The Best Breast Pump 2021
The Best Breast Pump 2021
Last Updated: Best Breast Pump 2021. In a recently updated 2021 breast pump showdown, we tested, reviewed and researched 23 different breast pumps before crowning a new winner: the . Spectra Baby USA S2 (model S2PLUS) (
Scroll down for our picks for Best Manual Breast Pump and Best Mini-Electric Breast Pump. New to breast pump shopping? Read our 7 Things No One Tells You About Buying a Breast Pump.
We regularly survey lactation consultants to find the best breast pumps—these folks are on the front lines of the struggle and report back to us on which pumps are the most user-friendly and most comfortable to use.
Relatively new to the breast pump market, the Spectra S2 has rocketed to the top of our rankings based on extensive testings and feedback from both moms and lactation consultants.
Spectra’s secret sauce is its customizability—you can adjust both the cycle and the suction (volume). Yes, other pumps are adjustable as well, but Spectra is the most flexible. And that makes pumping easier.
Other key advantages for this pump: it is smaller, quieter and lighter in weight than the competition. We love the “closed system” which means cleaning is easier (and prevents mold and bacteria from building up in the pump mechanism).
(A quick side note—there are three basic types of breast pumps: manual, mini-electric and high-end/professional pumps. Each serve a different purpose. Jump here to read a quick Breast Pump 101 in case you are new to all this!).
Spectra: More Details
Spectra has two versions of their breast pump: the S1 and S2. The S1 (
$199.99 $189.00) is virtually identical to the S2, but features a rechargeable battery. This is helpful if you need to pump while traveling, where access to power may be limited. If you plan to pump at work or in a car and worry about access to a power outlet, then it may be worth the extra $60 for the S1.
The Spectra has a series of nice touches: the timer function sounds simple, but is a major plus. And we loved the nightlight built into the pump handle that lets you pump at night without turning on room lights:
The noise (or lack there of) for the Spectra is fantastic—this is one quiet pump. That’s especially nice if you are pumping at work.
Our testers loved the Spectra’s massage mode . . . it was a fan favorite for comfort and efficiency.
Overall, our testers felt the Spectra performed better than the Medela Pump in Style in terms of comfort and the amount of milk expressed. And of course, that is the bottom line when it comes to breast pumps!
Flaws but not deal breakers
While this is our favorite breast pump, be aware of these caveats:
• The Spectra pump is hit or miss compatibility with other brand’s bottles (Avent, yes, Dr. Brown’s no . . . etc.). Yes, you can buy adapters to fit Medela bottles, but they are a pain to use in our opinion. Spectra’s collection bottles get mixed reviews—the ounce markings rub off after a run through the dishwasher, for example.
• The wide neck collection bottles can tip over easily—take care.
• We see scattered reports that various parts on the Spectra can easily break. Yes, you can get replacement parts quickly, but there is a general perception among our testers that Medea’s parts/supplies were somewhat higher quality.
Spectra vs Medela . . . the Smackdown!
The Medela Pump N Style Advanced (PISA) is the biggest competitor to the Spectra S2. For our Pump Smackdown, let’s compare some basic features:
2. Carry option.
The Spectra has no bag or carry options—sure, you can stick it inside a backpack you own, but that’s about it. Winner: Medela.
3 Noise. Sorry, Medela—the Spectra beats you hands down on quiet operation. Winner: Spectra.
4. Accessories. Medela has been the market for much longer than the Spectra and thus has a much wider range of accessories that are well designed. Example: Medela’s bottle flange and breast shield are separate pieces—that makes then easier to clean (and go up or down in size if needed). Spectra’s flange and shield are one unit.
Medela recently introduced new breast pump shields. These new PersonalFit breast shields come in five sizes from 21 mm to 36 mm. They are oval shaped for a better fit and only work with PersonalFit flanges. They will be included in all Medela pumps except the Single Deluxe.
Medela’s collection bottles are excellent in terms of both quality and durability. Spectra? Meh. Interestingly, this has spawned a sub-culture of YouTubers have invented all sorts of hacks to get the Spectra to work with other brand bottles. Winner: Medela.
5. Adjustability. Medea’s PISA has 2-phases expression, adjustable speed/vacuum control and a one-touch let-down button. Unfortunately, speed and vacuum can’t be adjusted separately—there is one knob that increases or decreases both at the same time. Spectra lets you adjust both the cycle (speed) and vacuum separately . . . and that’s far superior in terms of comfort, in our opinion based on field testing. Winner: Spectra.
