Manual Breast Pumps: Best Friend or Useless Paperweight?


Before I had my first child, I thought electric breast pumps were the only kind available. It wasn’t until I was a few weeks into the newborn fog, with pumping every three hours around the clock, that a friend suggested I get a manual pump. I was told manual pumps make the middle-of-the-night pump a little less involved since I’d have to clean fewer parts. These types of pumps also make less noise that could potentially wake my little baby.

I got my new pump out of the box and thought, “Why on earth would anyone use this?” Then I started using it in the middle of the night and felt like my mind was blown – this pump was amazing! Without having to put on my glasses, I could spend just a few minutes pumping to relieve some pressure in the middle of the night and had fewer parts to clean afterward. I had met my new best friend!

Manual pumps have been around a long time. Though it takes a little more work in the moment, some may notice it takes less time to get the same amount of milk with a manual pump. They are also great to have as a backup in case there’s a sudden problem with your electric pump or you forget a part on your way to work. If you’re engorged, you may use this pump for a little bit of relief. If you work in an environment where you don’t have a lot of time for a break but want to continue your breastfeeding journey, this may be a good idea to use!

Differences Between Manual Breast Pumps

I’ve tried a few manual pumps and want to share some differences. In the category of “manual pumps,” there are also “milk catchers” that are more passive pumps or could be active pumps if put to suction.

Check out my reviews below of a few of these manual pumps and comment if you’ve enjoyed using any of these or any other kind!

Manual Breast Pumps

Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump


  • Universal parts if you use the Medela electric pump system
  • Minimal cleaning needed — the suction device doesn’t come in contact with milk directly
  • Two modes for stimulation and expression with different handles
  • Small and compact if you want to keep it at work or in your bag as a backup


  • The handle for expression mode isn’t very long so it may not be ideal for those who respond better to a long pull
  • Comes with a narrow mouth bottle — it may be difficult to express directly to a wide mouth bottle if you feed with those

This may be for you if you use the Medela electric pump or need a small, compact backup pump when you’re out of the house.

Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump


  • Has a seemingly longer suction for a long pull to express milk
  • Easy to switch between stimulation and expression modes
  • Ergonomically pleasing with a grip for your thumb
  • Uses a wide mouth bottle if you pump directly into bottles to feed


  • Fairly involved cleaning — you need to take apart the suction device as well

This may be for you if you prefer a longer pull in expression mode and use wide-mouth bottles.

Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump


  • Passive collection to use while nursing — to catch let-downs and minimize lost milk
  • Able to use it as an active collection pump with suction
  • Helpful for removing clogged ducts
  • Various sizes available (4oz, 5oz)
  • Fairly inexpensive


  • Can be easily kicked off by the baby while nursing
  • May not remove the majority of milk
  • No expression mode in active suction

This may be for you if you are trying to build a stash of milk and are nursing.

Elvie Curve Silicone Breast Pump


  • A smooth shape easily fits inside a bra to keep it on
  • Can be passive or active


  • Suction is not very strong in active form
  • Somewhat difficult to pour milk since there is no spout
  • Only available in 4oz size
  • Expensive

This may be for you if you are trying to build a stash from nursing, and you would like a discreet pump to be kept in place with your bra.

Have you tried a manual breast pump before? What did you like about it, or what made it difficult to use? Comment below to share your thoughts!

Also, check out our Electric Breast Pump Reviews!

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Residency training brought Tina to Charleston and after securing her full-time dream job as a clinical pharmacist, she couldn’t leave. Tina was born and raised in Punxsutawney, PA and attended the University of Pittsburgh before coming to the Lowcountry in 2014. She also holds several fitness and coaching certificates: Crossfit Level 1, USA Weightlifting Level 1 and Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism, that she used to coach Crossfit locally. She and her husband Andrew call West Ashley home, along with their two bulldogs, Bosworth and Jackson, and their two young children, Reid and Charlotte. Motherhood has reignited her passion for writing in her "free time" - fueled by lots and lots of coffee.