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Best breast pump 2021: Our pick of single, double, manual and electric breast pumps

Victoria Woollaston Rachel Erdos
25 Aug 2021
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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


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.


The best breast pumps to buy

1. Elvie Pump: The best breast pump for convenience

Price: £269 | Buy now from 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 £269, or you can get a pair for £449. But if you have the money, the convenience is more than worth it.

Buy now from John Lewis


2. Elvie Curve: The best Elvie “alternative”

Price: £50 | Buy now from Elvie


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 £50 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 (£30) 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.

Buy now from Elvie


3. Medela Harmony: The best manual breast pump for expressing on the go

Price: £40 (pump and feed set) | Buy now from Amazon

For those times when you need portability, quietness and discretion, a manual breast pump is invaluable. The Medela Harmony is one of the smallest on the market – it's the best for combining size and performance – and fits into any handbag, glove box or even a coat pocket. Unusually for a manual, the Medela Harmony offers two-speed settings: push the top and get a short, gentle suction to stimulate flow; push the handle in for full expression once let-down kicks in. This is invaluable in the early days when it can be a little painful and uncomfortable as you get used to pumping.

The breast shield is comfortable and durable, and the handle on the Medela Harmony swivels around 360 degrees to work at any angle and has just the right spring action to make pumping a gentle experience. If your main purpose is to relieve engorgement or to pump away from home occasionally, the Medela Harmony is a well-designed, comfortable and portable option.

Key specs – Type: Manual with two-phase expression; Weight: 422g (including stand)


4. NUK First Choice+: The best breast pump for gentle pumping

Price: £129 | Buy now from 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)


5. Nuby Ultimate Electric Breast Pump: The best customisable electric pump

Price: £131 | Buy now from 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


6. Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Electric Breast Pump: The best single electric breast pump

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

The Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature brand is a popular choice for parents when it comes to both bottles and pumps. Closer to Nature bottles, with their distinctive teat-shape, aim to emulate the natural shape of mum’s breast and the suction “waves” of the Closer to Nature pump mimic the natural feeding action of baby to improve expression when pumping.

The silicone cup has a soft outer shell, meaning the pump is comfortable to use multiple times per day and there are four suction settings so you can start slow and build up to a strength and speed that suits you. The pump comes with a handy microwave sterilising box, bottle and storage bags, making it a very good-value kit.

Key specs – Type: Electric, two-phase expression, mains operated only; Weight: 522g


7. Lansinoh Compact Single Electric: The most portable single electric breast pump

Price: £78 | Buy now from 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)


8. Medela Swing Maxi Flex: The best double electric breast pump

Price: £212 | Buy now from 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

9. Vital Baby Nurture Flexcone Manual Breast Pump: The best value manual pump

Price £25 | Buy now from 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