6. Portability. The Medela Pump N Style Advanced comes with a rechargeable battery, so you can use it on the go. In order to get the same functionality from the Spectra, you have to get their S1 model which runs more than the plug in version. We realize this is more important for some folks than others—if you are pumping on the go, the battery is probably worth the extra cash. Winner: Tie.
7. Cleanability. The Spectra is a closed system—milk can not flow back into the tubing or pump. The Medela is an open system where milk can flow back into the tubes. This is a cleaning and health issue. If you don’t clean the Medela thoroughly, mold and bacteria can grow in the tubes/pump. Winner: Spectra.
8. Companion Apps. Medela recently introduced a new app, the 24/7 LC (lactation consultant). The app allows for live video support with a professional lactation consultant any time you need it. It has a subscription fee for one-month, three-month or 12-month increments. Medela offers special discounts or free one-month subscriptions with the purchase of certain breast pumps. Spectra does not offer any apps at this time. Winner: Medela.
Bottom line: Spectra wins
Overall, Spectra is the best breast pump on the market today. Given its affordable price, features and comfort, we recommend the Spectra S2 (if you need a rechargeable battery, the Spectra S1 would be the best bet).
Best Manual Breast Pump
Our readers love the Avent Manual, which Avent claims is as efficient as a mini-electric (it takes about eight to ten minutes to empty a breast). That assumes you have the hand strength to pump for 8-10 minutes, of course. Comfort is the focus here: no more hunching forward, the Comfort Manual keeps the milk flowing into the bottle no matter your position. Here’s an example:
Next, they added a “soft massage cushion” to the flange that feels soft to the touch and massages the breast for better letdown. See below:
Finally, the pump has an ergonomic handle for easy one hand operation. Other great features included easy cleaning (you can pop it in the dishwasher), compatibility with other Avent bottles (it comes with a 4 oz. Avent Natural bottle), and ease of use. See below how the pump assembles: Mom feedback is very positive and at this price, it’s a real winner.
Flaws but not deal breakers
Avent’s Comfort Manual is great, but not immune to a few flaws. Some are the result of the limitations of manual pumps in general:
- Since these are single pumps, it takes a while longer to empty both breasts.
- Manual pumps don’t express much (or enough) milk.
- Pumping manually is physically demanding. Here are specific flaws of our top pick:
- Avent Comfort Manual can develop a loud squeak after prolonged use, say a few readers.
- A few parents complained they couldn’t get the suction to work.
The Harmony from Medela is a great runner up in the manual pump category. Similar to the Avent’s Manual Breast Pump, the Harmony has even fewer parts to wash than the Avent and some parents tell us it is easier to assemble. Medela notes the Harmony utilizes “two-phase expression technology” that is supposed to stimulate let down, then slows down to mimic slower, deeper sucking action.
One reader with larger breasts found this pump worked better for her than the Avent. The Harmony is also slightly more affordable than the Avent. On the downside, Medela does not recommend using the Harmony every day. It is intended for occasional use only. Some parents complained it lost suction after a while, but they may have been using it every day. And Medela includes only one size flange: medium. If you need a different size, you’ll have to order this from Medela online and wait for delivery.
Best Mini-Electric Breast Pump
The Medela Swing single electric pump (
$169.99 $148.99) offers Medela’s 2-Phase Expression (the same system as Medela’s more expensive pumps), which is designed to copy baby’s natural sucking rhythm. The pump has two different modes: first it stimulates letdown and then it simulates baby’s normal sucking pattern. Other features include compact size (weighs only 2.5 lbs.), AC adapter or battery power, shoulder/neck strap (so you can move around while pumping), and user controlled comfort settings.
So here’s the bottom line on the Swing: it is an excellent pump. Moms applaud the Swing’s ease of use and comfort. The only negative: it’s a single pump and hence is best for occasional use. Most negative reviews we heard from parents center on the fact that the Swing didn’t work well over time when moms were using it every day. But, again, the Swing is only intended for occasional use. For daily use, check out our pick for best professional grade pump earlier in this post.
Flaws but not deal breakers
The Swing gets mostly great reviews, but a few readers noted these problems:
- The Swing is only available as a single pump. Some moms would have liked a double for the speed and convenience.
- This pump is only intended for occasional use, not daily use. That means pumping a bottle for a night out with a babysitter, or to relieve engorgement. This disappointed parents who assumed they could use it for daily pumping.
