Updated November 2017
- Burp Cloths
- Breast Care Supplies
- Nursing Pads
- Nursing Pillows
- Nursing Covers
- Nursing Bras and Tanks
- Breast Pumps
- Pump Parts
- Pumping Bras
- Milk Storage
The third and most important leg in the holy trinity [ahem]: feeding. Your decision to breastfeed or formula-feed is entirely up to you. It’s an important and personal decision. You can read my two cents here. Take it or leave it.
Politics aside, this is what you’ll need to feed…
Whether you are breastfeeding (BF) or formula-feeding (FF), you need some bottles. Yes, even nursing moms who exclusively breastfeed (EBF) need bottles… unless you want to be tethered to your baby for months on end.
Don’t wait too long to offer a bottle to your breastfed baby, lest you lose your window of opportunity. It can be a disaster situation when a baby definitively refuses to take a bottle (I don’t care what Lactation Consultants (LCs) say, talk to enough parents and pediatricians and you will learn otherwise).
We’re going for practicality, here, people — not fantasy parenting perfection.
A “regular” neck bottle is best for nursing moms who will be pumping (a little or a lot) because you can attach the bottle directly to the breast shield (horn thingy) and pump straight into the bottle. No adapter required.
A “wide” neck bottle, on the other hand, is best suited for formula-feeding, as it’s much easier to pour the powder into a wider area without risking major spillage.
The Best Baby Bottles
There are tons of great bottles out there, so don’t overthink this decision. Even the Medela bottles that come free with your pump work just fine for most. Note that if you’re concerned about plastics in your baby’s diet, opt for a glass bottle. Read More: our glass baby bottle recommendations.
That said, here are some favorites:
Lansinoh mOmma Breastmilk Feeding Bottle ~ $17 (5 oz/3-Pack)
The Lansinoh mOmma Bottle is very highly-rated, and our current top pick for both formula-fed and mainly breastfed babies alike. Supposedly, this bottle helps to reduce nipple confusion (important for babies who are also breastfed) because it mimics the actions infants use when nursing; in addition, the nipple on this bottle is soft, flexible and has a slightly sloped shape, which researchers say is easier for many babies to latch onto and maintain a proper seal.
It’s also a top choice for babies with colic or gas issues (let’s be honest: what baby doesn’t have gas issues??); Lansinoh uses an Air Ventilation System, which works to reduce excess air intake, thereby decreasing the occurrences of spit-up, gas bubbles and colic.
Moms especially love that this bottle is super easy to clean–it’s only three pieces!–tends not to leak, and, at $17 for a pack of three-5 oz bottles, it’s affordable. Woot, woot!
For babies who are EBF’d and have trouble taking a bottle, many moms swear by the Comotomo Natural Feel Baby Bottle. This bottle’s design and feel (it’s skin-like: soft and squeezable) mimics Mom’s breast, making it easier for breastfed babies to take the bottle. The Comotomo also has a special air-vent system to reduce the amount of excess air baby takes in (thus decreasing the occurrence of gas bubbles and colic). Another bonus: bottles are heat resistant, so you can boil ‘em, and put them in the dishwasher (yay!).
Born Free ~ $29
The best, basic baby bottle is the Born Free. This bottle has a simple venting system to prevent colic (read: gas). The wide nipple base on this bottle mimics the shape of a real nipple and makes switching back and forth between the bottle and the breast easier by forcing a wide latch. *A downside: as with any other “wide neck” bottle, you must buy their adapter so you can pump directly into the bottle.
Philips AVENT ~ $49
Another favorite bottle/feeding set is the Philips AVENT. The AVENT also has an anti-colic valve to prevent gas, but without a million different parts to clean.
The infant feeding set comes with all sorts of niceties: a bottle brush, a formula dispenser, a passy, and a trainer cup. A little something for everyone.
Playtex Drop-In Nursers ~ $26
This bottle combines a disposable inner liner with an outer bottle plastic shell. Since FF’ers go through several bottles a day (and thus, must CLEAN several bottles a day), they enjoy the fact that the drop-in (ahem: bottle condom) can be thrown away each time. Not the most eco-friendly choice buuuuut, whatevs. Another pro to this bottle is that you can squeeze the air completely out of the liner to prevent a burp-fest.
