Fertility

Portable Breast Pumps: Are They Worth It?

Updated on 30 June 2021 • 14 minute read
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Overview 

Are you a new mom who needs to pump anywhere because of your job or someone who needs a discreet breast pump with a battery pack for pumping sessions on the go? 

Then a portable breast pump might be the right choice for you.

You’re entitled to take breaks for pumping sessions under the rules for working moms in the Affordable Care Act. So, you can bring a breast pump to express your breast milk even while at work.

Unless you’re planning on leaving an extra breast pump at the office, it might be a good idea to get a portable breast pump to bring along.

You’ll find more information about portable breast pumps below to help you choose the right one so you can pump your milk anywhere you go.

 

Main Differences 

A quiet pump with portability options and adjustable suction levels lets you discreetly pump at work or in public places while also helping you build a good supply of breast milk.

If you’re looking for a portable breast pump, you can choose from these options, arranged from the cheapest to the most expensive pump:

BellaBaby Double Electric Breast Pump

  • Price: $53.99
  • Among the cheapest of all the electric breast pumps
  • It has a lithium-ion battery that can last up to three hours.
  • Weighs 2.6 lbs
  • Small
  • Sensitive touch panel that you can operate with one finger

 

Medela Swing Single Electric Breast Pump

  • Price: $169.99
  • Weighs 2.5 lbs
  • Powered by four AA batteries, sold separately (around $12 to $15 for four AA batteries and a charger)
  • Small and can fit in a purse

 

Spectra 9 Plus

  • Price: $180
  • Built-in batteries that can last up to 1.5 hours
  • Only weighs 0.5 lbs
  • Small size
  • Ten suction levels
  • It’s the lightest of all portable breast pumps.

 

Baby Buddha

  • Price: $189.99
  • Strong suction up to 320 mmHg
  • Five stimulation levels and nine expression levels
  • It comes with a detachable lanyard.

 

Motif Portable Double Electric

  • $190
  • Weighs 0.6 lbs
  • The built-in batteries can last up to two and a half hours.
  • Ten massage modes and 10 expression modes

 

Spectra S1 Plus

  • Price: $200
  • Built-in batteries that can last up to three hours
  • Weighs 2.42 lbs
  • Strong suction up to 270 mmHg
  • Twelve suction levels
  • Quiet

 

Lansinoh SmartPump 2.0 

  • Price: $219
  • Weighs 4 lbs
  • You can use it with six AA batteries, sold separately (eight AA rechargeable batteries cost around $20).
  • Three pumping styles
  • Eight suction levels
  • Uses a smart app to track pumping sessions automatically.

 

Medela Freestyle Flex Breast Pump

  • Price: $379.99
  • Closed system
  • Weighs 5.09 lbs
  • It has a built-in lithium-ion battery, with up to two hours of battery life.
  • It comes with a lanyard so you can secure your breast pump.

 

Wearable and manual breast pumps are portable. So, you can also choose the best manual breast pump or the best hands-free breast pump from any of the following:

Wearable Breast Pumps

  • Willow Pump
  • Elvie Pump
  • Freemie Liberty

 

Manual Breast Pumps

  • Lansinoh Manual
  • Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump
  • Haakaa Breast Pump

 

However, for this review on portable breast pumps, we focus on the standard portable electric pumps. Then, we’ll review the best manual and wearable breast pumps in separate articles.

Note that though the Medela Pump in Style Advanced ($268) is also a portable breast pump, its weight of 7 lbs makes it among the heaviest of the portable pumps. So, we don’t include it in this list. 

