Woman bottle feeding her baby.


How to Choose Between an Electric or Manual Breast Pump

Choosing a breast pump can be a daunting journey. With so many makes and models available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. While there are still countless offers within each category, the first step is deciding whether you’ll want to use an electric breast pump or a manual breast pump. Here’s a little more information to help you decide which one is right for you.

Benefits of Breast Pumping

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their life with continued breastfeeding—while introducing appropriate complementary foods—for 1 year or longer. Nursing sessions, however, aren’t the only way to provide your baby with breast milk. Since it can be difficult to be present for every feeding, you can supplement with breast pumping to provide your baby with essential nutrients and minerals. Not only does this help build a milk supply that can be used when you’re busy or away from home, but it also provides a way for working moms to nourish their children without sacrificing their career. Breast pumping also provides you with the chance for a break so you can catch up on sleep, take a long, hot bath, or simply enjoy some me time.


The Difference Between Manual and Electric Breast Pumps

While there are several different makes and models of breast pumps available, they tend to fall into two distinct categories: manual and electric.

Manual Breast Pumps

Manual breast pumps need to be physically manipulated to expel breast milk. They work without electricity and instead, rely on your hands to supply suction. Manual breast pumps can only be used on one breast at a time. Due to this, they’re often less expensive than electric breast pumps and tend to take up less room. To use a manual pump, place the collection cup over the breast and use the opposite hand to squeeze the lever to apply suction. Milk is expelled into a collection bottle.

Electric Breast Pumps

Electric breast pumps are powered by an electricity source. This can either be a battery or a wall outlet depending on the make and model. Options are available for either single or double expressing and there are hands-free options for busy moms. Electric breast pumps work similarly to manual ones, except the suction is created for you. This makes it easier to build a milk supply and is preferred by moms who need to pump regularly.

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Electric Breast Pumps Advantages and Disadvantage

Since electric breast pumps are connected to a power source, they’re often more effective at expelling milk. You’ll find that you can pump more milk in less time with an electric breast pump, especially if you use a hospital-grade option. Some of the biggest advantages to electric breast pumps include the following:

  • Increased Milk Supply – electric breast pumps are often effective at helping new moms establish a strong milk supply. The suction power helps stimulate ducts, which helps activate the supply and demand cycle of milk production. Electric pumps are also great for moms looking to build a freezer stash.


  • Higher Power – the electricity powered suction is stronger than what you can achieve using your hands, making electric pumps better at expulsion.


  • Faster Speed – due to the power of electric pumps, moms are able to expel more milk in less time. This is often preferred, especially if you already have your hands full.


  • More Effective – electric pumps are more effective overall. Due to the increase in portability and hands-free options, moms can use them without having to sacrificing time from their busy schedules. This can make your pumping sessions more enjoyable and more comfortable throughout the day.


The primary disadvantage to electric breast pumps is that they require a power source to be operated. This can make things a little more complicated if you’re trying to use them on the go. However, most manufacturers and models come equipped with a battery powered option and you can always get additional batteries for backups. There are also plenty of options for car adapters in case you need to pump during a road trip or while traveling.


Manual Breast Pumps Advantages and Disadvantages

Manual breast pumps are often preferred by moms who aren’t planning to pump often. Some of the primary benefits of using a manual pump include their ease of use, portability, and budget friendly options. They’re also extremely lightweight and you never have to worry about finding a power source. The primary disadvantage with manual pumps is that they take more work to expel the same amount of breast milk as electric pumps and can be tiring if used for long periods of time.


Considerations to Make

Choosing a breast pump is a very personal decision. What works well for you may not work for another mom or their lifestyle. While getting recommendations from friends and family members is a great starting point, always take the time to consider your individual needs. Here are a few of the most important things to think about when trying to choose between an electric and manual breast pump.

Frequency of Pumping

The first think to think about is how often you’ll be using your breast pump. Some women don’t plan on having very long separations from their baby while they’re breastfeeding, while others will need to return to the office. If you aren’t planning on pumping every day, a manual breast pump may be sufficient for your needs. However, if you anticipate periods of time where you’re going to be separated or would prefer to build a milk stash in case of emergencies, an electric breast pump is recommended. You can still get by with a manual pump but having an electric option will save you a lot of time and energy on milk expulsion. Electric breast pumps help extract more milk in less time and many options are hands-free, giving you the option to multitask and get things done.

Portability and Discretion

Another important factor to consider is where you’ll be pumping. If you plan on breast pumping at home, portability and discretion doesn’t matter too much. If you plan to only pump on the go, you’ll want something that’s easy to care for, clean, and use. While electric breast pumps are becoming increasingly portable and discrete with low suction volumes, manual pumps are still going to be lighter, smaller, and more portable. They also don’t need a power outlet to be used. This makes them great for use on the go. If you want the best of both worlds, look into electric breast pump options that are easily packable, produce low decibels, and come with a discreet carrying bag to make transport as easy as possible.

Budgetary Restraints

While new and expecting mothers can receive an insurance covered breast pump with zero out of pocket costs, there are some restrictions. For example, some providers don’t cover hospital-grade electric breast pumps unless absolutely necessary. If you find an electric breast pump that you love but isn’t covered, you may be able to have a portion of it paid for by insurance. If this occurs, it’s important to consider your budget. If you can afford it, great; if not, there are still plenty of amazing models on the market for you to choose from.

Another thing that may raise a budgetary issue is whether you have a “grandfathered” insurance plan. There are a few older plans that aren’t legally required to abide by the updated rules in the Affordable Care Act, which means you may not be able to receive an electric breast pump that’s covered. Manual options should still be covered. Talk to your insurance provider to determine your level of coverage and the list of makes and models approved for purchase.


Getting to Know Your Breast Pump

Regardless of if you choose to order a manual breast pump or opt for an electric model, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the various components ahead of time. Try to order your breast pump as soon as possible so you can read through the manufacturer’s instructions, properly clean and sanitize the parts, and get to know how things work. If you wait until your baby comes, you may not have the time or energy to sit down and get acquainted with your new pump. However, using a breast pump to supplement nursing sessions will allow you to take some much-needed breaks and give your partner a chance to bond with your baby. Some popular brands include Medela, Freemie, Ameda, Spectra, and more.

To help you prepare, Byram Healthcare works to provide new and expecting mothers with educational materials, support, and supplies to excel in pregnancy and throughout parenthood. Using our easy, three-step ordering process, new mothers can order their insurance covered breast pump quickly and easily. Byram Healthcare works with both providers and manufacturers to connect new and expecting mothers with the perfect breast pump for their needs. To get started, simply browse our selection of breast pumps, and begin your order.