Nursing moms love that you can pump, store, and feed all from the same liner – without having to transfer the milk – by using the pump adapter that comes with the breast milk storage kit. This is the bottle for you if you’re not sure if you want to FF or BF and especially if you are FF’ing and don’t have a dishwasher.
When traveling with baby, we recommend these bottles and a nipple caddy. The liners keep your bottle sterile and the nipple caddy does the same for your nipples. With the caddy, you can reduce the number of bottles you bring with you.
Playtex VentAire ~ $22 for gift set – Honorable Mention
The VentAire is similar to the Playtex Drop-In Nursers, except you don’t need to use the drop-in liners (huge bonus!). The VentAire has a small disc at the bottom of the bottle that supposedly helps decrease air bubbles (so baby consumes less excess air, which helps reduce painful gas bubbles and colic), and it’s angled shape helps keep baby more upright during feedings, which may help reduce the occurrence of spit-up as well as ear infections. Many breastfeeding moms note that, when offered a bottle of breastmilk or formula, their babies like this bottle better than others.
These are all BPA-free, but you can get the Born Free, Philips Avent, Evenflo, Lifefactory and the Dr. Brown’s in glass if you want to go old school style. Just don’t drop it, butterfingers. Also note that glass bottles are harder to pump into simply because of the weight.
- Bottles usually come in two different sizes: 4 (or 5) oz and 8 (or 10) oz. The smaller ones are for newborns (0-2 months). Get several of both sizes.
- Bottles are a bit like pacifiers: you may have to try a couple of different ones until you find one that works well for your baby.
For your bottles, that is…
Each brand of bottle has several nipples to choose from. The nipple controls how fast the milk flows from the bottle.
For a newborn, start with a Stage 1 or a slow flow nipple (months 0-3). The higher the number, the faster the flow. From there, you’ll graduate to a Stage 2 (around 3 months), then Stage 3.
Along with bottles, you’ll need a bottle brush. I dig the OXO Tot Bottle Brush and the Dr. Brown’s because they stand on their own next to the sink. You can use regular dish soap to wash your bottles and nipples or you can put them in the dishwasher.
If you are formula-feeding or plan on bottle-feeding frequently, you may want to purchase a bottle drying rack. Any rack will do, but parents love the Grass Drying “Rack” from Boon [below].
Another item you’ve probably heard a lot about is a bottle warmer. Yes, it’s true that babies prefer warm milk to cold. In fact, my babies wouldn’t drink milk if it wasn’t warm, but be aware that many bottle warmers are notorious for not warming the bottle enough. If you plan on buying one, I suggest either the Dr. Brown’s Bottle Warmer or the Kiinde bottle warmer. If you know you’re going to be on-the-go a lot, and aren’t sure how to warm your bottles when you’re out, the Tommee Tippee Travel Bottle and Food Warmer is a good choice. Again, if you plan on bottle-feeding frequently, this may be a worthwhile investment. If not, you can always just warm the bottle the old-fashioned way in hot water from the stove or microwave.
Finally, if you are formula-feeding full-time (or nearly full-time), I would highly recommend a formula mixer/heater of some sort.
Yes, you can mix and heat bottles the old-fashioned way, but friends who have purchased formula mixers joke that it changed their lives. The Baby Brezza Formula Pro is the one I recommend; just be sure to CAREFULLY follow the setup instructions, else you could be accidentally watering down his/her bottles.
A cheaper, low-tech option, which requires manual mixing is the beloved Dr. Brown’s Formula Mixing Pitcher. This requires about a minute of manual pumping, but produces a whole pitcher full of formula that can be used for up to 24 hours from the time it was mixed. Many parents (especially parents of multiples) swear by it.
What about bottle sterilizers? Just say no, don’t waste your money. You don’t need to sterilize bottles and stuff, unless you live in a 3rd world country — or have a preemie or a special needs baby and have been specifically told to sterilize your baby’s bottles.
Some babies are major spitters, meaning they spit up ALL THE TIME and EVERYWHERE. In fact, if you look at any random photo of my girls in the 1st year of their lives, chances are they were spitting up while the picture was taken (left). They both spit up heavily for a solid 9 or 10 months, so don’t be alarmed by the daily sprayings you may endure.
I kid you not: I had one babysitter quit because she could not handle the amount of spit up from Alice (I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried).