The following are portable breast pumps that you can consider for your lactation needs:

 

BellaBaby Double Electric Breast Pump

Key Features 

  • Price: $53.99
  • Weight: 2.6 lbs
  • Dimensions: 13.8 x 10.5 x 4.2 inches
  • Pump Type: Single and double electric
  • Batteries: The 2200mAh lithium-ion battery can last up to three hours.
  • Pump System: Closed
  • Grade: Hospital
  • Settings: Four modes and nine levels of suction, with massage and letdown modes
  • Display: LCD
  • Pump Strength: Up to 300 mmHg
  • Pump Controls: Digital buttons on the touch panel
  • Noise Level: Noisy
  • Warranty: One year
  • Bag and Cooler: None

 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Among the cheapest of all the electric pumps.
  • Its lithium-ion battery can last up to three hours.
  • Four modes and nine levels of suction, with massage and letdown modes.
  • Sensitive touch panel that you can operate with one finger.
  • It lets you directly express milk to milk storage bags.

 

Cons

  • Some moms complain that the pump is too strong (up to 300 mmHg).
  • But other moms also say it’s a weak pump.
  • It’s a noisy pump.

 

What Customers Say 

Positive Reviews 

Amazing pump, especially when you’re on the go. I took this pump to work and loved it. The only thing I didn’t like is that it makes loud noises; other than that, you must buy it.” – Reviewer on Target.

 

Negative Reviews 

The least suction power I’ve ever used in a breast pump, I was very disappointed. I couldn’t even get more than a few drops out using the highest mode. I wish I kept the box so I could send it back. Waste of money.” – Reviewer on Amazon.

 

Medela Swing Single Electric Breast Pump

Key Features 

  • Price: $169.99
  • Weight: 2.5 lbs
  • Dimensions: 9.63 x 3.43 x 9.76 inches
  • Pump Type: Single electric
  • Batteries: Four AA batteries can last up to two hours; sold separately (around $12 to $15 for four AA batteries and a charger)
  • Pump System: Open
  • Grade: Not hospital grade
  • Settings: 2-Phase Expression Technology with stimulation and expression modes
  • Display: None, just buttons
  • Pump Strength: Up to 250 mmHg
  • Pump Controls: Buttons
  • Noise Level: Quiet
  • Warranty: One year limited on motor, 90 days limited on other parts
  • Bag and Cooler: Drawstring bag

 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Compact and small enough to fit in a purse.
  • It weighs only 2.5 lbs.
  • Quiet
  • Easy-to-use vacuum controls 
  • Batteries can last up to two hours.

 

Cons

  • No battery pack included.
  • It’s a single electric breast pump, so you can only pump one breast at a time.
  • Swing model no 030.0040 was subject to a product recall in September 2018 in Australia for possible risk of electric shock from detachable wall plug breaking into two parts. Products with no markings (white dot) at the back of the charger were replaced by Medela Australia. (1)

 

What Customers Say 

Positive Reviews 

My wife ordered this unit, and she had the big one version with the first kid, and this one has surprisingly the same suction power and almost half size, the only difference is that this one has only one pump, but this is not an issue for she as she likes the kind of portability it offers. Quality is not in the discussion as Medela is maybe the better brand or one of the best brands known for its quality products. Recommended if you don’t bother extracting only one breast at once.”  – Reviewer on Amazon.

 

Negative Reviews 

So the milk sometimes just randomly sucks out into the tube – I loved it when it worked, though. It was super cute and small and convenient, which actually makes me even sadder that I can’t have one! I tried twice – the first broke, I sent it back. I got a replacement, and that one also broke! I had to pay for boxes on both to ship back $5 ish each, so I was out $10 for the inconvenience of believing in the product enough to take another chance on it. It just out of the blue stops working.” – Reviewer on Amazon.

 

Spectra 9 Plus

Key Features 

  • Price: $180
  • Weight: 0.5 lbs
  • Dimensions: 
  • Pump Type: Single and double electric
  • Batteries: The built-in batteries can last up to 1.5 hours.
  • Pump System: Closed
  • Grade: Not hospital grade
  • Settings: Ten suction levels, including letdown and expression modes.
  • Display: LCD
  • Pump Strength: Up to 260 mmHg
  • Pump Controls: Buttons
  • Noise Level: Quiet, but louder than other Spectra pumps
  • Warranty: Two years
  • Bag and Cooler: Sold separately: cooler ($29.99) and tote ($39.99)

 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Small size
  • Ten suction levels and up to 260 mmHg suction strength.
  • The lightest of all breast pumps from Spectra Baby USA and among the lightest of all the electric breast pumps.

