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7 Best Manual Breast Pumps of 2022

If you’re like most breastfeeding parents, you may occasionally find yourself in a situation where you need to pump milk—after all, it’s nearly impossible to be with baby for every single feeding, especially as they get older. Then, there are those times when you’re feeling a bit full and need a quick way to express milk. For those times when you don’t want to drag out your electric pump, a manual breast pump can come in handy.

“A manual pump is great for occasional or emergency use,” says Chrisie Rosenthal, IBCLC, a lactation consultant with The Lactation Network, a mission-driven company that connects families with insurance-covered breast pumps and lactation consultations during pregnancy and postpartum. “It’s the perfect pump to keep in your bag for ‘pumping on-the-go’ situations where electricity may not be available, or when a full pumping session isn’t needed.”

If you don’t own a manual breast pump and you’ve considered adding one to your breastfeeding arsenal, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best manual breast pumps for you to consider.

Manual vs. Electric Breast Pumps: What’s the Difference?

While manual and electric breast pumps both work to express breast milk, they function a bit differently. An electric breast pump needs batteries or electricity in order to operate and provides a pumping motion on its own that simulates a baby’s nursing actions, prompting letdown. In contrast, a manual breast pump needs neither batteries nor electricity and functions on mechanical motion alone, either via hand pumping or with natural suction.

Pros and cons of manual vs. electric breast pumps

Many parents find that they get better milk removal with an electric pump. “A high-quality double-electric pump is the standard for regular milk removal,” says Rosenthal. Not only do electric pumps boast powerful suction, but double-style models also allow you to drain both breasts at the same time, which cuts down on the amount of time spent pumping. If you use a manual breast pump, you may have to continuously squeeze the pump handle (depending on the type). “They also tend to be more aggressive on a parent’s nipples, which can lead to sore nipples.”

That said, manual pumps are superstars when it comes to portability. “Their small size and lower price make them great for travel and occasional use, and the ability to use the pump without electricity is another plus,” says Rosenthal. Ultimately, moms love manual breast pumps for their affordability, portability and the ability to use them wherever, whenever, without having to worry about recharging or staying close to an outlet.

Types of Manual Breast Pumps

In the past, the term “manual breast pump” was used to indicate the type of pump that has to be squeezed by hand in order to express milk. In recent years though, other types of pumps have emerged that don’t require any active pumping. Here’s a quick breakdown of the various types of manual breast pumps:

  • Handle pumps. This classic style is operated by manually squeezing a handle or lever to create suction, which pulls and releases your nipples and draws out milk using vacuum pressure, just as baby naturally does.
  • Silicone pumps. These pumps also use suction to actively remove milk, Rosenthal explains, but they don’t call for continuous hand-pumping—once you establish suction with an initial squeeze, and the pump relies on vacuum suction to allow some milk to be drained. They’re often used to collect milk from one breast while baby nurses from the other.
  • Milk catchers. This type of pump doesn’t require any pumping—rather, it collects milk that otherwise would leak into your bra or nursing pad. “Milk catchers fit inside the bra, up against the breast and are entirely passive, collecting milk that drips or leaks from the breast between breastfeeds or pump sessions.”

How to Use a Manual Breast Pump

Wondering how to actually use a manual breast pump? Of course, it will depend on the type of pump you’re using. Take a look at our step-by-step guides below.

Handle pump

Align the flange so your nipple is directly in the center of the tunnel. With the bottle attached, gently press down on the handle repeatedly until milk begins to flow.

For a two-phase expression pump, press down on the handle and hold for one to two seconds, then release in order to get the most milk during the letdown phase.

Silicone pump

  1. Squeeze the pump to release air inside it.
  2. Still squeezing the pump, attach it to your breast.
  3. Release your grip on the bottle, which allows it to suction to your breast.

Milk catcher

  1. Align the opening with your nipple.
  2. Place inside your bra (for most models).
  3. Allow the milk catcher to collect the milk that leaks from your breast.

If you’ve decided a manual breast pump is for you, check out our list of some of the best manual breast pumps.

Best Milk Catcher

Elvie Catch

The Elvie Catch is an innovative passive milk collection system from Elvie, the company that also makes a popular hands-free electric pump. The circular collector sits conveniently inside your bra and works as you go about your day. Made with soft, flexible silicone that’s food-grade and BPA-free, the leakproof Elvie Catch mimics the shape of your breast and collects up to an ounce of milk that might otherwise be wasted.

  • Rounded shape makes it truly discreet to wear under clothing
  • Super comfortable, thanks to a larger nipple hole and soft silicone
  • Dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning
  • Not the best choice for large breasts or those who produce high amounts of milk

About the experts: Chrisie Rosenthal, IBCLC, is a lactation consultant with The Lactation Network, a mission-driven company that connects families with insurance-covered breast pumps and lactation consultations during pregnancy and postpartum. She obtained her IBCLC through the UCSD Lactation Consultant program. Rosenthal is the owner of The Land of Milk and Mommy, a private practice in Woodland Hills, California. She is also the author of two books, Lactivate! A User’s Guide to Breastfeeding and The First-Time Mom’s Breastfeeding Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide From First Latch to Weaning.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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