There are few mothering choices more emotionally charged than how to feed your baby. If it's your wish that your baby's diet includes breast milk produced with the help of a breast pump, pumping in addition to breastfeeding to build up a stash, or occasionally pumping to combo-feed with formula, investing in an efficient, comfortable-to-use pump is a must. Choosing which one to buy, however, can be daunting. Fortunately, we're here to help.
After researching a wide variety of popular breast pumps, and calling in 10 of the best for testing, we can tell you that the Elvie Pump(available at Amazon) is the best breast pump you can buy, right now. It efficiently empties the breast of milk, connects to an app via Bluetooth that offers a number of helpful features, and is virtually silent while operating. Most importantly, it’s a wearable pump that fits inside of your bra, so that you can take your pumping session anywhere—I discreetly used it to pump while driving, sitting at the park, and while on an important Zoom call.
We were also impressed by the Lansinoh Smartpump 2.0 (available at Amazon for $127.99), which provides a great pump at a value thanks to its portability, built-in timer, and Bluetooth compatible App.
Here are the best breast pumps we tested ranked, in order:
Medela Pump in Style with MaxFlow
Haakaa Manual Pump
Lansinoh Smartpump 2.0
Spectra S1 Plus
Medela Harmony Manual
Willow Generation 3
Philips Avent Double Electric Breast Pump
Elvie Pump (Double)
The Elvie is our top pick due to its high marks across the board: it empties breasts well, is comfortable, and is high-tech yet user-friendly, making pumping (almost) fun. Most importantly: it boasts extreme portability, with no wires or tubing required. The pumps are small and palm-sized, connect directly to bottles that you can cap and refrigerate, and tuck into your bra for discreet pumping anywhere. It does lose a point, however, for not being able to feed babies directly from those bottles, as they don’t have accompanying nipples. A significant plus: it’s exceedingly quiet, increasing its usefulness while multitasking.
We also liked that there are only a few parts, making putting it together quick and easy: no PhD required to figure out assembly. Speaking of those parts: they feel high-quality, from the aforementioned freezer-, fridge-, and microwave-safe bottles, to the multiple flanges —available in 21 mm, 24 mm, and 28 mm sizes for a perfect fit—to the pumps themselves. Each pump has a sleek gray storage bag, while the app comes with nursing bra extenders, helping create extra room in your bra for the pump.
Like most breast pumps nowadays, Elvie has an app, which allows you to turn its pumps on and off, as well as increase or decrease suction and move into expression mode. Power and suction can be adjusted directly from the pump, as well—no app required—while it moves automatically from stimulation to expression after two minutes. The app also shows how much milk has been expressed, although I found it was often inaccurate and needed to be manually edited. Pumps can lose connectivity with the app, which needs to be re-paired often. And because of the way the pump is situated, it’s hard to see how much milk you’re collecting, which may be a con for some women, though personally, I appreciated it.
Elvie’s main drawback? The eye-popping price: $499, the same as its direct competitor Willow. However, unlike Willow, which is sold as a set, Elvie can be purchased as a single pump to save money, for the (comparatively) low price of $279. In our opinion, worth every penny, if you can swing it.
An extremely solid pump for the money, the Lansinoh 2.0 Smart Pump is our winner for best value. It’s fairly small and portable and includes highlights such as a carrying case plus a reusable ice pack, a LCD display with a built-in timer so you can see how long you’ve been pumping, and a battery pack so you can pump away from a power source on-the-go.
As far as the pump itself, it automatically switches to stimulation mode after two minutes and features a button to manually toggle between let-down and expression phases. To mimic your baby’s unique suckling, there are three different pumping "styles" plus eight different suction levels. The double electric pump is closed-system, fairly comfortable, and does a good job emptying breasts fully. It’s also relatively quiet, and the automatic memory function will save your pumping preferences for the next session. The standard flange sizes offered with the pump are size 25 mm and 30.5 mm, making it a better pump for those with slightly larger nipples.
The “smart” in smartpump comes from the app, which is Bluetooth compatible and features a QR code for setup. Once in the app, you must manually enter how much you've pumped through a sliding scale (it won't automatically register), though it does log the date and time, duration, and amount pumped on each breast. The app also allows you to log how much water you’ve had to drink, how long you've breastfed, the number of dirty diapers, and your baby’s growth metrics, with an option to push reminders to your phone.
There are a lot of little pieces and it can be a little more confusing to assemble than it needs to, but on the whole, the Lansinoh 2.0 is a great pump for the money, especially considering all the features.
I’m Nadine Jolie Courtney, a journalist, novelist, and former magazine editor with more than fifteen years of experience reviewing products and writing about lifestyle. I started my career at the original shopping magazine, Lucky, have worked at Ladies’ Home Journal, FHM, and Jane, and have written for a variety of publications, including Town & Country, Oprah Magazine, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest, and Reader’s Digest. I’m a mom to a kindergartener and 4-month-old and gave birth to my second daughter in the middle of pandemic shelter-in-place orders. Since her birth, I’ve been especially focused on parenting articles for publications like Parenting Insider, Good Housekeeping, and PBS Kids for Parents.
