Manual Vs. Electric Breast Pump: Which One Is Best For You?

Deciding on a manual vs electric breast pump? Whether you are planning on breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or doing a combination, you should register for a breast pump. 

Finding the right breast pump is a personal choice for new moms and there are many factors that go into making the right decision. 

There are two main types of breast pumps: manual vs. electric. 

I’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each as well as my personal experience with both. 

I started with an electric breast pump that I got for free from my insurance (more on that later) but found that when my milk supply came in, a manual pump was all I needed. 

Pro Tip: If you have stumbled across this page because your current breast pump isn’t working for you and you’re wondering if you should make a switch, consider talking to a lactation consultant for some troubleshooting tips. It could be something simple like a faulty valve or the wrong size flange. Medela has lactation consultants available to chat with online for free for exactly this reason. 

Manual vs. Electric Breast Pump Medela electric breast pump and Medela Harmony manual breast pump on a counter
Manual Vs. Electric Breast Pump

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Manual Vs. Electric Breast Pump

When comparing a manual vs electric breast pump, the electric breast pump is going to be best–mostly because you can get it for free.

If you decide to purchase a manual pump like the Medela or Haakaa that I also purchased, they are less than $30 and can be easily found at major retailers.  

Manual Pump

Most manual breast pumps (also called a hand pump) work by you pumping a handle to create suction on the nipple. 

The milk will begin to flow and collect in a bottle attached to the pump. 

Generally, the more suction you apply the stronger the milk flow will be. 

Manual pumps are great for single pumping (pumping on one side). 

They also don’t need a power source so your pumping session could literally be anywhere. 

Some manual pumps work differently, like the Haakaa that creates suction without pumping and gravity. 

I love my Haakaa pump so much! It makes it easy to create a milk stash without putting in any extra time or effort. Read my full article on how the Haakaa works and why you definitely need one on your registry!  

I personally found that I liked my manual pumps (I used a Haakaa and this Medela Pump that comes with a bottle stand) more than my electric pump for the first 6 months that I was breastfeeding and pumping. The reason is that my milk supply was high and I only needed to pump for a few minutes with the manual pump to collect all the milk that I needed for bottles. I liked that there were fewer parts to clean and I could sit anywhere and in any position that I wanted.  

When I went back to work, my milk supply started decreasing and I found that I needed to pump for longer periods of time to collect enough milk. I switched back to my electric pump during this time when my pumping sessions were 20 minutes or longer. 

Manual Pump Features

Manual pumps are a great option for moms who only occasionally need to express milk, moms that need a portable type of pump, or moms who don’t need to express much milk.

Manual breast pumps are pretty basic, but they have come a long way in the last few years. There are some features that you might want to consider when finding the right pump to purchase:

  • Flange
    The Philips Avent pump has a comfort flange (also called a breast shield) that is silicone with massage nodes. It promises a more comfortable and secure fit. 

    Make sure to check if the pump has multiple flange sizes. Not sure what size you need? Use this flange measurement tool
  • Expression Modes
    The reason I chose the Medela Harmony was because of price and the 2 phase expression modes. The handle has 2 sides that can be used to mimic your baby’s sucking (one side is shallow and quick to stimulate letdown, and the other creates a deeper and slower suction). 
  • Milk Collection Bottle Holder
    Manual pumps are top-heavy because the handle sits on top of the collection bottle. Some manual pumps come with a bottle holder that is really convenient so that you can set the pump down without worrying about it tipping over. 

Manual Pump Pros And Cons


  • Small and portable. Easy to fit in a purse or diaper bag. 
  • Less parts than electric pumps. This means less parts to clean and less parts to replace if they get lost or damaged. 
  • Complete control. You are in complete control of the amount of suction and the rate of speed that you are using.  


  • It might take more time to pump. Personally, I felt that the manual pump was just as fast as the electric pump in the early months of pumping.  
  • You might pump less milk. Again, I found in the early months when my milk supply was strong that I was able to pump just as much (if not more) milk with the manual pump. 

Electric Pump

There are two types of electric pumps: a double electric breast pump and a single electric pump. 

A double breast pump allows you to pump milk from both breasts at the same time, whereas a single electric breast pump only allows you to pump one side at a time.  

Pro Tip: It’s hard to know whether you will want to double pump or pump on a single side. Most modern pumps like the Spectra S2 allow you to do single or double pumping. I highly recommend getting a double electric pump that can do both single pumping and double pumping. 

When buying an electric breast pump, trust me when I say you MUST buy a closed system pump. 

Most modern pumps like the Medela pumps and Spectra pumps are closed systems–meaning the milk doesn’t actually flow through the tubes. Trying to clean the tubing would be an absolute nightmare, so make sure to double-check that your pump is a closed system. 

Want more tips on cleaning and sterilizing your pump parts? Read my full article on cleaning and sterilizing breast pump parts and baby bottles

Finally, when purchasing an electric model there are many more features you need to look at versus a manual pump that doesn’t have as many. 

Electric Breast Pump Features

Electric breast pumps have a lot more features to consider when buying.  

  • Power Source 
    Some pumps are battery-operated and rechargeable and don’t need a power outlet to work. Other pumps have a car outlet adapter. Both of these are convenient options if you will regularly be pumping on the go. 
  • Hospital-Grade
    These pumps have more powerful motors and can help mothers get the most breastmilk possible. Most hospital-grade pumps can only be rented from your hospital or from a supplier like Aeroflow. If you want to know more, read my full post on hospital grade breast pumps vs regular breast pumps.
  • Expression Modes
    The more expression modes the better when buying an electric breast pump. 