As long as they aren’t in pain from GER, they are what doctors call “happy spitters” — and there’s not a lot you can (or should) do about it (no, baby Zantac will not fix the spit up itself, you’ll just have to deal with it).
In any case, you’ll want at least some absorbent burp cloths and if you have a serious spitter on your hands, some spit up bibs or cute bandana bibs to prevent them from soaking their clothes (and yours!) after every feeding. Old school pre-fold diapers (from Gerber) work really well for putting over your shoulder after a feeding.
I recommend you have formula on hand regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or not (just don’t open the formula unless you’re ready to use it because it starts the expiration clock ticking). What if you get hit by a bus? Or you have to take Rx meds? I’ve had two good friends who were urgently readmitted to the hospital for high blood pressure right after coming home with baby. It happens all the time.
If you never use it, then so be it. The “lactivists” hate it when I say this, but whatever. My allegiance is to you and to your sanity, not to a political agenda.
What is formula anyway? Most formulas contain purified cow’s milk whey and casein as a protein source, a blend of vegetable oils as a fat source, lactose as a carbohydrate source, a vitamin-mineral mix, and other ingredients, depending on the manufacturer. *The cow’s milk proteins are broken down, so it’s not the same as feeding your baby cow’s milk.
When I asked 5,000 women what was their favorite formula… there was very little consensus. A good bet is to ask your pediatrician who understands your baby’s specific needs, if any. That said, here are a few that cropped up most frequently on the “favorite” list…
- Similac Advance
- Enfamil Gentlease
- Gerber Soothe
- Earth’s Best Organic
- Alimentum (for sensitive babies)
- Enfamil Nutramigen (for reflux/cow’s milk intolerance)
There are three different types of formula: powder, liquid concentrate and ready-to-feed. Depending on your needs (and how much money you want to spend), you can determine which type is right for you and your little one.
Remember, you may have to try a few different brands until you find the one that’s right for your baby.
I’m a huge fan of breastfeeding. If you’re able to do it, I truly think it’s the easiest, cheapest and best way to feed your baby. I breastfed both my babies for almost two years each.
I talk a lot about how difficult breastfeeding is in the beginning, so I made a small collection of items (below) that I recommend you have on hand to prepare for the travails of nursing. You can usually purchase all of these things directly from your LC, but you will probably pay double (not that you give a flying F at that point about what things cost).
The Breast Care Kit
Your nipples can take a lot of abuse in those early days of learning how to latch properly. Think of the abuse your clutch took when you were learning how to drive a stick shift for the first time… same thing for your nipples.
There are four things we recommend to apply directly to your nipples:
- Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple butter: this is an olive oil-based cream that is much less viscous than a lanolin-based cream. Applying thick, honey-like lanolin to sore nipples can, in and of itself, be painful. Use this instead.
- Mother Love Nipple Cream: This literally goes on like butter. It is so soothing to your sore, cracked, bleeding nipples. Best of all, it’s completely safe for baby so you don’t have to rub it off before baby — ouch! — latches again.
- Neosporin: If there are open sores on your nipples, you can apply Neosporin to help them heal quickly. My lactation consultant said you can use a little bit without having to wash it off before nursing (why does it matter? Because washing your nipples hurts). If that freaks you out, consult your pediatrician. It works well, trust me!
- Lansinoh Soothies: Soothies are cool, silicone pads that pamper sore (cracked, bleeding, oozing) nipples. The $10/pair price tag becomes a complete non-issue if you end up with latching difficulty and thus, a lot of pain. I suggest having one pair on hand to start; you can buy more if needed. Each pair lasts for several days.
If your nipples become damaged, use breast shells to prevent them from touching… anything, including your own bra. Ah, oooh, ouch ouch ouch. So painful.
Finally, if you baby has trouble latching or if your nipples are flat or inverted, you may benefit greatly from a nipple shield (don’t use long-term; consult a lactation consultant for more information). Many moms say this nipple shield was the secret bullet that allowed them to nurse successfully.
For pumping, a lanolin-based nipple cream is perfect for smearing around the inside of the breast shield (see below). Like pistons in your car’s engine, your nipples also need to be lubricated while pumping or else they can become badly chafed. Think of this as Valvoline for your nipples. I don’t recommend using it directly on your nipples if they are damaged – this stuff is super viscous and may hurt just to apply it.
