If you’re like one of many moms who prefer to avoid dealing with electric outlets and having fully charged batteries at hand when pumping breast milk for their babies, or you just have no other option because of where you happen to be at times, then a manual breast pump is definitely something you should consider.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of who a manual breast pump is suited for most, who should avoid this type and opt for an electric model instead, and what to look for in a handheld device, here’s a quick glance at what we believe to be some of the best manual breast pumps out there nowadays.
Best Manual Breast Pumps – A Quick Look At Our Top 5 Recommendations
Pick #1: Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump
Pick #2: Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump
Pick #3: Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump
Pick #4: Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump
Pick #5: NUK Expressive Manual Breastpump
*Note: Upon clicking on any of the links in this section, you will be redirected to the respective product listings on Amazon.com where you can learn about the product’s price, customer rating & customer reviews.
What Should I Look For In The Best Manual Pumps?
With the manual pumps being sold on the market today, more and more bells and whistles are being added nowadays – ones that make you feel like you’re making a good buying decision when you hear and read about them, but you may not realistically need or ever put to good use.
When looking to buy the best manual pump out there, make sure it meets the following list of criteria (or as much of this list as possible).
1) Minimal Physical Demand
Even though there will always be a certain amount of physical demand involved if you want to use a manual breast pump, not all manual pumps are alike when it comes to this point.
Some pumps make it much easier and less physically demanding for you to express breast milk, while others will have your arms start feeling sore after just the second session of the day.
You already have a ton of other baby-related duties to do in a day’s time that will make you feel exhausted as it stands, not to mention work if you’re employed or run your own thing, so look for a pump that’s easy on your arms.
2) Enough Suction Power
It’s especially important that you get a manual pump with adequate suction power to it, or else your pumping sessions are going to be far from fun and efficient.
The weaker a pump’s suction power is, the longer your pumping sessions will be to derive the same amount of milk you could have expressed in half the time had you used something with double the power.
This may not be a game changer for you when occasionally pumping once or twice a week, but it makes all the difference in the world for mothers that exclusively pump, as it could add up to saving several hours each day.
It’s true that you shouldn’t realistically expect to get the same suction power you would with a double electric breast pump, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for something very weak either.
3) Sufficient Comfort
Just because you’re buying something that’s not as expensive as an electric pump is doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice the comfort that electric pumps are known to offer expressing mommies.
After all, when you’re not comfortable you won’t stick to a consistent pumping schedule and you won’t push yourself to squeeze out every last bit of milk possible from your breasts during every session, all of which will hinder your milk supply as a result.
The best manual pumps will have you feel negligible discomfort (if any discomfort at all) in your breasts, hands and arms during pumping sessions, even during prolonged sessions that could go on for more than 30 minutes at a time.
4) Ability To Multi Task
Ideally, the manual pump you choose to buy should allow you to take care of everything pumping-related with one hand, while keeping your other hand free to multitask with.
Perhaps you’re pumping milk from one breast and are directly breastfeeding baby from the other breast to not waste any valuable time, or you’re pumping while with one hand while having an important conversation on the phone with the other hand.
It’s not the end of the world if your pump requires you to use both hands at the same time though, it’s just a convenience issue you have to keep in mind so you know what you’re in for.
5) All The Necessary Accessories
The manufacturers of the best manual breast pumps will not just give you the pump by itself, there are some extras and accessories that should come with it – ones that make your pumping experience a much easier and more enjoyable one.
These accessories include (but are not limited to) stands, carry bags, cushions, bottles, breast shields, and breast pads.
If you’re planning on getting a manual breast pump to use in addition to an electric pump you already have, it’s best that you get one manufactured by the same brand.
This is only for compatibility purposes. Having a manual pump and an electric pump from the same brand offers you compatibility between bottles, parts and flanges.
Why Should I Choose A Manual Breast Pump Over An Electric One?