- Expensive. Parents probably assume this pump is intended for daily use because it is rather expensive compared to other mini electrics.
What’s Next for Breast Pumps?
There are several interesting breast pumps coming on the market in the coming year—here’s a look at what’s new, and what’s next.
In a nutshell, we’ll be seeing more hands-free options. New pumps like the Babyation and Naya will be debuting soon. What do they have in common? They’re quieter, more discrete, app connected and most are (sorry to say) very expensive. Here is a look:
Spectra S9 Plus
The Spectra S9 Plus is a sister to our top rated Spectra S2 reviewed above. It’s only recently been released in the US, but it’s already stirring things up in the breast pump world.
So what’s the big deal? How about a breast pump that’s smaller than a cell phone and weighs half a pound? That’s right, this rechargeable breast pump is small enough to slip into a pocket. Of course, the flanges, tubing and bottles make it more bulky, but it’s still the smallest, lightest pump on the market.
Features include ten suction levels and five massage levels and it memorizes your last pump settings. The LED display clearly shows you whether you’re in massage or expression, which level you’re at and includes a timer. There’s also a battery indicator (in case you are pumping on the go) and an auto shut-off feature.
The S9 is a closed system like other Spectra pumps, so you can sell or hand it off to a friend in the future.
So what’s not to like? While the suction is adjustable, the speed is not— in contrast, the Spectra 1/2 pumps have adjustable speed. The built-in rechargeable battery is only good for about 1.5 hours. Finally, parents noted this pump is great for travel but there are long-term reliability issues if you are a serious pumper using it more than two or three times a day. In that case, consider the Spectra S2, our top pick reviewed above.
Babyation: Stealth Pumping
Created by a husband and wife team in Missouri, Babyation aims for a quieter breast pump with smaller breast shields so you don’t have to disrobe to pump. These shields do the work stimulating let down and creating a sucking action that mimics a baby.
The pump is very compact and the collection bottles are wide and flat so they fit into the pump’s inner compartment. One of the goals of the Babyaction pump is less noise. If you check out their YouTube video, it’s quite impressive. The pump also has a corresponding app that allows you to control the pump and keep track of your usage.
What about the price? Well, the Babyaction pump isn’t for sale on the open market yet, but you can buy it directly from the site as a beta . . . for $450. Yep, that’s right, $450. We haven’t had any feedback from parents regarding the Babyaction pump, so if you get it, let us know what you think! (We typically don’t test beta products, so when this goes into production, we will take a look).
Why Trust Us
We’ve been rating and reviewing breast pumps since 1994. In addition to hands on inspections of breast pumps, we have also interviewed lactation consultants and spoken with actual moms about their experiences with pumps. We also evaluate consumer reviews posted on sites like Amazon, as well as our own message boards. Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews. We’ve been writing and reviewing baby gear since 1994. Yes, that long!
How we picked a winner
We evaluate breast pumps with in-depth inspections, checking models for overall quality and ease of use—for example, checking the pump to make sure it’s pulling the correct pressure. We also gather significant reader feedback (our book, Baby Bargains has over 1 million copies in print), tracking pumps on quality, cleanability and durability.
Besides interviewing parents, we also regularly talk with lactation consultants and obstetricians to see which brands are most trustworthy and other key quality metrics. The reliability of pump manufacturers is another key factor—we meet with key company executives at least once a year. Since we’ve been doing this since 1994, we have developed detailed profiles of major crib brands that help guide our recommendations. See below for links.
7 Things No One Tells You About Buying A Breast Pump!
1. Breast Pump 101: The Three Basic Types of Pumps (and what they do well).
Even if you exclusively breastfeed, you probably will find yourself needing to pump an occasional bottle. After all, you might want to go out to dinner without the baby (yes, that is possible). Maybe you’ll have an overnight trip for your job or just need to get back to work full or part time. Your partner might even be interested in relieving you of a night feeding (okay, maybe you’re interested in your partner taking over a night feeding).
The solution? Pumping milk. Whether you want to pump occasionally or every day, you have a wide range of options. Here’s an overview:
- Manual Expression: OK, technically, this isn’t a breast pump in the sense we’re talking about. But it is an option. There are several good breastfeeding books that describe how to express milk manually. Most women find that the amount of milk expressed, compared to the time and trouble involved, hardly makes it worth using this method. A few women (we think they are modern miracle workers) can manage to express enough for an occasional bottle; for the majority of women, however, using a breast pump is a more practical alternative. Manual expression is typically used only to relieve engorgement.