 

Cons

  • No adjustment for suction speed, but you can adjust the vacuum levels.
  • Noisier than other Spectra pumps.

 

What Customers Say 

Positive Reviews 

I’m a Spectra fan! I have the 9 Plus and swear by it. This one is great for traveling or those times when you need to pump in the car. Super quiet and effective. Definitely recommend.” – Reviewer on the Spectra Baby USA website.

 

Negative Reviews 

It does not automatically switch from massage to expression after two minutes like the Medela, so you have to pay attention and make the switch. Also, it has more parts which are annoying in assembling as well as washing. Ultimately, it is slightly less powerful than the Medela Pump in Style, but it gets the job done 98% of the time.” Reviewer on Amazon.

 

Baby Buddha Double Electric Breast Pump

Key Features 

  • Price: $189.99
  • Weight: 0.25 lbs
  • Dimensions: 6.9 x 7.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Pump Type: Single and double electric
  • Batteries: Built-in lithium polymer batteries can last up to two hours
  • Pump System: Closed
  • Grade: Hospital grade
  • Settings: 14 different modes and levels: five for letdown and nine for expression
  • Display: LCD
  • Pump Strength: Up to 320 mmHg
  • Pump Controls: Digital buttons
  • Noise Level: Quiet
  • Warranty: Two years
  • Bag and Cooler: Carrying tote

 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Strong suction up to 320 mmHg
  • Five stimulation levels and nine expression levels
  • It comes with a detachable lanyard.
  • At 0.25 lbs, it’s the lightest of all breast pumps.
  • It has a small, compact design, so it’s easy to carry around.
  • Customer service includes a team of licensed Lactation Consultants.

 

Cons

  • Some moms complain that it’s too strong (goes up to 320 mmHg).

 

What Customers Say 

Positive Reviews 

I’m absolutely in love with this pump! Such a small device that packs a big punch! Suction is so strong on it that I’ve never had to use the strongest setting. This pump has definitely helped up my milk production, and I would highly recommend this product to any current breastfeeding mothers and/or future breastfeeding mothers!” Reviewer on Baby Buddha Products website.

 

Negative Reviews 

First, the one long suck that happens after a few short ones is ridiculously painful. It hurt so bad, like a burning pain. I had to move around and really try to embrace the pain to get through it. I’ll certainly not be dealing with that amount of pain only to get less milk than I get with my Medela. I’m really disappointed. If only it allowed you to choose different settings/sucking patterns to avoid that terrible long suck.” – Reviewer on Amazon.

 

Motif Portable Double Electric

Key Features 

  • Price: $190
  • Weight: 0.6 lbs
  • Dimensions: 9.92 x 8.23 x 7.48 inches
  • Pump Type: Single and double electric
  • Batteries: Built-in battery lasts up to 2.5 hours
  • Pump System: Closed
  • Grade: Hospital grade
  • Settings: Ten massage modes and 10 expression modes, with memory
  • Display: LCD with backlight
  • Pump Strength: Up to 250 mmHg
  • Pump Controls: Buttons
  • Noise Level: Quiet
  • Warranty: One year
  • Bag and Cooler: Multi-Pocket Maylilly and Motif backpack

 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Its built-in battery can last up to 2.5 hours.
  • Ten massage modes and 10 expression modes
  • It has an LCD display with a backlight and timer.

 

Cons

  • It’s not as powerful (only 250 mmHg) as other hospital-grade pumps.

