A breast pump is a device that allows you to empty milk from your breasts whenever you want to or need to. Then you can store the milk for later.
You can also express breast milk by hand (manual expression). But it takes longer to completely empty a breast this way. Pumps work faster and can be operated by hand, with batteries, or with electricity.
If you plan to use a breast pump, you may want to research the different types of pumps while you're pregnant. Think about:
- How often you will need to use the pump.
- How long you plan to breastfeed.
- How easy the pump is to use. Some pumps may be heavier than others.
- If the pump will meet your needs. Some electric models pump both breasts at once (double electric pumps).
Whichever pump you choose, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to use the pump safely and how to clean the pump parts. Always wash your hands before pumping and before handling milk that will be stored.
Types of pumps
There are different types of breast pumps to choose from.
- Manual pumps.
These pumps are operated by hand. They work well to relieve engorgement (when your breasts are too full of milk). They are easy to carry with you, don't require a power supply, and may be less expensive than other types of pumps. But they are slower than electric or battery-operated pumps and can't be used hands-free.
- Electric pumps.
These are designed to be used a lot. Most are faster and more comfortable than manual pumps. Some types closely imitate the action of a breastfeeding infant. They can help you maintain your milk production if you bottle-feed breast milk often. Electric pumps tend to be larger and heavier than manual pumps. But they are also the fastest way to pump milk. Some of the newer models are very lightweight.
- Battery-operated pumps.
These are convenient when you don't have an electrical outlet handy. Most battery-operated pumps use a rechargeable battery.
Most breast pumps are easy to use. But if you have any problems with pumping, ask for help. A lactation consultant or other breastfeeding expert can help you learn how to use a breast pump.
Current as of: July 11, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.