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Manual breast pumps

By Lisa Galliers

Manual breast pumps are cheaper than the electric versions, but they don't suit everyone. Find out if a manual breast pump might suit you.

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Manual breast pumps work by mimicking the sucking action of a breastfeeding baby. A cup, or breast shield, is placed over your nipple and air is hand pumped in to create a vacuum over your breast, which stimulates milk flow.

Breast milk is collected in the attached container. This can be stored and fed to your baby when it's convenient – great if you have returned to work or are away from your baby.

Expect to pay between £15 and £35 for a manual breast pump.

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

Manual breast pumps: pros and cons

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Compact – easy to fit into your handbag
  • Quiet
  • Simple-to-use mechanism
  • Cheaper than electric breast pumps – and cost nothing to run after you've bought one.

Cons

  • Slower to use than an electric breast pump
  • Repetitive pumping can be tiring over sustained periods
  • Can be difficult to get into a regular pumping rhythm.

Discover which are rated as the best breast pump brands

Manual breast pumps – what to look for

The basic design of a manual breast pump is fairly consistent across different models and brands – but there are factors to consider when choosing a suitable manual pump for you.

There are several different brands making manual breast pumps. Read our Tommee Tippee manual breast pump reviews and Philips Avent manual breast pump reviews

Size and portability

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. Manual breast pumps are lightweight and generally noise-free, which can make them a good option for expressing when you're away from home.

Most should fit into your bag, while some also come with carrying bags or cases. If you're comparing models in a shop, pick them up and compare how heavy and bulky they are.

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.

Discover the breast pumps that scored tops in our round up of Best Buy breast pumps

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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 uncomfortable. The good thing about manual pumps is that you're directly in control of the pumping and can stop, start or change pace instantly.

Some mums find manual breast pumps gentler than the more powerful electric varieties. Look out for cushion or massage cups/breast shields that are designed to be more comfortable.

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.

Manual breast pump accessories

Lots of manual breast pumps come with added extras that can come in handy – including travel bags, breast pads and spare containers so you can express more than one bottle's worth of milk, and suction cups of different sizes and styles for you to try out and see what's most comfortable. Some manual breast pumps will be more adjustable in terms of suction strength than others.

How often will you express milk?

Choosing a manual breast pump is a good low-cost option if you're only expressing milk every now and then, or when you're away from home. If you choose to feed your baby solely with expressed milk, however, investing in a more expensive – but more powerful – electric pump could make expressing quicker and easier.

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