 

What Customers Say 

Positive Reviews 

This pump is my favorite. I have a Spectra and Medela, and neither measures up. I love the size, and it was great to bring on a recent trip. I was able to easily pump in the plane restroom and didn’t need to worry about lugging around something large and heavy. The suction is equivalent to the other two as well, and battery life doesn’t disappoint. So happy I found this pump!” – Reviewer on Amazon.

 

Negative Reviews 

I bought this pump as a backup for travel, so I wouldn’t have to carry my Medela Pump in Style. Unfortunately, it is a complete waste of money. Even on the highest setting, there is almost no suction. The massage/letdown feature does nothing, again on the highest setting. Fortunately, I have my other pump to fall back on because if I depended on Motif, I would have surely lost my supply. Spend your money on a real pump. It’s not even all that quiet.” – Reviewer on Amazon.

 

Spectra S1 Plus

Key Features 

  • Price: $200
  • Weight: 2.42 lbs
  • Dimensions:
  • Pump Type: Single and double electric
  • Batteries: Built-in batteries can last up to three hours
  • Pump System: Closed
  • Grade: Hospital grade
  • Settings: Letdown and expression modes, and 12 vacuum suction levels
  • Display: LCD with timer and nightlight
  • Pump Strength: Up to 270 mmHg
  • Pump Controls: Buttons
  • Noise Level: Quiet
  • Warranty: Two years
  • Bag and Cooler: Tote ($39.99) and cooler ($29.99); both are sold separately

 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The built-in batteries can last up to three hours.
  • Quiet but powerful.
  • Strong suction up to 270 mmHg.
  • Twelve suction levels

 

Cons

  • Bulky design

 

What Customers Say 

Positive Reviews 

I love how portable and lightweight the pump is. It’s fairly easy to use once you become familiar with the cycles and suction power settings. It seems to empty my breast as well as the much more expensive Medela Symphony does.” – Reviewer on Aeroflow Breast Pumps.

 

Negative Reviews 

I heard such great reviews about this pump from my co-workers. Unfortunately, I’m a flight attendant, so outlets are non-existent, and discretion is a must. Sadly, the battery doesn’t get me through the day. It’s loud, and the whole thing vibrates. It doesn’t empty my breasts in one sitting, and it doesn’t work with my hands-free bra. The only reason I gave it two stars was because it’s light. But other than that, I’m so disappointed.” – Reviewer on Aeroflow Breast Pumps.

 

Lansinoh SmartPump 2.0 

Key Features 

  • Price: $219
  • Weight: 4 lbs
  • Dimensions: 11 x 9.75 x 7.75 inches
  • Pump Type: Single and double electric
  • Batteries: Six AA batteries, sold separately (eight AA rechargeable batteries plus a charger cost around $30)
  • Pump System: Closed
  • Grade: Hospital grade
  • Settings: Eight suction levels and three different pumping styles
  • Display: LCD
  • Pump Strength: Up to 250 mmHg
  • Pump Controls: Buttons
  • Noise Level: Loud
  • Warranty: One year on motor, 90 days on pump parts
  • Bag and Cooler: Stylish tote bag

 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Three pumping styles
  • Eight suction levels
  • It uses a smart app to track pumping sessions automatically.

 

Cons

  • The tote bag isn’t heavy-duty
  • Loud pump

 

What Customers Say 

Positive Reviews 

I really love this pump. It’s comfortable, different settings, easy to use, easy to clean, and I love the bag where I can store my bottles with the ice pack. The only thing I wish it had was an extra set of clear tubes and was able to charge it instead of having to plug it in while I pump. The batteries don’t last because I use it so much.”  – Reviewer on Aeroflow Breast Pumps.

 

Negative Reviews 

My boobs responded well to this pump, but they only have 25 mm and 30 mm flanges, and the pump valves ripped within a week of using. There are many parts to this pump to clean that I didn’t look at before buying. I just needed a pump fast because my old one wasn’t working the same. I wish there were a way to get another one.” – Reviewer on Aeroflow Breast Pumps.

