled on ones which work very well when mothers are still in hospital.


Storage bags These are freezer-proof plastic bags with a measure down the side to help you see how much you are storing. (You will probably find that, due to expansion when the milk is frozen, it is advisable not to fill more than about two-thirds of each bag.) Some come with clips or tags and labels so you can date your milk (always write a date on them, it's amazing how easy it is to forget how old the millk is). Brands like Avent sell extra bags, tags and clips separately for when you've run out.
Coolers Many of the more swish packages add extras to the expressing set. Medela's insulated carriers ensure milk stays fresh before storing it in the fridge or freezer.
Breast shields Most models, hand or electric, will have soft padded areas around the breast. These are for comfort but also to increase the suckling stimulation. Some come with extra cups so they can be made suitable for larger or smaller breasts.
Power adpator Ameda (through Ardo in the UK) have even thought about those times when you want to express but you're on the road. Their adapator can operate their models through your car dashboard. Just make sure someone else is doing the driving while you're at it!

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Discuss this story

How did you get on with your breast pump or has the thought of doing it put you off?

Posted: 21/02/2006 at 14:25

I thought it was an excellent idea. Especailly as the thouht of breat feeding in public was a bit daunting to me. Also have an extreemly bad cracked nipple and couldn't feed of it for 48hrs. When I stoppedbreasting it was also good for taking some off when my breasts became "engorged"

Posted: 22/02/2006 at 17:09

Talkback: Buyer's guide to breast pumps

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