If you’re still on the fence and debating whether or not a manual breast pump is the better option for you, the following list mentions the advantages you get with a manual option over an electric one.
The more significant you feel these advantages are to you, the more suitable going manual will be.
To get a manual pump to do its job properly, all you need is your hand.
You don’t have to worry about finding a spot you can connect it to an electric outlet, a power cut happening while you still haven’t finished pumping, or the battery dying on you mid-session and you not having an adequate replacement to continue.
If you find yourself annoyed by the hefty price tags associated with electric breast pumps and are looking for a cheaper alternative, manual pumps are the way to go.
Because of their nature and the fact that no electronic parts go into making or operating them, manual pumps cost significantly less than electric ones.
Also, and if you think about it, you’ll be saving on costs through the years by not using up electricity or having to buy loads of batteries for frequent changing. Not that much, I know, but it all adds up in the end.
3) Easier To Carry Around
Have you ever tried carrying around an electric breast pump in a bag with all its accessories? These things can get really heavy at times.
Manual pumps, on the other hand, are much more lightweight and easier to carry around with you anywhere you want to go, without having you feel like you’re carrying the entire world on your shoulders.
For those of you that frequently travel, a manual pump is going to be much easier for you to take along as well.
Manual pumps are also significantly more compact than electric pumps, which means they’ll take less space in whichever bag you’re using to carry them around in.
4) Easier To Use For Some
One thing many mothers often complain about when using electric pumps, especially the more advanced models on the market, is how complicated it feels for them to get the machine to properly work.
Not everyone is technologically savvy, so if you feel like an electric pump is much more confusing to operate than you thought it would be, a manual pump is ridiculously easy and straightforward to get to work.
This difference is especially apparent when you have to assemble the pump by putting all the pieces together. Some manual pumps come pre-assembled for you to use right out of the box, while it’s a little more complicated than that with electronic models.
All you really need to do with a hand held breast pump is put the suction cup over your breast and repeatedly press on the handle to begin the process of milk flow stimulation.
5) Feels More Natural
Many mothers that have tried both kinds of pumps, manual and electric ones, say that they feel using a manual breast pump felt more natural and more similar to a baby’s sucking than an electric breast pump.
This is especially true with manual breast pumps that have a dual-phase expressing method, which mimic how babies feed as closely as possible.
6) Less Time Spent Cleaning
Because electric pumps have many different parts and accessories to them, cleaning and sterilizing everything ends up taking a long time in between uses.
Manual pumps have much less parts than electric pumps do, which makes cleaning everything an easier process and less of a time drain for you.
Let’s face it, a mother’s schedule is way too hectic as it is, and the more time that could be spared for other tasks and responsibilities, the better.
You also have to clean electric pump parts much more thoroughly and carefully than manual pumps, because of the increased risk of mold forming inside parts you never thought your milk could make its way to.
7) Less Noise
If you’re the type of mother who thrives in a quiet environment and tries to avoid loud noise whenever possible, a manual pump is more convenient for you.
Regardless of whether you pump breast milk at home or in public, electric pumps make a significant amount of noise that will bother you and/or people around you because of their motors, which may make you feel uncomfortable at the time. This is not exactly a time you’re going to enjoy being the center of attention.
Having a quiet pump should be a priority of yours if you pump breast milk in the workplace, and this is exactly what you’ll get going manual because there’s no motor to make loud noises.
For starters, you’ll want your privacy without alerting everyone there to what you’re doing, and you wouldn’t want to cause any disruptions that might annoy your co-workers.
Or, you may be pumping at home with baby sleeping by your side, but all that loud noise suddenly wakes them up and from there on, the crying floodgates open!
8) Lasts Longer
Manual breast pumps also generally last longer than their electric counterparts.
Think about it for a second – do you expect the motor of your electric pump to last you a good few years when you’re exclusively pumping? With all the daily sessions the motor has to work through, multiple times a day every day, that’s highly unlikely.