 

Medela Freestyle Flex Breast Pump

Key Features 

  • Price: $379.99
  • Weight: 5.09 lbs
  • Dimensions: 9.45 x 7.05 x 13.43 inches
  • Pump Type: Single and double electric
  • Batteries: Built-in lithium-ion battery can last up to two hours
  • Pump System: Closed
  • Grade: Hospital grade
  • Settings: 2-Phase Expression Technology that mimics your baby’s natural sucking rhythm
  • Display: Touchscreen LED can also be connected to smart app
  • Pump Strength: Up to 250 mmHg
  • Pump Controls: Touchscreen LED and smart app
  • Noise Level: Quiet
  • Warranty: One year
  • Bag and Cooler: Tote bag and cooler

 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The built-in lithium-ion battery can last up to two hours.
  • It comes with a lanyard so you can secure your breast pump.
  • Uses a smart app for milk collection monitoring.

 

Cons

  • It’s more expensive than standard breast pumps.
  • LED design is prone to bumping and scratching if used on the go.

 

What Customers Say 

Positive Reviews 

Quiet. The compact size is really nice. It works well compared to the original Medela, from what I can tell so far. I love the new membrane parts. Much easier to clean. I use my old flanges, as I can’t get used to the new shapes. Happy with this pump!” – Reviewer on Aeroflow Breast Pumps.

 

Negative Reviews 

I expected more from such an expensive pump that is an “upgrade.” But, unfortunately, battery life is not good. I’ve had it for only five months. At four months, the battery no longer charges past 2/3 bars. It’s portable, but when you try to multitask, there’s no way to carry it that prevents the screen from being bumped. I ended up buying a Spectra out of pocket and prefer that one.” – Reviewer on Aeroflow Breast Pumps.

 

Types Of Breast Pumps

Manual Breast Pumps

  • These pumps are cheap and portable, but you’ll need to use your own strength to express milk.
  • Examples are the Haakaa Breast Pump ($12.94), Lansinoh Manual ($24), and the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump ($32.99).

 

Hospital-Grade Breast Pumps

  • The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved heavy-duty hospital-grade pumps for multiple users. These are designed for heavy use several times a day.
  • Examples are the Medela Symphony Breast Pump ($2,002.49) and the Ameda Platinum ($2,095.00).
  • Insurance policies don’t cover these hospital-grade pumps as a free breast pump through insurance. But you may still get these pumps for rent.
  • Several brands also offer hospital-strength breast pumps for personal use. Examples are the Spectra S2 and the Medela PISA (Medela Pump in Style Advanced).

 

Single Electric Breast Pumps

  • These pumps may be cheaper than double electric pumps, but you’ll need twice the time if you need to pump both breasts.
  • Examples are Nuk Expressive ($67) and Medela Swing ($169.99)

 

Double Electric Breast Pumps

  • Most electric breast pumps can be used both as a single and as a double pump.
  • Some pumps, such as the Philips Avent Comfort ($199.99), can only be used as a double pump.
  • Most of these pumps can be used hands-free, but you’ll have to use a pumping bra to hold the baby bottles in place.

 

Battery-Operated Breast Pumps

  • Battery-operated pumps are portable. But it might be better to pick ones with an alternative power source and can be used while plugged in.
  • For example, the Elvie pump (double: $499.99; single: $279.99) is a wearable, cordless battery-operated pump that you can’t use when plugged in.
  • Many moms complain about only getting a low amount of milk when using these less powerful pumps.

 

Wearable Electric Breast Pumps

  • These breast pumps fit inside a nursing bra and directly pump milk into special collection cups.
  • Often, you can monitor the milk volume using an app. 
  • Examples are Willow Hands-Free Pump Generation 3 ($499.99) and Freemie Mobile Double Electric Breast Pump ($359.99).
  • Some moms complain about wearable pumps having too few flange sizes to choose from.

