Pump in comfort with our pick of the best breast pumps – perfect for expressing milk at home or on the move
Breastfeeding can be as difficult as it is rewarding. At some point, you’re going to need a break – either to get some much-needed rest or when you go back to work – and express breast milk. To do that, you’ll need the best breast pump.
The most natural way to express is using your hands, or the hands of your partner, but to make it faster and more efficient, we recommend buying the best breast pump.
Modern breast pumps are designed to be discreet, quiet and comfortable, even if they do look (and sometimes sound) like some kind of torture device. However, we promise that a well-made breast pump is both comfortable and easy to use. They’re compact, easy to clean and maintain and are getting smarter with digital support for mobile apps.
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Best breast pump: At a glance
- Best breast pump for convenience: Elvie Pump | £242
- Best manual breast pump for expressing on the go: Medela Harmony Flex | £26
- Best double electric breast pump: Medela Swing Maxi Flex | £161
- Best for simple expressing: Vital Baby Nurture Flexcone Manual Breast Pump | £24
How to choose the best breast pump for you
Electric breast pumps or manual?
Whether you choose an electric breast pump or a manual one largely depends on when and how you’ll use it. If you’re mostly trying to relieve engorgement (without wanting to stimulate additional production), a manual pump will probably be sufficient for your needs and simpler to use. Manual breast pumps are also quieter and more portable, so a good choice if you’re travelling away from your baby.
If you’re pumping to stimulate production or to combi-feed, electric breast pumps tend to be more efficient and a mains-powered breast pump will be fine if you’re mostly planning to use it at home. If you’ll be pumping at work, consider a battery-operated breast pump. Battery-operated breast pumps are another good choice for mums travelling away from home. A double breast pump will reduce the length of time you need to spend attached to your device to get the milk out.
How does breast pumping compare to breastfeeding?
Most electric breast pumps operate with a two-phase programme that mimics the natural feeding patterns of a baby: the first stimulates the “let down” reflex that starts milk flow in the breast, while the second simulates the longer sucking motion of a baby feeding. Take your time when pumping and don’t be disheartened if the flow doesn’t start immediately – it may take a minute or two to get going.
Don’t feel the need to express gallons or automatically select the strongest suction level when pumping, especially if your main aim is to relieve engorgement – the more you extract, the more your body will produce, so go easy on yourself while you get used to the pump.
How do I use a breast pump?
Simply place the cone-shaped shield over your breast so it completely covers the nipple and areola, checking for items of clothing that may be trapped under the shield. Electric pumps are always more powerful when plugged in, so aim to use the mains if you don’t need the portability of batteries. Relax and get comfortable: you might find it helpful to massage your breasts as you pump to simulate the motion of a baby feeding. Some women also find it helpful to think about or look at pictures of baby to stimulate the let-down reflex.
How do you clean a breast pump?
Using a bottle brush and soapy water, wash, rinse and sterilise the shield and valves along with your bottles. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions – some parts of the machine should not be washed. If you’re pumping on the go and can’t sterilise your kit immediately, transport the parts in a sealed container such as a zip-lock bag.
How to store breast milk
Keep any expressed milk refrigerated until needed (two days maximum), or invest in some storage bags and freeze until a later date. Defrost expressed milk in the fridge overnight before use.
How we test breast pumps
To deliver the most honest and accurate reviews, we test all our products at home in a hands-on capacity. To make our recommendations of the best breast pump for every need and occasion, we review single, double, manual, and electric models at a range of price points. We test manual pumps, which are a great lower-cost option for those who simply want to release engorgement, as well as more premium models that are better suited to those who may want to exclusively express. In addition, we also consider discreet breast pumps, which are ideal for women returning to work or those who may want to attend an event and need to pump at the same time.
As well as evaluating ease of assembly and comfort in use, we take note of each pump’s suction power and efficiency at expressing milk, alongside with how easy it is to clean. Finally, you’ll find all of the key specifications you need to know, including the type of pump (double or single), whether it’s a closed or open system, and its weight.
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The best breast pumps you can buy in 2023
1. Elvie Pump: Best breast pump for convenience
Price when reviewed: £242 | Check price at John Lewis
It may sound too good to be true – a breast pump you can use whenever and wherever, discreetly and comfortably – yet that’s what Elvie promises and delivers. The pump is battery-powered and sits inside a regular nursing bra.
It’s incredibly quiet, while its smart features help you track and monitor your milk volume in real-time. It’s not silent, but it doesn’t sound quite so mechanical or like a cow mooing, as is the case with many breast pumps.
The app is fantastic for helping you track your pumping history for each breast – a godsend when you’re sleep-deprived and you’re not even sure what day it is. The app also lets you control the pumps remotely.
The Elvie doesn’t come cheap: a single pump costs £242, or you can get a pair for £449. But if you have the money, the convenience is more than worth it.
2. Elvie Curve: Best Elvie “alternative”
Price when reviewed: £35 | Check price at Amazon
Our favourite Elvie alternative is technically still an Elvie product, but if you can’t afford the battery-powered model, try the Elvie Curve instead. It’s the latest breastfeeding product from the brand and launched alongside the Elvie Catch. Neither comes with the bells and whistles of the classic model, but they also don’t come with the high price tag.
The Elvie Curve costs £35 and is a wearable, silicone breast pump. Its natural suction allows you to gently express – hands-free – when feeding or pumping from the other breast. Or to express full breasts. It holds up to 4oz of milk and, in true Elvie style, the Curve fits discreetly in your bra.
Elsewhere, the new Elvie Catch (£18) comprises two slip-proof milk collection cups, again designed to sit discreetly inside your bra.