A manual pump, however, doesn’t have a motor that you should worry about, and will last you a good few years before you have to buy a new one if you use it gently. (That’s assuming you don’t break any part of it, of course).
9) Complete Control Over Speed
With electric pumps, even the lowest speed on some units may be too uncomfortable for some mothers to work with.
Even if you decide to “suck it up” and pump through the pain just so all that money you spent doesn’t go to waste, it will all become unbearable with time, to the extent that you cannot physically pump anymore without experiencing excruciating pain.
With manual pumps, you won’t have to go through any of this because you’re in complete control of pump suction and speed – there is no pre-programmed minimum or maximum.
This is especially true in manual pumps that have two sides to a handle, both short levers and long levers. The short side allows you to perform fast pumps while the longer side allows you to perform slower pumps.
When Should I Not Get A Manual Breast Pump?
1) Weak Hands
Getting a manual breast pump is not the best idea for mothers with weak hands, or ones who experience constant physical pain in their hands for whatever reason.
If you’re exclusively pumping, a hand pump is something you’re going to be using multiple times a day for a long period of time. So, if you lack the necessary strength needed and can’t cope with the physical demands, an electric pump that does the work for you is probably a better choice.
Do not underestimate the effort required from you to keep pressing on a lever for 20 minutes to 40 minutes at a time, multiple times a day.
2) Exclusive Pumping
Which brings us to our next point about exclusive pumping moms in general – if this is how you’re feeding your baby, an electric pump would likely be a better choice for you.
Manual pumps are much more suitable for mothers who pump occasionally so they can use that milk when they’re not able to directly breastfeed their little ones via skin to skin contact.
Mothers who pump multiple times a day for a long period of time, though, are ones who will put the extra money they spend on an electric pump to good use.
3) Special Suction Power
If you need exceptionally powerful suction when pumping for whatever reason that may be, especially if it’s because getting done with the session in as little time as possible is important to you, you’re only going to get that in an electrical pump.
Even the best manual breast pump out there won’t be able to extract the same amount of milk in the same amount of time as high quality electric pumps can.
4) Both Breasts At The Same Time
If you’re one to pump both breasts at the same time, it’s almost impossible to do that with manual pumps.
Technically, you can get two manual pumps, attach one to each breast, hold one with each hand and pump both at the same time – but that’s much easier said than done.
Hand fatigue will catch up to you in no time, and you can’t rest one hand by using the other to pump because both are occupied.
What Types Of Manual Breast Pumps Can I Choose From?
There are mainly two types of manual breast pumps you could choose from – handle pumps (often referred to as levered pumps) and suction pumps made from food-grade silicone that comfortably fits around the nipple.
With a handle pump, you have to constantly be pulling down on the handle so milk can be extracted from your breasts. There’s also some similarities between how handle pumps and electric pumps look like.
Suction pumps made from silicone, on the other hand, look nothing like a breast pump. If it’s the first time ever you see one of these, it might take you a while to put two and two together and realize how they work.
With suction pumps, there is no lever you need to be pulling on to extract milk from your breasts. All you need to do is squeeze the base of the pump after attaching it to your breast to create suction and express milk.
Best Manual Breast Pumps – A More Detailed Look At Our Top 5 Recommendations
Pick #1: Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump
Medela is known for its hospital-grade pumps, but they also offer manual pumps to fulfill all moms’ milk expression needs. And while this pump requires mom power to operate, it adheres to the same standards Medela promises with all its products.
While most manual pumps look the same, Medela’s has a bit sleeker style thanks to its ergonomic handle. It also has 2-Phase Expression technology, so although it’s a manual pump, there are features to help you make the most of your milk expression time.
Moms who already use a dual or single electric Medela will recognize the styling and the shape of the flanges. And in addition to the pump itself, the box also contains two five-ounce bottles with lids, a bottle stand, one nipple with a collar, one cap, and two membranes.