 

How To Choose Portable Breast Pump

In choosing the best portable breast pump, these are the factors that you might want to consider:

  • Cost. It should be within your budget. Most portable breast pumps aren’t fully covered by insurance because the portability options (such as the built-in batteries) are considered an upgrade.
  • Weight. It should be light enough for you to have no trouble carrying it around.
  • Size. A portable breast pump should also be small enough to fit in your bag or even wear on your body, just like the pumps with lanyards listed above.
  • Rechargeable battery. A built-in battery pack can usually last longer than AA batteries.
  • Suction strength. Some pumps can go as high as 320 mmHg. But remember that stronger suction doesn’t always mean faster or more milk flow.
  • Available pump parts. Spectra pumps are popular but finding pump parts can be a challenge. Most moms recommend Medela because the pump parts are readily available even in retail outlets like Walmart and Target.
  • Wearability. A wearable breast pump can help you establish your milk supply even if you’re constantly on the go. But make sure to use the correct size for the breast shields to avoid leaking while you pump in public.
  • Noise/Sound. A quiet pump is preferred by most moms, even if they will only use it at home. After all, you’d want to avoid waking your baby while you pump. Quiet pumps are especially useful if you need to pump at work or in other public places.
  • Closed system vs. open system. An open system pump can have a stronger vacuum strength and better pumping power, but it can be unhygienic if the milk backflows to the tubings. That’s why many moms prefer the more hygienic closed system.
  • Cleaning. Having so many different items to clean, dry, and re-assemble can be a hassle. But no matter how many parts you’ll need to clean, make sure to check the silicone parts for dried milk because that could become a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria.
  • Ease of Use. The more advanced breast pumps can be complicated. That’s why some moms prefer the simpler pumps because they can be easier to use and clean.
  • Warranty. Most breast pumps only have a warranty of one year for the motor and 60 to 90 days on the pump parts. But some pumps (Evenflo Deluxe Advanced; $130) have a warranty of three years.
  • Bag and cooler. Most pumps can fit in a standard diaper bag. But many come with their own totes and bags for easy transport.

 

Summary & Recommendation 

All these portable breast pumps have their strengths and weaknesses. They also have some features that make them better or worse than the others in certain aspects.

Here’s our summary and recommendations:

Cheapest Portable Breast Pumps

  • BellaBaby ($53.99)
  • Medela Swing ($169.99), but it’s just a single electric breast pump

 

Longest Battery Life

  • BellaBaby (three hours)
  • Spectra S1 Plus (three hours)
  • Motif Portable Double Electric (2.5 hours)

 

Lightest Portable Breast Pump

  • Baby Buddha (0.25 lbs)
  • Spectra 9 Plus (0.5 lbs)
  • Motif Portable Double Electric (0.6 lbs)

 

Strongest Portable Pump

  • Baby Buddha (up to 320 mmHg)
  • BellaBaby Double Electric Breast Pump (up to 300 mmHg)
  • Spectra S1 Plus (up to 270 mmHg)

 

Smart Portable Pumps

  • Lansinoh SmartPump 2.0 uses smart app (4 lbs; $219.00)
  • Medela Freestyle Flex Breast Pump uses a smart app, but it’s the heaviest and most expensive of the portable pumps on our list (5.09 lbs; $379.99)

 

You can choose any of the pumps on our list, depending on what you are looking for. 

 

We recommend BellaBaby Double Electric Breast Pump as the best portable breast pump because:

  • It’s the cheapest ($53.99).
  • It has the longest battery life (up to three hours).
  • It has a hygienic closed system.
  • It’s among the strongest (up to 300 mmHg vacuum strength) pumps.
  • It has adjustable suction levels (four modes and nine levels of suction).
  • It’s small so that it can fit in your bag easily.

 

 

 

REFERENCES

(1) https://www.medela.com.au/breastfeeding/electrical-safety-recall

 

 

 

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