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Breast Pumps Features

Manual Breast Pumps and Powered Breast Pumps.

Breast pumps are separated into two categories by the FDA: manual and powered (or "electric"). There are also two pumping styles, single and double.

Manual breast pumps are the cheapest type of breast pump and are always single pumps, which means a nursing woman pumps from one breast at a time by squeezing or pressing a handle that creates a sucking motion and empties the breast of milk.

Some manual pumps are designed to be used one-handed, but many others require two hands. Manual breast pumps like the Simplisse Manual Breastfeeding Companion (starting at $30) and Medela Harmony (starting at $28) are small, portable, and quiet. On the downside, it takes a relatively long while to empty the breast (sometimes not even completely) and a mom's hands can grow tired from the pumping motion.

Powered breast pumps are either single or double and require minimal effort by the nursing mom because the machine's motor controls the sucking motion. Single powered pumps like the Medela Swing (starting at $110) cost less but only work on one breast at a time; double powered breast pumps, like the Ameda Purely Yours (starting at $158), work double duty but generally cost more. Cheap electric breast pumps are also portable but are bigger and heavier than manual breast pumps; they're louder, as well, regardless whether the motor is powered by a battery or current from an electric outlet. The advantage of electric breast pumps is their speed, especially if you're using a double powered pump. The FDA also notes that many models let a mother adjust the suction and cycle to more closely reproduce the natural nursing pattern of her baby. Although this feature is less common among cheap electric breast pumps, it's a big selling point for the Ameda Purely Yours.

Breast Pumps Breast Shield.

Breast pumps always come with a breast shield, but with most lower-priced models, it's one size fits all. Experts at Breast Pump Comparisons say this may work for some women but those with larger breasts and nipples may experience discomfort and produce less milk. The best insurance is to buy a breast pump that comes with breast shields of different sizes or offers the option of purchasing different sizes separately. Most low-cost breast pumps only come with one breast shield, so extras must be purchased from the manufacturer or vendor; note that most breast pumps only work with the shields made for that brand.

Among the best cheap breast pumps on our list, both the manual Medela Harmony and powered Medela Swing include one breast shield, with additional sizes sold separately. The double powered Ameda Purely Yours comes with one-size breast shield but the pricier Ameda Purely Yours Ultra (starting at $279) features three different sized breast shields (if these don't fit, there are six other sizes you can buy separately). The First Years: Double miPump (starting at $64), another inexpensive double powered breast pump, comes with a flexible-fit breast shield that's supposed to be softer and more yielding, so there's no need to buy different size shields. The Simplisse Manual Breastfeeding Companion does away with a breast shield altogether and instead uses a soft breast cup that conforms to any breast size and moves with the breast during expression for better comfort. We didn't find any information about breast shields sizes in the Evenflo Comfort Select Performance Single (starting at $50), although it comes with four disposable nursing pads.

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