Manual vs. Electric Pumps

Choosing a manual or electric breast pump is a tough decision. In the early days of breastfeeding you can never tell just how much you will want to use a breast pump. The cost of breast pumps and the no-return policy on personal items, make it difficult to try more than one breast pump to find the one that works best for you. There are pros and cons to both manual breast pumps and electric breast pumps. Keep these in mind when choosing your breast pump.

If you won't need to pump very often, a manual breast pump may work fine, depending on your level of patience. Manual breast pumps can be annoyingly slow. It all depends on how fast the pump handle can be squeezed and how long your hand can pump before it is thoroughly exhausted. Some women find they have no problem manually pumping, quickly for 30 minutes, other women find their hand is tired after 10 minutes.

Manual breast pumps naturally have a slower cycle time. The number of times the pump can cycle is dependant on your ability to squeeze the handle. Some women find it difficult to express any milk at all with hand pumps, while others find they work like a dream compared to electric breast pumps. Still other women find that manual pumps don't completely empty their breasts, leading to a lowered milk supply. If you are in the early stages of weaning this isn't a problem. If you are trying to build up your milk supply, a manual breast pump may be counterproductive.

If you are planning to pump frequently, you may want to invest in a high-end electric breast pump. Electric breast pumps have quick cycling times which more closely imitate your baby's natural sucking cycle of one suck per second. Many women find a good electric breast pump completely empties their breasts in about 15 minutes, especially double-pumping breast pumps.

Electric breast pumps are more difficult to assemble and use. If you don't understand how to adjust the suction level, you may find yourself in a bit of pain if the breast pump is creating too much suction on your breast.

Electric breast pumps also tend to be heavy, quite cumbersome, and some are fairly noisy. They can weigh up to 18 lbs, making them a stationary pump that stays at home. You can find compact, light weight electric breast pumps that weigh closer to 2 lbs, but they may either cost you more or not work as efficiently.

Hospital-grade electric breast pumps tend to be quite heavy and loud. There is no hiding your bovine nature when one of these breast pumps is strapped to your chest. They are the most efficient—just don't take a large, loud model with you on vacation.

When choosing your breast pump, you need to consider your lifestyle and your budget. Breast pumps can be costly. Renting an electric breast pump for a short while may be worth the time it saves, but it can be quite expensive over the long haul. Consider how often you want to use a breast pump, how quickly you want to express your breast milk, and how often you want to travel with your breast pump. Weigh the pros and cons between manual and electric breast pumps. Ask your friends, lactation consultants, and other breastfeeding mothers which breast pumps they like and dislike, and enjoy your bovine superpower.

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