Manual VS Electric Breast Pumps: Which Should You Get?

Last Updated On: 

September 4, 2018

With the many different types, styles and models of breast pumps available for use today, it can be a bit tricky for you to know which option is best for you and your milk expressing needs. One of those sticky points is choosing between a manual or an electric breast pump.

Which of the two types should you choose? And why? What gives one an edge over the other? We’ll be exploring and answering these questions and more in the sections below.

Manual VS Electric Breast Pumps: Which Is Better For Me?

Before you look into any other factors or features that distinguish different breast pump models and brands from one other, you should first consider whether it’s a manual breast pump you need or an electric breast pump would suit you better.

Pumping Frequency

For those of you only pumping occasionally, a manual breast pump is usually a good enough starting point.

If, however, you need to pump on a daily basis (whether you’re exclusively pumping or not), then an electric breast pump is what you need.

Weight & Portability 

If you’re looking for something lightweight and compact that you can easily pack in a diaper bag and take with you on the go, then a manual breast pump is the best option for you.

If you need to pump during the odd night out or for a short period of time when away from your little one, manual is best.

Electric breast pumps are usually heavier and larger in size, making it more difficult for you to carry around and requiring their own bag to fit in along with all the other items and accessories that come with it.

With that being said, manufacturers of breast pumps are now paying more attention to this point and designing convenient lightweight electric breast pumps to make mom’s life that much easier.

If you choose any of the best electric breast pumps on the market today, most models will come with their own backpack or breast pump bag that you can use to take with you outside the house.


If you’re on a tight budget, start off by getting a manual breast pump and consider upgrading to an electric one if/when you have a bit of extra cash laying around to spend.

Manual breast pumps tend to be way more affordable than their electric counterparts, because you don’t get as much features in the product.

But realistically speaking, not all new mothers need all the bells and whistles found in electric breast pumps, and manual ones get the job done for them just fine.

So, if you find you don’t need all the extra features, save a bit of cash and don’t spend it on something you don’t really need.

With all this being said, did you know that you can actually get a breast pump for free? Yes, even if it’s one of those expensive, double electric breast pump models that have lots of impressive bells and whistles.

Because of the Health Care Reform Act, you may qualify to have your insurance company cover the cost of a breast pump, oftentimes covering the entire cost as well.

Different insurance companies have different policies, though – so be sure to do your research, get to know your rights and obligations, and check with them about what you’re eligible for receiving.

Hands Off

If you’re looking for a hands off experience when expressing breast milk, your only option is to go with an electric breast pump.

Sometimes you need both of your hands freed up so you can multitask and get something else done at the same time, while other times you just get tired and your hands can’t keep going anymore (cramps, anyone?) even though you haven’t yet fully emptied your breast(s) from milk like you should always do.

Squeezing on the pump lever never endlessly can – and will – get tiring real fast, so be prepared for this if you choose to pump manually.

For those of you who plan on power pumping to increase milk supply, keeping it hands free with an electric breast pump is an absolute life saver. Ask anyone who’s tried power pumping with a manual pump before, they’ll attest to how much of a nightmare that experience was.


For those of you getting back to the workplace shortly after giving birth to your baby and wanting to pump at work, an electric breast pump is what you’ll need.

When pumping in the workplace, you’ll want to get it done in the shortest amount of time as possible so you can get back to business.

Some advanced electric breast pumps can help you express the same amount of milk in a fraction of the time it would take you to do so with a manual breast pump.

With that being said, manual pumps do have one advantage over electric pumps for when you’re doing your thing in the workplace or anywhere else where other people are around: they’re much less noisy because they don’t need an electric motor to work.

Sometimes you might find yourself needing to pump in the middle of the night when the whole family is asleep, or needing to pump next to your baby sleeping like an angel at the time. In both cases, a noisy machine is doing to cause problems.

Short On Time

Speaking of being short on time and having to finish expressing that liquid gold as quickly as possible, it doesn’t get any more time efficient than using a double electric breast pump.

As a matter of fact, expressing the same amount of breast milk with an electric breast pump can take as little as 1/3 the time needed to get the same output with a manual breast pump.

A job that used to take you 45 minutes to do now only requires 15 minutes of your time, what could you put that extra 30 minutes of time you just saved into?

Dealing With Low Milk Supply

If you’re dealing with low milk supply problems and need to give it a boost, you should stick to electric breast pumps.

They’re much more efficient in stimulating and emptying your breasts, and when it comes to boosting milk supply, it’s all about efficiency.

The more efficient a pump is in extracting milk from your breast(s) in a shorter amount of time, the more likely your milk supply is to kick in at full force – and vice versa.

Suction And Speed

If you want to have complete control over your breast pump’s suction power and speed, you might want to stick to a manual breast pump.

With that being said, more and more manufacturers nowadays are designing electric breast pumps with more sophisticated settings that give you control over suction power and speed.


When using an electric breast pump, you’re restricted to areas where you can connect the machine to an electric outlet – unless it can run on batteries for enough time without powering off before you’ve managed to empty your breast(s) from milk.

With a manual breast pump, you can do your thing anywhere, anytime. You don’t need an electric outlet or batteries, all you need is a hand that refuses to get tired.


Compared to manual breast pumps, electric breast pumps are relatively high maintenance. For example, cleaning and sterilizing electric breast pump parts is certainly not a walk in the park.

The more parts there are in a pump, the more difficult maintenance becomes – and vice versa.

Wrapping It Up

So, there you have it, a detailed comparison between manual and electric breast pumps, the pros and cons each has to offer you as a pumping mother, and in which circumstances either is a more suitable option to go with.

If you’re doing this on a daily basis, regardless whether you’re an exclusive pumper or not, go with an electric breast pump and you’ll thank yourself for making this decision later.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to get something for the occasional pumping session every now and then and your hands are up to the challenge, there’s nothing wrong in saving a few bucks and getting a manual breast pump – it might actually be all you need.

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