Medela highlights the expression function on the Harmony pump, but another highlight is the ergonomic handling. The swivel handle is both ergonomic and versatile, as it’s where the two-phase expression feature lies.
Since Medela incorporates 2-Phase Expression into the Harmony, moms who are familiar with a shorter, gentler expression phase at the start of a pumping session will be in familiar territory.
And the intuitive design helps; pump using the top part of the handle to stimulate milk flow and use the bottom portion to maximize the milk once it starts flowing.
Moms who already use Medela will also like the design, which is very similar to Medela’s electric pumps, so there’s no struggle to adapt to a different “feel” when pumping.
If you have no brand allegiance to Medela, you may wonder whether this pump is right for you. Also, if you don’t need the expression function, you may want to look at another model instead.
- Ergonomic handle to help prevent hand cramps
- Two-phase expression option
- Fits all standard-neck bottles (such as Dr. Brown’s)
- Easy to assemble and clean
- The pump can lose suction due to O-ring failure; still an easily replaceable part, however
- Only compatible with standard-neck bottles
- Only one size of flange (need to order smaller/larger sizes separately)
Pick #2: Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump
Philips Avent is known as a bottle manufacturer, but their expertise in baby products extends to pumps, too.
Their manual pump focuses on comfort, so you can relax while making the milk your baby needs. Highlights on this model include a massage cushion flange and bonus breast pad sample packs.
At first glance, we can appreciate the Philips Avent manual pump’s simplicity. It has very few parts, which make it easy to clean, and with its angled flange, it aims to keep moms from hunching over while expressing milk.
Included in the purchase is the pump with handle, a large massage cushion (the flange, which measures 25mm), a Natural bottle (wide-mouth and four ounces) with a newborn nipple, a travel lid, a sealing disc for milk storage, and samples of Philips breast pads (two day and two night pads).
As Philips Avent highlights, its tilted flange intends to keep moms from leaning over their pump while expressing milk. The soft “massage cushion” flange is another noteworthy piece because it can help make manual pumping more comfortable and natural.
If comfort is a top priority—both concerning the pump’s feel and the positioning—then this manual breast pump might be the right option for you. Also, moms who already use Philips Avent’s Natural feeding system with their breastfed babies will appreciate bottle compatibility.
Another model might be better for you if you prefer more sizing options (this pump comes with a single flange size) or multiple expression settings. Also, this manual pump only works with wide-mouth bottles, so if you’re a fan of a narrow-mouth set instead, you might want to consider looking at a different model instead.
- Soft silicone “massage cushion” flange
- Angled flange for better pumping position
- Easy to clean (few parts)
- Only one expression setting
- Must purchase other flange sizes separately
Pick #3: Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump
Lansinoh is known for its more advanced electric pumps, but it manufactures top notch manual pumps too.
Its pump uses a two-phase expression by moving the handle, which can help moms who need a lighter stimulation phase before switching to regular expression mode.
And while it has more pieces than other manual pumps, you also have options for customization such as the flange size and using Lansinoh storage bags for pumping rather than the wide-mouth collection bottles.
At first glance, the Lansinoh pump looks impressively comfortable, thanks to the soft rim on the flange. But there’s more to it than just comfort; this pump also features 2-Phase Technology for a more effective pumping session.
You also receive an entire kit with the pump, so you can pump and feed without any other equipment, ideal for quick trips or for moms who exclusively pump without nursing the baby directly.
The box contains:
- Two flanges (standard 25mm and 30.5mm large)
- One silicone diaphragm
- One stem (the pump itself)
- One handle
- One wide-neck bottle
- One storage lid
- One white valve
- One slow-flow nipple
- A cap and collar
- One bottle stand
Like the Medela, Lansinoh’s manual pump also includes 2-Phase Technology, where you move the stem of the pump to a different “notch” in the handle to use the stimulation mode. Then, you can switch the handle to the lower part of the stem via a button on the handle for regular expression mode.