    Expression modes relate to the speed of the pump and the amount of suction your pump uses. Being able to customize the expression modes will help you get the most milk while being the most comfortable. The Spectra S2 that I had allowed you to adjust the suction and speed of the breast pump separately so I got a truly customized feeling. 
  • Noise
    Electric pumps have come a long way in noise reduction. You might not think noise is an issue when it comes to pumping, but even quiet pumps could get in the way of watching tv or talking on the phone.
  • Hands-Free Pumping
    Some newer pumps like the Evie have flanges and milk collection bottles that sit right in your bra. There are no wires, tubes, or power source needed. Allowing you to do anything you want–even go grocery shopping–while you are pumping.

🡺 See All Of The Evie Features On Amazon 🡸

Pro-Tip: Pumping sessions can last anywhere from 5-20 minutes or longer. If you are going to pump multiple times a day, that would leave you tied to a machine for potentially hours. If your insurance doesn’t cover a hands-free pump like the Evie or Willow, consider buying a hands-free pumping bra to at least allow you to read, work, or anything else you would do with your hands while you pump. 

  • Parts
    Finding a pump with the fewest parts that need to be cleaned and sanitized will save you so much time down the road. 
  • Carrying-Case/Diaper Bag
    Some of the best electric breast pump brands like Spectra and Medela also offer carrying cases specifically designed for their pumps.

    These bags can double as diaper bags when you aren’t using them for your pump.

    Pump bags are definitely worth buying. Not only because they fit the pump motor, but because many of them have additional features like insulated pouches for transporting expressed milk back. If you plan on traveling with your electric breast pump, a carrying case or diaper bag is a must. 
Hospital Grade Breast Pump Vs Regular (What Is Best?)
How To Use A Haakaa Breast Pump: Tips And Tricks For New Moms
How To Clean And Sterilize Your Breast Pump Parts And Accessories (Plus Tips For Cleaning And Sterilizing Bottles)
My 6 Favorite Breastfeeding Products For Moms
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What kind of breast pump to register for? Medela electric breast pump.
What Kind Of Breast Pump Should You Register For?

Get A Free Electric Breast Pump With Insurance

If you are in the United States, the Affordable Care Act is a law that requires your insurance company to provide you with a free electric breast pump!  

Mom Tip: Did you know you can score hundreds of dollars worth of other free breastfeeding supplies and freebies? Here’s how!

Make sure to enter your insurance information with a breast pump provider like Aeroflow to see what pump(s) you qualify for.  

I personally used Aeroflow and the process was amazing. You enter all of your information online and within a day or two, you have access to all of the pumps that your insurance covers on their website.  

If your insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of the pump you want, you can pay the difference out of pocket to get the exact one you want. They also sell breast pump carrying bags for a minimal additional charge compared to shopping directly with the manufacturer.  

With Aeroflow you can purchase a replacement and spare parts for your pump all in one place. A bonus is that some insurances will also cover replacement parts for your pump.  

The moral of the story is, don’t register for an expensive electric breast pump. Check with your insurance provider directly, or go through a company like Aeroflow who works with your insurance company so you don’t have to.  

Pro Tip: If you are getting a free electric breast pump from your insurance, don’t forget to register for a manual pump or a Haakaa. 

Electric Pump Pros And Cons


  • You can get a free electric breast pump through your health insurance. 
  • They use advanced technology to mimic infant’s nursing which produces the best milk flow and helps you collect the most milk. 
  • They can save time. If you are pumping frequently, need to express a lot of milk, or have low milk production, an electric pump will save you time over a manual one 
  • Multiple battery options allow you to find a pump that meets your needs. 
  • Only with electric pumps can you have hands-free pumping (whether it’s with a hands-free pumping bra or a hands-free pump).  
  • Different settings for the speed of the pump and adjustable suction 


  • Bulky. They have lots of parts and the motors are quite big. 
  • Noisy. Even newer models can make a lot of noise. 
  • Lots of parts. This means lots of parts to clean and sterilize, and lots of parts to replace. 
  • Less comfort and control. Compared to a manual pump, electric pumps offer less control over the speed and suction. This can make electric pumps less comfortable, especially for moms with sore nipples or cracked nipples, than manual pumps.
  • Need a power source. Whether your pump is rechargeable, has a car adapter, or needs an outlet, all-electric pumps rely on a power source. No power source= no pump. 

Haakaa Vs. Other Breast Pumps

Haakaa breast pump with flower stopper on counter

If you haven’t read my article on why all moms should have a Haakaa breast pump, here are the cliff notes: 

  • Affordable (less than the price of most manual breast pumps) 
  • Only one part. Less cleaning and nothing to replace. 
  • One size fits all. No measuring or guessing on your flange size. 
  • Gentle. Uses gentle continuous suction that doesn’t require any pumping. 
  • Hands-Free. Gentle manual pumping that is hands-free? Yes, please. 

My Haakaa saved me from months of needing to use a traditional breast pump and was completely effortless. 

Hospital Grade Breast Pump Vs Regular (What Is Best?)

How To Use A Haakaa Breast Pump: Tips And Tricks For New Moms
How To Clean And Sterilize Your Breast Pump Parts And Accessories (Plus Tips For Cleaning And Sterilizing Bottles)
My 6 Favorite Breastfeeding Products For Moms
The Pros And Cons Of Extended Breastfeeding | 15 Shocking Benefits For You And Your Toddler