Manual Vs. Electric Breast Pumps

A breast pump is a good solution for nursing mothers who don't want to stop breastfeeding, yet wish to get back to work. However, one of the main concerns when choosing a breast pump is whether you should opt for a manual or an electric pump. This Buzzle article provides the difference between the two types to help you make the right choice.
Manual vs. electric breast pumps
Did You Know?
In 1863, Scientific American credited L.O. Colbin as the inventor and patent applicant of a breast pump.
The health benefits of breastfeeding are known to one and all. Unlike commercially-produced infant formulas, breast milk offers essential nutrients that boost the immune system of babies, and prevents diarrhea and intestinal problems. This is the reason why mothers choose to breastfeed the baby for the first couple of years of the child's life. However, if a mother needs to return to work, or is required to leave the baby for long periods, she does not have to stop breastfeeding the baby. A breast pump provides a way for mothers to collect and store breast milk so that the baby can be fed later. The expressed milk can be stored in the fridge, and allows the mother to prepare in advance for other caregivers to feed the baby. Using a breast pump is also good for increasing the milk supply, preventing painful, clogged ducts and mastitis, and helping with stimulating the let-down reflex.

Choosing the right type will make pumping milk easier and also prevent plugged ducts or infection. If you have decided to opt for a breast pump and are confused whether to buy an inexpensive, easy-to-use manual pump or an electric pump, then this Buzzle article will help you make the right choice.

Difference Between Manual and Electric Breast Pump

Manual Breast Pump
Manual Breast Pump
Electric Breast Pump
Electric Breast Pump

Ease of Use

In manual pumps, a suction cup is placed over the breast and the handle is pressed continuously to stimulate the flow of milk. Although they are easier to operate and small in size, manual pumps can be extremely tiring to use. It is difficult to achieve a rhythmic, repetitive pumping motion to fill a single bottle, and this can tire you easily. Many mothers complain that manual pumps do not empty the breasts completely. This can lead to lower milk supply.

Electric pumps, that are plugged into a power outlet or use batteries, are easier to use and more efficient as compared to manual pumps. Some parents believe that electric pumps mimic a baby's natural sucking rhythm more precisely than a manual system. Once the breast pump cup is placed on the breast, and you have preset the pace, your work is done automatically. Moreover, the multiple settings on the pump offer more comfort.

Suction and Speed Control

Manual pumps have limited and fixed setting with no speed control. This makes the entire process quite time-consuming. Electric breast pumps, on the other hand, provide a greater flexibility to adjust controls, so as to allow you to choose the best level for maximum milk expression. The suction control button on the electric breast bumps ensure maximum comfort and prevent nipple discomfort.

Frequency of Use

How often do you need to use a breast pump? Different breast pumps are made to meet different usage demands and needs. If you are a working mom who needs to be away from the baby for a long period of time, you would need to invest in a top-notch electric breast pump which allows you to express breast milk fast. The breast pump you choose should deliver good performance, and should also be able to withstand the frequent use. However, if you are going to use the pump occasionally, you can opt for a manual breast pump or a simple, inexpensive electric pump.

Time Required for Pumping

The time required for pumping milk using a manual pump is considerably more than an electric pump. Electric pumps in comparison are faster than any other methods of expressing milk. To cut down the pumping time, many mothers opt for the double electric pumps that allow you to express milk from both breasts simultaneously. It is important to note that most manual and battery-powered versions are single pumps that extract milk from one breast at a time.

Portability and Noise

Manual pumps are compact, lightweight, and can easily fit into any handbag. This makes it easier for you to carry them. In comparison, electric breast pumps are larger than manual versions and contain chargers, breast shields, and tubes. They often come with their own carrying cases and shoulder straps.

Also, electric pumps are noisy as compared to manual breast pumps. The motorized whirring can be a problem if you are planning to express milk in the same room as a sleeping baby. However, there are many brands that have come up with innovative, noiseless breast pumps.


Electric breast pumps are pricey. If you opt for a high-end electric breast pump with all the bells and whistles, it can set you back by almost $300 to $350. If you are opting for a battery-operated version, then you will be spending extra bucks on the batteries as well. Manual pumps, in comparison, are relatively cheaper. A simple, basic manual pump is available for as low as $25. It is also important to look for a pump that has a minimum one-year warranty on the motor.

In case you want a good breast pump without spending too much, then you can consider renting one. Most people who want hospital-grade breast pumps, consider renting it instead of paying the prohibitive price for the product.

Power Source

An electric breast pump uses a cord plugged into an electrical outlet or batteries to power a small motorized pump. This pump, in turn, creates suction to extract milk from the breasts. Watch out for emergency situations when the batteries run out or electricity is not available. Manual pumps do not need any external power source and can be operated by hand.

Cleaning Options

Ensure that the breast pump you buy has limited parts for cleaning. Since manual pumps have lesser parts, they are easier to clean as compared to electric breast pumps with all the tubes and other parts. If you intend to use an electric breast pump, consider getting a closed breast pump. In an open system, there are chances of the milk overflowing into the collection container. The milk can go through the tubing and into the motor where it would remain to ferment and mold. This can be dangerous for the child. The Evenflo Single Electric is a good closed breast pump option.

Things to Consider Before Buying Breast Pumps

Determine the reasons why you may need to use a breast pump, and the best type of pump for your individual situation.
Choose a breast pump that provides custom-sized breast shields, in case you do need to buy a smaller or larger shield.
Check if you can buy spare parts to replace any damaged or lost parts.
Apart from the breast pump, you will need a collection kit which includes tubes and collection bottles or bags.

Best Breast Pumps

Manual Breast Pumps

Medela Harmony
Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump
Ameda One-Hand Manual Pump
Philips AVENT Comfort Manual Breast Pump

Electric Breast Pumps

Medela Pump in Style Advanced
Medela Freestyle
Dr. Brown's Double Electric Breast Pump
Ameda Purely Yours Ultra Double Electric Breast Pump

Hospital-Grade Breast Pump

Hygeia EnDeare
Medela Symphony Breastpump
Ameda Elite Breast Pump

A breast pump is a truly great piece of equipment for all those mothers who cannot breastfeed babies personally. If you intend to use the pump frequently, then opt for an electric one. Instead of an inexpensive pump that is painful and tiring to use, invest in a good-quality electric breast pump that makes your life considerably easier.
Published: December 6, 2013
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