If comfort is a considering factor for you, this pump might be a good choice for you. With two flange sizes and the soft rim on both, you can expect to have a smoother pumping experience.
If you’re hoping to catch “leaking” milk or don’t need two phases of expression, the Lansinoh manual pump might not be the right fit for you.
- Ergonomic “easy-express” handle
- Can pump directly into Lansinoh bags (or their wide-neck bottles)
- 2-Phase Technology for let-down and expression
- Two sizes of flanges in each box
- Only fits wide-neck bottles
- Two shield sizes are sometimes insufficient
- The stem can be difficult to clean
Pick #4: NUK Expressive Manual Breastpump
NUK has been on the baby product scene for ages—their bottles are a staple for many parents, but their manual breast pump is something new.
Its space-age design is practical and comfortable for expressing milk, and if budget is important to you, NUK might be the right choice.
It might look a little top-heavy at first glance, but don’t let looks fool you. The NUK manual pump only weighs 5.5 ounces, making it one of the lightest models we’ve looked at.
The cushion has “massaging” textures and is flexible, unlike other hard plastic flanges.
There are few parts to deal with, making this an excellent grab-and-go pump. The lightweight feature is also helpful for both travel and use, especially for moms who are wary of hand fatigue from manual pumping.
Included in the package are:
- The pump itself
- A five-ounce bottle with slow-flow silicone nipple
- Collar, cap, and seal disk for storage
- A container stand
- A spare silicone valve
The NUK Expressive pump has both an ergonomic handle and a soft flange, both of which serve to keep moms comfortable while expressing milk. With few parts to deal with, it’s also easy to assemble and start using.
This might be a good choice for moms who are on a budget but don’t want to miss out on enjoying a comfortable manual pumping experience. Also, for moms who already use NUK bottles, this might be a logical purchase.
If it’s important to you to have multiple expression settings on your manual pump, you’ll want to look at a few other models instead. Also, if you need an uncommon flange size, you’ll have to get it separately since it doesn’t come with the pump purchase.
- Ergonomic handle
- Soft breast cushion
- Lightweight (only 5.5 ounces)
- Only works with wide-mouth NUK bottles (and select others)
- Only one expression setting
- One flange size comes with it
Pick #5: Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump
Haakaa’s pump is for the true minimalist mom: its simple construction and easy-to-clean material makes it a snap to pop into the diaper bag, use, wash, and reuse. There are no spare parts to worry about and no assembly required.
At first, you might wonder how exactly you’re supposed to express milk with a pump lacking a handle, but Haakaa has already thought of this; the pump function comes from the suction you use to attach the flange to your breast.
Once it’s attached, the pump maintains suction and encourages milk flow. You can also squeeze the bottom of the “bottle” part to create a pumping function, although this is harder to do when the bottom is full of milk.
Though there are lids available separately, the Haakaa pump itself is the only item in the purchase. It’s a one-piece pump with the flange and bottle connected.
The Haakaa pump is made of silicone and is a single piece of material, which is ideal for cleaning. It’s food-grade silicone, so there are no worries whatsoever over what baby’s milk comes in contact with.
For moms who nurse and find they’re always leaking from the other side while feeding the baby, the Haakaa pump is ideal. It attaches via suction and stays on while catching the leaking milk. You can also squeeze the bottom of the pump to help express more milk.
If you’re looking for a manual pump to supplement exclusive pumping with a dual electric model, you may want to look at other models for a more efficient means of manually pumping.
While the Haakaa helps passively collect milk, you likely won’t be able to create strong enough suction to empty the breast fully.
- Super easy to clean (one-piece design)
- Doesn’t require much effort (can passively collect milk)
- Both passive and active pumping
- Suctions on and stays on by itself
- “Pump” function is limited since you have to squeeze the bottom to “pump”—this can disrupt the milk you’ve already expressed
- Must purchase the cap separately to store or cover milk in the pump
- Some complaints about measurements on the bottle appearing to be inaccurate