You will almost certainly experience engorgement and/or blocked ducts at some point in your nursing career. Trying to balance a bag of frozen peas on your sore breast will only get you so far.
A few options:
- I love these ice/heating packs by Philips Avent that are circular shaped for your breast.
- This 6-pack of round hot and cold packs are made of gel beads, which you can heat or freeze, and have a soft, fabric backing so they are comfortable to use directly against your skin. Reviewers love these, saying they mold perfectly to the shape of the breast (or whatever body part you want to use them for).
- You can also use cabbage leaves, which fit very nicely into your bra. Keep them in your fridge and pull one out when you need it. (note: overuse of cabbage leaves can decrease milk supply.)
- Yet another alternative is wetting and freezing a diaper (a disposable diaper). This makes for a perfect booby ice pack.
- You can also try Rachel’s Remedy Breastfeeding Relief Packs ($29.99), they are the only FDA-cleared moist heat and cooling packs (yes–they can go in microwave or freezer) made just for nursing moms. Slip these directly into your bra for instant relief for everything from mastitis, to clogged ducts, to engorgement to nipple pain. Melissa used these with great success when she was suffering from severe nipple pain, engorgement and clogged ducts while nursing her baby girl.
Drip, drip, drip.
Your breasts will leak milk when you aren’t nursing, especially in the beginning – and especially during your let-down (the point when your milk starts coming out).
If you don’t wear breast pads, you will get embarrassing milk circles on your bra/shirt, which is suuuuuper sexy, but no. Some people leak for almost a year (me – ha!) and others stop leaking after a few months. You will be buying breast pads as often (perhaps) as you buy diapers, so stock up!
A couple of annoying downsides for both of these disposables are
1) they come individually wrapped in plastic, so you have to unwrap, peel the sticky tabs off, blah blah. This requires two hands. It’s kind of a pain.
2) they aren’t totally smooth, so you may have that I-stuffed-my-bra-with-Kleenex look. Oh well, you’re nursing. Looking smooth may not be at the top of the priority list.
I’ve tried a couple of other solutions, none of which I liked. Lilypadz ($19) are silicone cups that fit tight against your skin. It makes your nipples look like bugs on a windshield. These are washable and reusable and are supposed to last for weeks. However, I found them to be itchy and suffocating and they did NOT last very long for me – maybe 10 days or so. Meh. They are good, however, for special occasions when you need to wear a tight-fitting or tailored shirt or dress. Fine.
You can also buy reusable nursing pads. If you don’t mind the hassle of washing them, these will save you money (and landfill space) over the long-run. *I definitely do not recommend these for beginners or anyone whose nipples might be sore or damaged, as they will stick to wounds on your nipples and just make the situation even worse. A favorite is the Bamboobies Nursing Pad set (below).
If you have a low supply and need to preserve as much milk as possible, try the Milkies Milk-Saver pads. You can contain the milk that you leak and reuse it. Brilliant! I know a lot of moms who use these milk-saver pads religiously.
In my experience, newbie nursing moms will benefit greatly from a nursing pillow. A newborn can conceivably spend four hours a day on the boob (pardon?), so it behooves you to get comfy.
Nursing pillows are designed to be used while mom is sitting upright. An alternative approach is “laid back nursing,” which many feel is a more natural position. If you find that laid back nursing is more comfortable, these pillows won’t be of much use.
Pro tip: Having more than one nursing pillow is very convenient, especially if you have a two-story house. You don’t want to run upstairs to get your darn pillow every time you want to nurse (and believe me, you won’t want to nurse without it).
There are five pillows that mommies love (in order of price) ~
Dr. Brown’s Gia ~ $29 – Economy Pick
This crescent-shaped pillow is a lesser-known favorite. First, the thick to thin angle keeps baby a bit reclined, which aids in digestion. Second, there is no fumbling with straps since you don’t clip it around your back (this is also good for C-section moms). Third, the cover is super easy to get on and off for washing.
This is also (perhaps) the only pillow of the group that will work for laid back nursing.
The Boppy Original ~ $29
It’s easier to get on (and off) than the My Brest Friend (below), but it may not feel as sturdy.
The Boppy is a multi-use pillow; your baby can hang out in it on the floor or on your bed (not for sleeping!). Baby can also use it for tummy time. Heck, I even used mine as a sleeping pillow.