I started by combing through online articles and Facebook pumping forums, looking for the options that moms are currently buzzing about and using the most enthusiastically.
After choosing our finalists, I used each of the pumps at least twice while my baby Charlotte was between the ages of six weeks and four months, in many cases using pumps dozens of times. (In the beginning, I was pumping up to 8 times per day!)
Once testing was complete, I filled out a detailed spreadsheet, and answers were aggregated to give us our final ranking, with both subjective and objective criteria taken into account. We evaluated everything from adjustability to comfort to whether a timer was included, to more subjective factors like enjoyment and ease of storage.
What You Should Know About Buying A Pump
There’s a lot of subjective criteria that go into selecting a breast pump, including ease of use, build quality, and enjoyment: one woman’s easy could be another woman’s terrible. However, in general, any breast pump should meet certain criteria: it should be efficient at removing milk within 15 to 20 minutes. It should be comfortable and not bruise the nipple or pull into too much areola (proper flange or shield fit is critical, and not all pumps offer a variety of sizes that work for every woman). And while pumping can be a not-that-pleasurable experience, it should, at minimum, be tolerable enough that you can keep up with it.
While breast pump design varies wildly, most breast pumps include the same basic components: a pumping motor, one or two breast shields (you may have to buy separately to be able to pump simultaneously), tubing or wiring to connect the flange set-up to the motor, and a bottle to catch the expressed milk.
Newer, tech-forward pumps like Willow and Elvie are designed to be operated without tubes or wires, and placed inside a regular bra or nursing bra for hands-free pumping—no unwieldy pumping bra required. Pumping bras were one of my least favorite aspects of using traditional pumps, so I appreciate the new portable designs. Because this is a newer category of breast pump, the design is exceedingly different from pump to pump. However, based on the evangelical, cult-like enthusiasm I observed from women in Facebook groups—not to mention my own positive experiences—I expect we’ll be seeing more traditional pumping brands following Willow and Elvie with their own wearable, hands-free versions in the next couple of years. Freemie is one such competitor, with its own pluses and minuses (and devoted fans).
Other Breast Pumps We Tested
Medela Pump In Style with MaxFlow
Medela’s Pump in Style Advanced was a popular, rite-of-passage pump that many women received from their insurance, but unlikely to inspire fervent devotion. By contrast, Medela’s new Pump in Style with MaxFlow is a welcome update with many truly appealing features.
Like the old Pump in Style, it features a two-phase system, allowing you to easily toggle between let-down and expression with a single button. There’s also still the dial, which allows users to notch up settings to an individual comfort level.
Where the new version differs is in the flexible breast shields, which are supremely comfortable and oval-shaped, slightly angled for a better fit that helps milk expression. (Ill-fitting shields dramatically affect production.) Shields come in 21mm & 24mm sizes—24 mm and 28 mm used to be standard—with larger and smaller sizes also available for purchase. Notably, the pump also features micro-vibrations for dramatically improved expression.
It’s also extremely compact, so easy to take on the go, as well as features a closed system, meaning the milk runs zero risk of coming in contact with the tubing. Also of note: unlike some of the pumps on the market, which require manuals (and seemingly, at times, PhDs) to operate, the Pump in Style with MaxFlow is extremely intuitive to put together, with fewer parts making cleaning easier and less of a chore.
For those who buy the retail version, it comes with some nice goodies, including a sleek bag that the pump can nestle inside, ice packs, an external battery pack, and four bottles. However, many women get this pump through their insurance, and that version doesn’t cover the portable battery, which must be purchased separately. (Some FSA/HSA plans allow for the purchase of additional supplies.)
Unfortunately, the Pump in Style with MaxFlow still doesn’t have a built-in timer, unlike competitive pumps such as a Spectra. However, it’s so strong, easy, and (dare we say it) enjoyable to use that it’s a mild issue. On the whole, a very impressive pump.
If I could give a Haakaa manual breast pump to every nursing mother at the hospital, I would. It’s that good—and that indispensable. The silicone bottle attaches to the opposing breast while feeding, collecting the natural let down that occurs and which would otherwise disappear into the nursing pad or bra. It’s an easy way to build up a freezer stash without even thinking about it. Meanwhile, because it’s only a single piece of plastic, it couldn’t be easier to clean and there’s no assembly required. As a more traditional pump, some women report additional success squeezing the Haakaa repetitively, like the Medela Harmony Manual, but I personally didn’t find that method effective (or necessary).
There are some cons: notably, the fact that, if you don’t suction it properly, the Haakaa can pop off mid-session resulting in spilled milk (and, yes, crying over it). Additionally, as babies “wake up” and get squirmier the older they are and the bigger they grow, the Haakaa requires positioning around so their little legs don’t kick it off. Options are available with and without a silicone base. The version without a base, which is the one I used, is extremely precarious and prone to falling over, so buying the version with a suction base is ideal.