- Manual Pumps: Non-electric, hand-held pumps are operated by squeezing on a handle. While the most affordable option, manual pumps are generally also the least efficient—you simply can’t duplicate your baby’s sucking action by hand. Therefore, these pumps are best for moms who only need an occasional bottle or who need to relieve engorgement.
- Mini-Electrics: These breast pumps (most work either with batteries or an A/C adapter) are designed to express an occasional bottle. Unfortunately, the sucking action is so weak that it often takes twenty minutes per side to express a significant amount of milk. And doing so is not very comfortable. Why is it so slow? Most models only cycle nine to fifteen times per minute—compare that to a baby who sucks the equivalent of 50 cycles per minute!
- High-End Double Pumps (aka Professional Grade): The Mercedes of breast pumps—we can’t sing the praises of these work horses enough. In just ten to twenty minutes, you can pump both breasts. And high-end double pumps are much more comfortable than mini-electrics. In fact, at first I didn’t think a high-end pump I rented was working well because it was so comfortable. The bottom line: there is no better option for working women who want to provide their babies with breast milk.
Let’s take a look at some pictures of pumps. Manual pumps are great for occasional bottles or to relieve engorgement.
Here’s what a mini-electric pump looks like—as we mentioned, these pumps are for expressing the occasional bottle. While affordable, most of these pumps are neither efficient or quiet.
High-End Double Pumps (aka Professional Grade) are the best solution if plan to pump and working outside the home.
2. That free ACA breast pump may not work best for you.
Yes, as a new mom, you qualify for a free breast pump with your health insurance, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
So what’s the catch? (You knew there would be a catch.) That “free pump” is determined by your Insurance carrier—and this whatever breast pump they decide to cover. That means they could give you a cheap, underpowered mini-electric . . . or a top-of-the-line professional grade electric pump. In the former case, you may find yourself needing to purchase a breast pump out of pocket.
3. It may make more sense to rent than buy.
Rental pumps are what the industry refers to as hospital-grade or piston electric pumps. They are built to withstand continuous use of up to ten times a day for many years. The interior parts are sealed to prevent contamination from one renter to the next.
Compared to purchased pumps, rentals have much more powerful motors and can often empty both breasts in 10 to 15 minutes without hurting breast tissue.
We recommend renting first before buying, just so you can get the hang of it and determine if you really need a breast pump for long-term pumping. They usually rent from $65 to $90 per month, plus the cost of a collection kit.
4. Don’t purchase a used pump.
We’re big proponents of saving money, but somethings you must draw the line at. One is never, ever buy a used professional grade electric pump. Models like Medela’s Pump In Style can actually collect milk in the pump mechanism—that can expose your baby to bacteria and pathogens from another mother’s breast milk.
So, let’s state it clearly: DO NOT PURCHASE A USED BREAST PUMP. The risk of exposing your baby to any pathogens isn’t worth the savings. Of course, it is fine to re-use your own breast pump for another child down the road. Just replace the tubing and collection bottles to make sure there are no bacteria left over from previous uses.
5. Don’t forget about how you’ll store that milk.
You have options: plastic bags, plastic bottles and ice cube trays. Plastic bags designed for breast milk storage are the cheapest option—we recommend Lansinoh breast pump bags. Yes, there is some concern that some nutrients in breast milk can stick to the bags, but they are a safe, convenient option, in our opinion. If you prefer plastic bottles, Medela makes plastic bottles that are compatible with all their breast pumps.
Milkies Milk Trays is our last recommended storage product. They look like old fashioned ice cube trays, but they include lids to help avoid freezer burn. The cubes come out as long cylinders, perfect for a baby bottle.
6. When it comes to breast pumps, don’t skimp on quality.
It’s important to buy a pump you can successfully use. Invest in quality, speed and comfort. Yes, you can find a $20 breast pump in a discount store . . . but if it is slow, painful and inefficient, it’s no bargain.
7. Hiring a lactation consultant is a wise investment.
Successful breast feeding and pumping is not just about the pump. A lactation consultant (either affiliated with your doctor or with a hospital), can help make sure you’re using that pump correctly. It should not hurt! Lactation consultants can help troubleshoot problems, enabling your breastfeeding and pumping to be as successful as possible. We strongly suggest using a lactation consultant’s services.
Reviews of 20+ breast pump brands
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