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Manual Vs Electric Breast Pumps: How To Choose What's Best For You

The world of breast pumps can be a confusing one! There are a whole range of different products on the market and working out which one best suits your needs can be a little overwhelming! Let's take a look at the two primary categories; manual and electric breast pumps and see how they differ, the advantages and disadvantages of each and how to choose one that will best suit your lifestyle and needs.

The difference between a manual and an electric breast pump

When it comes to breast pumps, not all are created equal! Generally speaking, pumps fall into two categories; manual breast pumps and electric.

  • Manual pumps - Manual breast pumps work without electricity. They are hand operated and can only be used for one breast at a time. The pump is placed over the breast and the other hand is used to ‘pump’ the lever in order to create suction. These pumps are often less expensive than the electric ones and are usually quite light and compact, making them a good choice for those on a budget or with limited space.
  • Electric breast pumps - Electric Breast Pumps are operated either through a power outlet or battery. They come in models that allow for single or double breast expressing. The cup is placed over the breast and the suction is created for you, freeing one hand for other tasks – or just a good excuse to relax. For mums who need to express daily or exclusively, an electric breast pump is usually essential.

Both pumps can be very effective in drawing out milk for storing and/or bottle feeding. Your lifestyle, pumping schedule and budget will usually determine which is the best fit for your needs.

The lowdown on electric breast pumps

Electric breast pumps often offer stronger suction and faster pumping due to them having a power source. Hospitals will usually offer double, hospital grade electric breast pumps for mothers who need to pump after their baby is born. The majority of electric breast pumps will offer a variety of different pumping modes; like an expression and massage mode for example so that mums can customise their pumping experience.

An electric breast pump is the ideal choice for women who express regularly or exclusively as it is faster than a manual pump, allowing you to express and store more breastmilk in a shorter space of time. This is also perfect for mothers who need to express in the workplace and may only have limited time to do so.

For women who only express occasionally, an electric breast pump may not be necessary with a manual suiting their needs better.

The advantages of an electric breast pump

An electric breast pump can be an essential tool for mums who need to express daily or more than once a week. Exclusive expressers or mums who have returned to work will find the right electric breast pump an invaluable tool in their breastfeeding journey.

Electric breast pumps are:

  • Powerful - A good electric breast pump will provide hospital grade suction to help you pump more milk in less time.
  • Fast - The majority of pumping mums will quickly work out the best mode and speed for expressing and be able to express the amount they require quickly and effectively with an electric pump
  • Effective - With the right electric pump, you should be able to 'attach and go' with minimal fussing making your pumping experience comfortable and effective
  • Supply boosting - Mums who may need some help in either establishing or building their milk supply will often use an electric pump for extra stimulation and to boost milk production.

How do I choose the right electric breast pump for me?

When choosing an electric breast pump, it's important to do your research and assess the following:

  • Cost - Electric breast pumps can vary widely in cost. Work out your budget before shopping and make sure you check what is included with your pump. Does it come with breast shields/flanges? What about a battery pack? Ensure that you're getting everything you need before clicking 'BUY'.
  • Weight - If you're going to be pumping regularly, you probably won't want to be carrying around a pump that resembles a brick! A portable, light weight pump will make life much easier, especially when you're on-the-go.
  • Volume - Some electric pumps can be super noisy (not exactly discreet!). Look for a model that operates quietly. It'll make those night time or in-office pumping sessions far easier.
  • Suction strength and modes - Electric breast pumps will vary greatly in the suction and modes they offer. For the most efficient pumping experience, look for hospital grade suction with multiple expression and massage modes.
  • Battery - Different models of breast pumps will often have different power sources. Some may only work when plugged into a power outlet, while other will have a battery pack; either inbuilt or a separate attachment which can be ideal for pumping while out and about/away from a power source.

The Lactivate ARIA Wearable Breast Pump ticks all those boxes (and more) and is our pick for the best electric breast pump on the market. With powerful, hospital grade suction (325 mmHg), a closed system (to keep the motor and tubing clean and prevent contamination) and multiple expression modes, including the memory-technology to save your favourite settings, the ARIA is a game changing wearable breast pump.

With 9 different suction levels, 3 different expression modes and 3 different breast shield sizes to fully customise your pumping experience, the ARIA stands tall above competitiors for all the right reasons and only comes in at a $139 cost!

Going manual

Manual pumps are a great option for mums who pump occasionally and are not using expressed breastmilk as a primary source of nutrition for their baby. For regular expressers, a manual pump may not be the best fit as it can be time consuming and tiring on your wrists.

A manual breast pump is a fantastic choice if you need or want to pump occasionally to collect some milk to store. A manual breast pump can also be handy in collecting your letdown without causing any oversupply concerns.

Product Feature: The Original Haakaa Generation 2 Silicone Breast Pump

The advantages of a manual pump

A manual breast pump can be a simple, effective and budget friendly option for mums who want to be able to pump occasionally without needing to hook themselves up to a machine (or outlay a huge amount of money!)

Manual breast pumps are:

  • Lightweight and extremely portable - Manual breast pumps are super lightweight and can usually be popped inside your nappy bag for pumping on the go.
  • Easy to use - With a manual pump there are no wires to connect or settings to adjust. Simply attach to your breast and off you go.
  • Budget friendly - The majority of manual breast pumps are more cost effective than their electric counterparts thanks to their simple design.
  • Available anytime, anywhere - With a manual pump, you are not reliant on finding a power source or ensuring you've got batteries handy. All you need is the pump itself and you're ready to rock and roll.

How do I choose the right manual breast pump for me?

While a manual pump will not be as big an investment as an electric pump, it's still important to consider the following before making a purchase:

  • Ease of use - Manual breast pumps can work in a variety of different ways. Some will utilise suction and be able to be used hands-free, like the Haakaa Breast Pump while others will need to be held in place and squeezed.
  • Weight and size - One of the biggest selling points of a manual pump is its portability. Pumps may vary in size and weight and it's important to choose one that feels comfortable and is easy to hold for the period of time you'll be pumping.
  • How easy it is to clean - Look for a pump made from a material like food grade silicone as it's easy to keep clean, will not leach hazardous chemicals and is resistant to mould and other nasties.

The best selling Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump is our top pick when it comes to manual breast pumps. Made from super lightweight, 100% food grade silicone, the Haakaa works by creating gentle suction on your breast to draw out milk. It can be used hands-free and doesn't require the constant pumping action often required by other manual pumps.

Get to know the Gen 3

The Generation 3 and original silicone breast pump work in exactly the same way; utilising gentle suction to manually drain the breast and catch the milk that might otherwise have been wasted.

The Generation 3 however allows you to express straight into a detachable bottle (available in two sizes; 160ml and 250ml). You can then twist off the breast pump flange and replace with one of the interchangeable attachments, including a baby bottle top, sippy bottle top, feeding spoon or sealing disc. 

Whether used as a breast pump or a feeding bottle, this multipurpose breast pump offers an intuitive and practical breastfeeding experience, making it a must-have for breastfeeding mothers seeking simplicity and convenience.

For more information on our range of breast pumps and resources for pumping and breastfeeding, click here

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