Lightweight and portable, with gentle but efficient suction, plus dual control of both vacuum and speed settings independently to mimic how babies actually nurse, the Spectra S1 is a hospital-grade breast pump. It’s no wonder that this pump is beloved by pumping moms, as it hits the marks across the board. It’s quiet, easy to clean and put together, empties breasts fully and quickly, and offers a variety of flange sizes (20 mm, 24 mm, 28 mm, and 32 mm).
Little add-ons take it to the next level: a nightlight, for middle-of-the-night pumps without waking your baby. A built-in timer, to easily see how long the session has lasted. It's extremely lightweight—only three pounds—and the rechargeable battery and carrying handle make for convenient portability. The Spectra S1 also has a “massage” mode to help stimulate let-down, with 12 levels of suction in all. It also has a memory feature, remembering your previous settings, plus automatically moves to the expression phase after two minutes. There’s even a bottle stand on the back of the pump—something that took me ages to discover but was very exciting once I finally did.
Because the pump comes with few parts, it’s both easy to clean and speedy to put together, something that comes in handy when you need to pump (but just aren’t in the mood to fiddle with myriad small plastic pieces). It also feels durable and high quality, although the odd shape makes it slightly difficult to store, since, alas, there’s no carrying case provided. At $200, it’s a middle-of-the-road price: neither eye-popping like the Willow or Elvie, nor a steal like the BellaBaby or Lansinoh. However, its bounty of features, efficiency, and comfort make it an undeniable MVP.
While the Medela Harmony isn’t designed to be used as a primary pump, as an occasional manual pump it does the job quite nicely. It’s a lightweight, portable pump used by hand on one breast at a time, perfect for short or infrequent durations away from the primary pump at home, or for quick pumping when needing to take the edge off. Its handle swivels for two phases of expression, allowing for initial let-down stimulation in one phase and then the expression of milk in the other.
When I saw that the Willow didn’t rank higher on the list, I was surprised because I have an enormous amount of affection for this pump. I found myself reaching for it over and over, even at the expense of higher-ranking pumps such as the Spectra S1. The Willow 3.0’s portability and ability to pump absolutely anywhere, in any position, was a huge plus for me, outweighing the fact that it was occasionally difficult to get every last drop of milk out of the container—a negative for an under producer like me.
Although there was a very steep learning curve, once I had a few tries under my belt, it was a snap to put together and take apart. And I thought the pumping app was the best out of any on the market, bar none, easily showing you exactly how much you’ve pumped. Each Willow comes with non-reusable, freezer-safe 4-ounce plastic bags that you pump directly into. However, if you want to use less waste, or regularly pump more than 4 ounces in one sitting, you can spring for the 4-ounce reusable containers as an extra purchase. (They cost $49.99 and come in three insert sizes: 21 mm, 24 mm, and 27 mm.)
The big draw of this pump is the design, which allows you to lean back as you pump, rather than having to hunch forward to collect milk. Because being relaxed theoretically helps milk flow more easily, the Philips Avent Double Electric is designed for maximum comfort and flow. Another design plus: it features soft petal cushions, which are supposed to help mimic the suckling of your baby and stimulate let-down. Other highlights include smaller-than-usual 19.5 mm flange sizes available for purchase (in place of the 25 mm and 27 mm included), which is a plus for those with smaller nipples.
While the extremely firm suck may be a plus for some, I personally disliked how intense it was, and also felt that the pump, in general, was uncomfortable, despite being sized properly for me. While it does have three modes, as well as a stimulation mode, I found it annoying that it can’t be used unless it’s plugged in. For women who pump more than 4 ounces at a time, 9 ounce Philips Avent bottles are available for purchase.
Of all the pumps we tried, we liked the double electric BellaBaby the least. Not coincidentally, it ranked lowest in our testing. The manual is full of grammatical errors, very small photos, and is just generally a bit difficult to understand. It took me a while squinting at it and re-reading to figure out how to use it. Once I figured out what went where it's actually a fairly straightforward pump because it doesn't have many modes. Case in point: the on/off button is the same button that you use to go from stimulation to expression mode.
Personally, I found this pump very uncomfortable—despite the fact that the flanges were very soft and billed as "comfort" flanges—and it's also extremely loud. It did, however, get lots of milk out and fairly quickly, which no doubt explains why many women love this pump. But it just wasn't for me. On the plus side, there is a timer attached so you can see how much time it's been since you began pumping. It’s also very small—roughly the size of a deck of playing cards—which means it’s highly portable.
Nadine Jolie Courtney is a freelance writer based in Santa Monica, California. A former magazine editor, her work has appeared in Town & Country, Vogue, Oprah, Good Housekeeping, and Angeleno, among many other outlets. A graduate of Barnard College, she is the author of four books, including Romancing the Throne and All-American Muslim Girl, a Kirkus Best YA Book of 2019. Find her on Instagram @nadinejoliecourtney.
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