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Electric breast pumps

By Lisa Galliers

Electric breast pumps tend to be faster than manual breast pumps and have more features – but they cost more. Should you splash out?

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Electric breast pumps are fast, easy to use and usually offer more options than manual breast pumps. For example, you'll find pumps with adjustable suction levels and settings, travel-friendly versions, and breast pumps with double-pump capacity.

Unlike with a manual pump, once the cup is in place on your breast, the work is automatically done for you, at your choice of pace – saving you from aching hands or hard-to-maintain rhythm patterns.

Most electric breast pumps are mains-operated, but battery-powered pumps are also available for expressing milk when you’re not near a plug socket. Electric breast pumps are more expensive than manual models, ranging in price from around £60 for a mini pump to £250 for a top-of-the-range version.

Browse our breast pumps reviews to find the best electric breast pump for you. 

Electric breast pumps: pros and cons

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Faster than other methods of expressing milk
  • Multiple settings
  • More choice of models, including double breast pumps
  • Can be rented.

Cons

  • More expensive than manual breast pumps
  • Noisy
  • Electric breast pumps with lots of parts can be fiddly to sterilise
  • Can be bulkier to transport – although there are lightweight options available
  • Mains-operated breast pumps are dependent on a plug socket, which could prove difficult if you're out and about.

Find out which are the best breast pump brands.  

Electric breast pumps – what to look for

With lots of types and models available, it can be difficult to know which electric breast pump is going to be best for you, or whether a manual breast pump could be more suitable.

Read our Tommy Tippee electric breast pump reviews and Medela electric breast pump reviews

Electric pump speed

A good electric breast pump should allow you to adjust the speed and vacuum at the touch of a button and offer a range of settings to allow you to find your optimum rhythm. Some electric breast pumps alter the rhythm of the pump in a way that mimics the flow of milk during breastfeeding.

Expressing milk while out

You may need to express milk when you're out and about, or at work – so a discreet and travel-friendly breast pump may be worth considering. While electric pumps tend to be heavier and more cumbersome than basic manual pumps, new electric pumps are designed to be suitable on the move as well as at home. Some also come with handy carrying bags and ice packs to keep the milk cold.

If you're comparing models in a shop, pick them up and check how heavy they are, and how easily they'll fit into your bag.

Our breast pump reviews include a rating for noise, and we list the size of the pump as well as the weight when full, so you can get a better idea about the breast pump before buying it. Find out more about how we test breast pumps.

Expressing milk in comfort

Comfort is a top priority for expressing mums. Using a breast pump shouldn't hurt – but some women can find the suction sensation uncomfortable.

Look for an electric breast pump with extra features designed for mum's comfort, such as adjustable vacuum settings, cushioned cups, sensors that quickly work out your optimum pumping rhythm and pumps designed to encourage a quicker 'letdown' (the 'letdown reflex' refers to when your milk is ready to flow easily).

We’ve listed extra details about the breast shields included, for all the breast pumps we’ve reviewed, including their size and the main material the breast shield is made from.

Double electric breast pumps

Double or dual pumps offer two-pump functionality – allowing you to express milk from both breasts at the same time, which can help to boost your milk production. On the downside, this type of pump is more cumbersome than smaller single-pump models and it might not be worth the extra investment if you don't need to express milk regularly.

Mains or battery operated

If you have a mains-operated breast pump, you’ll be limited to using it near a plug socket, so if you're looking for a more portable option you could choose a battery-operated model – or ideally one that offers both mains and battery operation.

The Which? electric breast pump reviews list the power source needed, so you can check this before you buy.

You can also find a list of exactly what’s in the box in all our breast pump reviews. We’ve included the vacuum range and how many adjustable expressing levels each breast pump has.

Go straight to our breast pump Best Buys

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Hospital grade breast pumps

Hospital grade breast pumps (like the Carum from Ardo pictured above) are electric pumps that you can hire, to use at home, on a monthly basis from the NHS or the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), a UK parenting charity, or local pharmacies. They're usually larger, more powerful machines with double pumps, and are designed for very frequent use. If you have to stay in hospital for longer than usual, or have a baby in special care, you will probably use one there.

You'll need to buy sterilised milk collection kits separately to use with the hired pump. Milk only comes into contact with this kit, rather than the rest of the pump.

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