Manual breast pumps - what do you need to know?

What is a breast pump?

A breast pump is a device used to extract milk from the breasts for storage and later feeding. This allows mothers to leave their babies and go back to work while ensuring that their baby will still get breastmilk when needed.

Breastfeeding is generally recommended because of its numerous benefits, such as strengthening the immune system, helping brain development in infants, and reducing the risk of cancer in both mother and infant.

However, there are occasions when breastfeeding may not be possible or practical: if a mother has suddenly fallen ill; if she must undergo surgery; or if she must return to her job before her baby turns six months old. Breastfeeding under these circumstances should usually continue until an alternative feeding method can be found.

Different types of breast pumps

Manual Breast pumps

These are the cheapest type of breast pumps. They consist of a cylinder, funnel, and piston with small air holes for extracting milk. The plunger is manually pushed up and down to move the milk through it. These pumps can be used by both single and double pumping.

It works in such way:

  1. The woman will take off her bra and top so that she can see her nipples. She may turn on a light so that she could better see them if it is dark.
  2. Using the hand or hands closest to where your nipple hangs out of your body, cup both breasts. If you are using just one hand hold the breast with the palm down squeezing together gently but firmly. So when pumping it creates suction by loosening up skin cells around each milk duct opening in order for it to pull out milk from the surrounding tissue (that includes fat cells too).
  3. Each time you push down on the plunger make sure there is no air in a tube while doing so (no whistling sound while pumping!) This is the most important part to prevent mastitis (inflammation of breast tissue).

Note: If you tend to be forgetful and do not pump within a 24-hour space of time, it is better to keep pumping until there is no more milk. This will also help empty your breasts as much as possible.

The manual pumps are good to use when:

  • You are living in a small apartment or house that has no electricity;
  • Your baby is preterm (before 37 weeks gestation);
  • Your baby is underweight for his/her age;
  • Your baby was born prematurely and needs special care at home;
  • You have other children who need looking after while you pump;
  • Your baby is sick and has to spend time in the hospital while you are away;
  • You are traveling or living somewhere where electricity cannot be relied on.

They are not good for:

  • Scheduled pumping - this means pumping at specific times of the day so that you can keep track of your output, the time it takes before production drops off, etc.;
  • Pumping large amounts quickly - For most women, hand expression is usually quicker than using a pump. If expressed milk is needed urgently then using a manual pump may only delay things further. Use an electric pump for speed instead.

Electric Breast pumps

These have an electric motor that gives power to the plunger inside the cylinder to pump the milk. They usually work according to two methods.

A piston pump works by attaching a plastic tube to one breast at a time. The plunger combs through the milk inside the tube to extract it;

A double or single-sided pump - These are popular because they allow for simultaneous expression of both breasts so that milk can be collected faster. It also allows for hands-free operation so you can do other things while pumping (watch TV, use a laptop, talk on the phone). Because these pumps create suction with each compression you need to keep your nipples pointed down towards the floor (not facing up) in order not to cause damage around the nipple and areola area.

They are preferable to use when:

  • You are exclusively breastfeeding your baby;
  • Your baby is sick and has to spend time in the hospital while you are away;
  • You are traveling or living somewhere where electricity cannot be relied on.

They may not be ideal for:

  • Women with severe nipple pain;
  • Pumping at work - see manual pumps above (they do the same job);
  • Scheduled pumping - As their suction pressure can't be adjusted it is difficult to have a "set" schedule. It just doesn't work out that way! Also, no matter how efficient the electric pump is, it will never express milk as effectively as by hand. Some tend to overpump using an electric pump.

Note: It is very important to thoroughly clean out the pump parts with hot soapy water after every use, both on the outside and inside of your pump's pieces (tubes, collection bottles, valves, etc.). If you're using a double-sided electric pump then be sure not to mix up the tubes that connect to each breast! This way you will avoid contamination between each side. You can also use specially made sanitizer pumps like these.

Battery-powered breast pumps

These are normally light and compact, making them easy to carry around. This is a good option for women who live in so remote areas where electricity is not easily accessible or available 24 hours a day, as they can use it as long as there's some charge left on the batteries so they don't need to be near an electrical outlet.

However, these pumps tend to produce less milk than electric breast pumps and can cause nipple irritation! So it may be better if you're just occasionally pumping small amounts of milk every now and then and want something that's easier to carry around than an electric pump (e.g., at work).

This type of breast pump operates in such a way: the cylinder is a container with a plunger that compresses the milk in order to pump it out. The operation of the plunger is activated by squeezing a handle or pumping a rubber bulb. So both hands are needed for this type of pump.