In my experience, the Brest Friend (next on the list) is wonderful during the early days when your baby has no head control, while the Boppy is better around 2-4 months because it’s less of a hassle to get on and off. After about 4 months or so, your baby is big enough to nurse without a pillow.
There’s also a newer Boppy that has two sides: a soft side (like the Original Boppy) and a firmer side (shockingly similar to the My Brest Friend). Also like the My Brest Friend, it wraps around you and clips in place. Some think this pillow is the best of both worlds; others find it too big and complicated. *Not recommended for short-waisted or petite women ~$45 on Amazon.
My Brest Friend ~ $45
Because of this, the setup is a little more tedious because you need both hands. On the plus side, the security is wonderful — and you don’t feel like baby is going to slip between you and the pillow.
Because it’s tightish around your middle, the My Brest Friend is not ideal for C-section moms (not until you heal, at least).
Some people find it hard to hold the baby and wrap this thing around you at the same time. I agree, but I still think it’s a great tool. It also makes a very fashionable skirt or tutu to wear to the door when the UPS man is delivering your diapers (if you don’t have any idea what that means right now… you will!!!).
They also make one especially for twins. My lord, you could land an F-16 on this thing!!
One Z Nursing Pillow ~ $59
The new hot nursing pillow on the scene is the One Z.
The singleton version of their popular Twin Z pillow, this one is GIANT (about the size of a dog bed), but soooo very comfortable. If you get this one, I recommend you keep it where you nurse most frequently because you won’t want to be carrying it from room to room. You can also use it as a baby lounger (again, not for sleeping).
Luna Lullaby ~ $59
While most pillows are ‘U’ shaped, this one is an ‘L.’ A few advantages to this: 1) It’s not tight around a sore postpartum or C-section belly. 2) This pillow is longer than most, so it won’t be outgrown as quickly. And 3) It looks fine on your couch and doesn’t scream “nursing pillow!!” Many moms even report sleeping with it.
Because there’s no clip in the back, it’s not as secure or tight-fitting as the Brest Friend or the new Boppy; people either like this about the Luna Lullaby pillow or they don’t. *This pillow is also highly recommended for nursing twins.
If you are nursing and ever hope to leave your house (with your baby, that is), you’ll probably want a nursing cover. Sure, the brave ones (and second time moms, LOL) are just fine nursing without one, but most first-timers find it comforting to cover up in public. Keep your cover in your diaper bag and it will always be there when you need it.
One thing that moms (and babies) always complain about is that it can get VERY hot under there – like a mini-inferno. If you live in a warm climate or are expecting a baby in the spring or summer, opt for a thinner, more breathable nursing cover.
A favorite is the Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover, which comes in many different colors/patterns. The Jennifer Jane Nursing Cover is also a good one: it offers great coverage and is comfortable. It even comes with a stow bag.
At a higher price point, the Dria Nursing Cover/Pouch works well for larger-breasted and plus sized mamas (it goes over your head like a poncho for full coverage).
If you will be an at-work pumper, a nursing cover might come in handy there as well. I can’t tell you how many moms I know that have pumped at work when someone inadvertently burst through the door to ask about the status of the TPS report (most office doors don’t lock, apparently!). You wanna see a man back-pedal like Scooby Doo? Yeah. Have him walk in while you’re pumping. Hilarious, I tell you.
Honestly, this is a must-have for nursing moms. Don’t leave home without it!
“Do I really need a nursing bra?” Um, yes. Most definitely. And you know your boobs are going to get MUCH bigger after you start lactating, right? I mean… really big. PORN STAR big.
Don’t worry, they will settle down a bit after your milk production levels out, usually around 6 weeks or so.
It’s best to be fitted for a nursing bra by a professional in a store, but once you know your size, here are some faves you can scoop up online. Please see our Nursing Bra Guide & Complete Guide to Nursing Wear. There’s much detail to discuss.
The highest-rated, all-around bra for nursing moms is the Bravado! Silk Seamless. I love this bra, it lasts forever.
Updated August 2017
Okay, gals, we need to talk about breast pumps.