Instead of losing leaking milk to nipple pads, Elvie Catch can be used during feeding, pumping or on the go. Unlike many other breast shells and nipple pads, Elvie Catch sits securely in a bra to prevent leaks and is reusable, collecting up to 1oz of breastmilk per cup so nothing goes to waste.
3. NUK First Choice+: Best breast pump for gentle pumping
Price when reviewed: £90 | Check price at Amazon
If you’re feeling delicate postpartum, apprehensive about the sensation of pumping or are typically sensitive in the breast area, NUK’s sensitive pump with its suction strength regulator should make you feel more comfortable about expressing.
Simply place the lightweight pump onto the breast, start pumping on the lowest setting and then gradually increase the strength as you feel more comfortable.
This is a neatly designed, lightweight breast pump made from BPA-free plastic, and comes with one of NUK’s own baby bottles with a soft, orthodontic teat. A good purchase for pumping debutantes.
Key specs – Type: Electric; Weight: 1,260g (including stand and control unit)
4. Nuby Ultimate Electric Breast Pump: Best customisable electric pump
Price when reviewed: £87 | Check price at Amazon
This award-winning digital breast pump isn’t the lightest or the cheapest, but it’s certainly the most versatile on the market. The Natural Touch has five settings for both speed and suction, so you can really customise each pumping experience to be comfortable for you.
The breast pump itself is more comfortable than most, too: the hard breast shield has a soft silicone cover to cushion the breast, which certainly makes a difference if you’re expressing frequently. The breast pump is both quiet and discreet and features a digital clock display to help you keep track of how long you’ve been pumping.
Key specs – Type: Electric, battery and mains operated, with digital display; Weight: 662g
5. Lansinoh Compact Single Electric: The most portable single electric breast pump
Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at Amazon
Lansinoh, the makers of your favourite nipple cream, also produce superbly designed single and double electric breast pumps. Both versions are quiet, powerful, inexpensive and ergonomically designed to fit the female body. The breast shields come in two sizes to fit comfortably and have soft rubber padding around the edge, making the experience of pumping more pleasant on delicate bodies.
This single pump is quiet, simple to assemble and easy to clean. There are five suction levels to ensure you can pump at a speed that’s suitable and comfortable for your flow, and a digital display keeps track of how long you’ve been expressing. At 249g, this is a super-lightweight pump and the battery operation means you can pump anywhere you can find a quiet space without needing to worry about finding a mains socket.
Key specs – Type: Electric, two-phase expression, battery and mains operated, digital display; Weight: 481g (single) 630g (double)
6. Medela Swing Maxi Flex: Best double electric breast pump
Price when reviewed: £161 | Check price at Amazon
Probably the most established brand for breastfeeding mothers, Medela’s iconic Swing design has remained unchanged since it was first launched in the 1960s. It’s a design classic that’s also brilliantly functional.
The Swing doesn’t have the handy digital display that some modern pumps feature, so you’ll have to keep track of your power settings and the length of time you’ve been pumping the old-fashioned way. But these are minor drawbacks because in terms of effectiveness, comfort, ease of use and compactness, the Swing still competes with the best on the market. (If a digital display is important to you, try the Medela Swing Freestyle)
Medela’s Swing Maxi Flex double pump is certainly at the higher end of the market in terms of price, but if you’re looking for quality, durability and classic design, it’s an excellent choice at a price to suit.
Key specs – Type: Electric, two-phase expression, mains operated only; Weight: 649g
7. Vital Baby Nurture Flexcone Manual Breast Pump: Best value manual pump
Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at Amazon
If you’re looking for a manual breast pump that’s simple and effective to use, Vital Baby’s Nurture Flexcone is one of our favourites.
It’s designed with a very soft silicone breast cup that sits comfortably on the breast while recreating the suckling action of a baby, massaging and squeezing the breast rather than that very mechanical pumping action that some devices create. This technique is also thought to promote milk production and flow without compromising on your comfort.
We love the relatively simple and portable design that’s easy to put together and start using immediately. (You might also find this particularly refreshing if you don’t like anything too techy). The handle is comfy and easy to use and shouldn’t leave your hand aching after a few pumps like some manual ones do.
The flattened teats of the accompanying bottle mimic what happens to the nipple when breastfeeding, and this can help to avoid bottle confusion and create a more natural feeding experience for your baby.
The bottle can also be used in the microwave and the pack we received comes with the pump, a 150ml Nurture breast-like feeding bottle with a slow flow teat and six ultra-comfort breast pads. Basically, everything you need to get going.
Key specs – Type: Manual; Weight: 649g
8. Medela Harmony Flex Manual Breast Pump: Best choice for on the go mums
Price when reviewed: £26 | Check price at John Lewis
If you often find yourself needing to pump on the go, or at work, Medela’s new Harmony Flex Manual is a great choice. Despite its sturdy build quality, it weighs only 105 grams and is much easier to carry around than an electric pump.
So, what’s new about it? Medela has created new Flex breast shields that help to express more milk and provide more comfort when pumping. As a result, it’s very easy to set up and use, and efficient at collecting milk.
What sets this manual pump apart from its rivals is the 2-phase expression technology that simulates natural baby sucking behaviour and aids comfort. Like its predecessor, the Harmony, it also offers two-speed settings: push the top and get a short, gentle suction to stimulate flow, then push the handle in for full expression once let-down kicks in. The oval shape of the shields also make it easy to adjust and find a comfy position.
At around £25, it’s great value for money. Whether you’re new to pumping, want a separate pump to travel with or just need a compact pump on hand to relieve engorgement, the Harmony Flex hits the right note.
Key specs – Type: Manual; Weight: 105g