Breast pump reviews: FAQs
Do I need to use a breast pump?
Not necessarily. If you're going to be at home with your baby, you may not need to express milk, and if you do need to express then this can also be done by hand.
Some mums find it easier to express milk by hand rather than using a breast pump, while others find it tricky to get the hang of. Everyone is different, and expressing milk is a very personal thing. It's down to your individual preference.
If you want to buy a breast pump visit our breast pump reviews but if you want to try expressing milk by hand here are some tips from the NHS to help you get started:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
- Squeeze gently using your thumb and the rest of your fingers in a C-shape.
- Gradually build up a rhythm and change breast or shift position when the milk flow slows down or stops.
The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) advises trying different ways to find what's right for you. It says that none of these methods are as effective as a baby sucking, and it will probably take some time to learn the technique.
What are the benefits of using a breast pump?
A breast pump can sometimes help to express more milk than can be managed by hand. Some mothers find it quicker and easier, others say it helps milk flow and empties the breast more.
Does expressing milk hurt?
Expressing or pumping breast milk shouldn't be painful, but it can be uncomfortable until you become used to it. Some women find expressing milk helps to relieve the discomfort caused by overly full breasts.
The NHS offers expressing milk and breastfeeding advice, as do the NCT and the La Leche League, a support network for breastfeeding mums.
What type of breast pump do I need?
Our initial discussions with mothers indicated that the choice of breast pump was led by recommendations from friends, family or health professionals (midwife or NCT group). However, your choice of pump will depend on your personal preference, how often you plan on expressing milk, and what you need to use a breast pump for.
Some mums prefer a manual pump because they’re cheaper, more discreet, quieter, and easily portable, so can be used if you're at work or while you're out. Others prefer the comfort and speed of an electric pump, as it will do most of the hard work for you.
Some may be put off by the speed of an electric pump, but all the ones we tested had variable speeds, so you can start off with a gentle pumping action and then increase the suction.
Our survey results indicated that women are most likely to start off using a manual pump for their first child, then use an electric one for subsequent children, when using a breast pump isn't a new experience.
Talk to your hospital, health visitor, local NCT group or breastfeeding healthcare professional for more information and advice.
Is it worth paying extra for an electric pump?
This will depend on how often you plan to express milk. If you're only going to express occasionally, a manual pump will probably suffice. However, if you plan on expressing a lot, many mums think the investment in an electric pump is worth it, and can save aching wrists.
The NCT says an electric pump may be a good option if you have a baby in special care and you need to express more often.
What does BPA Free mean?
BPA is Bisphenol A, a chemical found in polycarbonate plastics, which some feeding bottles can be made from. Some studies have found that it’s potentially harmful to babies.
All the breast pumps we’ve looked at are BPA-free.
A new EU directive came into force on 1 February 2011, restricting the use of Bisphenol A in feeding bottles that are intended for use by infants under the age of 12 months.
The manufacture of polycarbonate feeding bottles containing Bisphenol is banned, and, since 1 June 2011, the import into the EU and sale on the EU market of feeding bottles containing BPA has also been banned.
How should I store breast milk
Breast milk can be expressed in advance and then stored in a fridge or in a freezer. Any collection container needs to be sterilised thoroughly, and once the milk has been expressed it should be transferred to the fridge or freezer as soon as possible.
The NHS and NCT say breast milk is safe for up to five days if stored in a fridge at less than 4°C, or three days at a slightly higher temperature (or if you're not sure of the temperature of the fridge).
It also says breast milk can be frozen for up to two weeks in the freezer compartment of a fridge, or six months in a freezer at minus 18°C.
Many breast pumps come with guides to milk storage in their instructions. For more information on expressing, storing and defrosting frozen breast milk, visit the NCT website or the NHS expressing breast milk guide.
Can I buy a second-hand breast pump?
Most mums buy a breast pump new, but some choose to buy one second-hand, or are given a breast pump by friends or relatives.
Manufacturers advise against using a second-hand breast pump, and most instructions say the product is designed for a 'single user' only. Some manufacturers state that use by more than one person will void the warranty.
If you're considering buying a breast pump second-hand, speak to your hospital, health visitor, local NCT group or breastfeeding healthcare professional for more information.
What's the difference between an open- and closed-system breast pump?
A closed-system breast pump is designed so none of the breast milk comes into contact with the breast pump or air while pumping. Most hospital grade breast pumps are closed systems, and need to be used with a separate sterilised milk collection kit - this is the only part that the milk will touch.
Using an open-system breast pump means that breast milk can come into contact with the tubes of the breast pump and the air inside them. Most single-use breast pumps are open systems, as these are designed to be used by just one person. All breast pumps need cleaning and sterilising after use.
Can you use a breast pump at the same time as feeding?
Yes. This can be quite hard to do and may take some practice, as you'll need to be positioned correctly, but it can actually help yield more milk if you express and feed at the same time.