If you are planning on BF’ing, you will most definitely need a pump – even if it’s just a manual one. Yes, even if you are exclusively breastfeeding – and you won’t allow a single foul bottle near your precious baby’s mouth (*rolls eyes*), you still need a pump. How else will you relieve engorgement or stimulate a weak supply?
*Starting in 2013, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) requires health insurance providers to cover pumps, lactation consulting, and other related equipment at no cost: get the lowdown here. Every plan is different, so you need to call your insurance company to find out what your options are. It’s best to make this phone call earlier rather than later – sometime in the second or third trimester.
So, here are your options, mummy mumskins:
1. Rent a hospital-grade pump
This no-frills, double-electric behemoth of a commercial-grade pump is designed to be used by multiple users, so you will have to buy your own collection kit. This pump will most likely be a Medela Symphony, Lactina or Ameda Elite. (Medela no longer makes the Lactina, but it is still available at some hospitals.)
These pumps are available to rent either from hospitals or other third-party retailers, including stores like Babies ‘R’ Us. You can check for rental sites near you at Ameda’s website and Medela’s website.
If you are given the option of renting a hospital-grade pump (vs. buying a “regular” pump), there are a few things to keep in mind…
First, hospital-grade pumps are hands-down more powerful than “at-home” pumps, and are better/more efficient at pumping milk, which in turn means they’ll do the best job of stimulating your supply. Thus, renting a pump is a great option for moms with specific needs, such as moms of preemies (or sick babies in the NICU), moms of multiples, or those who have a weak supply. Many back-to-work moms also opt for these power-houses to help them maximize their stash. See also: pumping milk in the NICU.
The big downside is, unlike some of the higher-end “at-home” pumps (below), commercial-grade pumps are HUGE, heavy and can be very intrusive and loud (though the newer ones are surprisingly quiet); for comparison, if at-home pumps are crop dusters, commercial-grade pumps are fighter jets.
If you’re paying out-of-pocket (you’ve only been offered an Ameda Purely Yours and it isn’t getting the job done, for example)… renting a breast pump can be pretty costly. Although rates vary across locations, the average price is at least $50/month. For example, CHOP – one of the foremost hospitals in the country – has monthly rates ranging from $40-65/month, or $100-$175/3 months. At Babies’R’Us, it’s $75/month or $180/3 months to rent a Medela Symphony. Plus you need to spend $50 on some of your own parts (bottles, shields, etc.) Obviously, the longer you need it, the more it will cost.
More likely, if you plan on breastfeeding and know it, it’s worth it to just get your own double-electric pump through your insurance company, if this is an option for you. This brings us to option two:
2. Get an electric pump through your insurance company
Here are our favorite electric pumps, in roughly our “favorite” order. Although these exact pumps may not be available through your insurance company’s DME (durable medical equipment provider), they usually offer a watered-down version of one of these (i.e., it’s the same pump housing, but doesn’t come with a bag). Often, you can opt to cover the difference between the watered-down version and the more deluxe version, if you want to. This is usually worth it, especially if you are a working mom. Again, get the skinny on this here.
Spectra S1 ($159) and S2 ($116) ~ ECONOMY PICK
Newer on the scene is the Spectra (the S1 and S2). We’ve watched this brand closely and have been very impressed. Dethroning the Medela was no easy feat, and Spectra is continuing to convert many former loyal Medela devotees.
The S2 (pink, below) is a double/single pump and the S1 (blue, at bottom) is the same, but it comes with a built-in rechargeable battery. Other than color, this battery feature is the ONLY difference between the S1 and the S2; there is a car adapter for the S2 that is available for purchase separately.
The S1 and S2 are designed as hospital-strength pumps, but for everyday, at-home use.
Let’s talk about the system first – shared by all of the Spectra pumps. It’s a lightweight, “closed system” (meaning that no milk can backflow into the tubing or housing) that’s easy to take apart and clean. Moms rave about the nightlight and timer function and the fact that it’s super quiet (a huge perk for middle-of-the-night pumping).
The Spectra offers customizable settings and adjustable cycles, which is important because not all breasts (or pain/discomfort tolerances) are created equal.
One of the best things about the S1 and S2 is that they simulate a nursing baby, which aids in “let-down” and speeds up the whole pumping process… some women even believe it has helped increase their supply.
The S1 and S2 are known for gentle, comfortable and pain free pumping (i.e., comfortable flanges) — and we all love that!