They are preferable to use when:

  • You don't have an electrical outlet nearby and you need something that works on batteries alone, so it can be used anywhere!
  • You only want to occasionally express small amounts of milk - if you're working away from home then these may be all right for infrequent expression, but not for frequent pumping. If you will be pumping every few hours at work then into electric pumps instead because they are more efficient.

What are the benefits of manual breast pumps?

Manual breast pumps are usually cheaper than electric ones, although it also depends on what type you buy. Apart from that, they are portable and allow mothers to express their milk anywhere at any time since there is no need for an electrical outlet.

On the other hand, one needs patience in order to master using a manual pump; you need some strength to be able to manually squeeze both containers at once, and you need some practice before being able to get a good amount of milk. Most importantly: you can never "over-express," which means that even if your breasts produce too much milk, you can always express a few drops without harming the mother or child.

Convenient, portable, and easy to use - a must-have for any busy mom

Breastfeeding is best, but sometimes mothers cannot breastfeed immediately after giving birth. There are many reasons that can prevent a lactating woman from breastfeeding her baby right away: she may undergo surgery; she may be unable to produce enough milk because of certain medications; she may have to go back to work in less than six weeks after delivery.

In these cases, it is necessary to find an alternative feeding method for the baby. This is where manual breast pumps come in handy. They allow mothers who cannot breastfeed directly still be able to provide their babies with their own milk for at least some time.

Manual breast pumps are also beneficial for those mothers who do not produce as much milk as their baby needs: "One of the most common reasons that women stop breastfeeding is that they just don't produce enough milk, and this can often be helped with a little extra pumping".

Most importantly, a manual breast pump lets you express milk anywhere and anytime - whether it's while waiting in line at the cashier or watching your favorite movie. Your baby will appreciate having your milk even if he/she is only getting a few drops from you!

How to choose a good manual breast pump?

If you decided on this type, here are the main aspects you should consider.

Guarantee: all products come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and one-year warranty, while some also offer a lifetime replacement.

Price: we only featured the most affordable pumps that are available on Amazon (prices start at $9.95). However, there are units that cost more than $200; it all depends on your needs and budget.

Single or double pumps: both types work equally well, but double pumps take less time to express milk from both breasts; single pumps require you to put down one container and pick up the other every few minutes in order to continue expressing milk for both breasts. So if you don't mind taking a little longer and find switching containers too much of a hassle, you can go with a single pump. However, most mothers expressed their preference for double pumps since they are more efficient in terms of time

Size of the containers: when buying your manual breast pump, make sure to check how much milk each one holds. The larger the container, the more milk you will be able to pump at once.

A number of settings: some pumps offer different suction levels that mimic the baby's natural suction on the nipple; this way it is possible to choose what feels most comfortable and reproduce breastfeeding more closely. Some models also include buttons for "let down" (stimulates milk flow) and "express" (increases suction). You should consider paying extra if these are important to you.

Ease of use: some pumps are easier to set up, assemble, and clean. If you are not quite sure how to choose - pick a model that has more positive feedback.

Extras included: many breast pumps include additional features such as night light, timer, cooler bag, etc. Check if they are important for you before buying!

Portability: manual milk pumps should be small enough so that they can easily fit into your purse or diaper bag; this way you will always have it with you wherever you go. It wouldn't hurt to check the dimensions of the container (the smaller the better!) and weight (the lighter, the better!).

How to care about a manual breast pump?

After each use, a good habit is to wash the suction mechanism with soap or alcohol and rinse it off before putting it back in its case. It is also advisable to keep the lid of the container open after expression in order for milk residues not to clog up the pump.

How can you wash it? Well, most manual breast pumps are not dishwasher safe so you will have to clean them manually. You can place the parts in warm water with a few drops of the soap for about ten minutes. Then, using your fingers or a brush, thoroughly scrub off all milk residues from the pump's surface. Rinse everything with cold water and leave it on a towel to dry before putting the pieces back together again.

How can you store collected milk?

If you are freezing your milk, use small containers that are perfect for breast milk storage. You can find them at stores or online; make sure they are BPA-free! You should also consider purchasing a deep freezer or investing in an extra-insulated cooler bag with ice packs to keep the milk cold while you transport it to your baby's babysitter's house, grandparents' house, etc.

It is important to note that all frozen breast milk will be good in the fridge for about 6 months (or 3 months after being defrosted). If you want to store the expressed milk for longer periods of time - opt for using a breast pump with compatibility with bottle feeding!

Final words

If you are just starting to learn how to breastfeed or plan on expressing milk every now and then, a manual pump will do the trick. It is affordable, lightweight, and easy to use. The main downside of this type is that it is slower than electric pumps; however, it does not require electricity!