The downside to the Spectra is that the accessories and bottles it comes with are not the greatest. The system comes with two sets of 2 flanges, but users typically need to buy more of their own parts, and neither model comes with a bag/tote. Lastly, the S1 and S2 are not compatible with normal, non-wide neck bottles or Medela bottles, however, there’s the option to purchase adapters for use with Medela parts.
All in all, this pump has everything most pumping moms need and the price is right. Thus, if you are paying out-of-pocket… the Spectra S1 and S2 are our economy picks.
Medela Sonata ~ $299
Marketed as the Cadillac of breast pumps, this pump is fancy and promising. Note that most insurance companies do not offer this pump on the menu of choices, but some do! See also our full Medela Sonata Review. The Sonata, modeled after the hospital-grade Medela Symphony, is a new-release favorite of ours. It has the capability to track milk production (and lots of other stats) with a Smartphone app, and has nice back-lighting, which is super handy for our tired mommy-brains and for middle-of-the-night/half-awake pumping sessions. Like the Spectra, it has an awesome timer feature and a rechargeable battery that lasts for about an hour (3-4 pumping sessions).
The Sonata is very quiet and super comfortable. Moms also love the Sonata for its super-effective milk extraction.
That said, the Spectra S1 is very comparable to the Sonata in almost every regard except for the “smart” capabilities and the professional bag. Thus, if you’re paying out-of-pocket, you might consider spending a little less for the Spectra S1 (which also has a longer battery life), which lists for $159 (vs. $299). It’s about a $140 difference.
It’s a great pick for those who can afford it! Otherwise, may we direct you to…
Medela Pump In Style Advanced (a.k.a. PISA) ~ $207
Again, Medela owned the double electric pump space for years, and until recently, the competition hadn’t even come close to matching Medela’s performance. Needless to say, it’s still a reliable choice, though may look a little dated next to some of the newer pumps.
Designed to look like a briefcase, the Medela Pump In Style is the original back-to-work pump. The “PISA” is a tried and true workhorse with a two-stage expression system that can also run on a battery.
The PISA is a “single-user product” (per the warranty), though many moms have passed this pump down to others in their clan with zero problems (self included). My first PISA was handed down from my sister who had used it with her two children. I got my second one when Alice was born and passed it along to a friend. Yes, I’ve logged many miles (gallons?) on my Medelas! Note: I did that because I was broke and couldn’t afford a new pump. Pumps do lose their power and suction over time, so it’s best to get a new one if you can. My point is: these pumps are built to last.
The downside to single-user Medela pumps is that they are “open systems,” and could, in theory, grow mold in the tubing if not cleaned properly. Nearly all the other pumps on the market are closed systems, which is preferable (but not a deal-breaker, IMO).
Also comes in a backpack version for around $200.
*If you are getting a free pump from your insurance company, they will probably offer you a watered down version of this pump (i.e., without the bag or the battery-power capability – just the “pump in style”).
Hygeia EnJoye Cordless ~ $279
Probably the biggest perk of this pump is the fact that it’s cordless and holds a good, long charge. It’s perfect for moms who tend to pump in places where an outlet is not always available (cars, airports, work events, supply closets (snort), etc).
There are a couple of cool things about Hygeia pumps that set them apart: one is that they are closed systems, which means milk cannot get into the tubing or pump housing, thus decreasing the chances of mold growth (that said, there are lots of complaints of milk somehow getting into the tubes — how? Beats me!). It also allows the pump to be officially blessed to be used by more than one person. Furthermore, you can send your pump back to Hygeia to be recycled when you are done using it.
The Enjoye also offers adjustable settings for speed and suction strength, which could mean less time at the pump. Some complain about the flange sizes offered, but note that this pump is compatible with Medela parts. ** Folks, if the flanges you have aren’t the right size, you must get ones that are (and it’s really cheap and easy to do so) — otherwise, the pump will not work! Like, at all.
Hygeia seemed to have had a higher rate of complaints in the past couple of years (for durability and whatnot), but it seems to be better now. Many say it’s too loud and wobbly (rounded bottom, whose genius idea was that?).
Ardo Calypso Double Plus ~ $199
We had to check out the lesser-known Ardo Calypso, since Ardo helps sponsor one of our favorite breastfeeding resources, kellymom.com. It’s not huge in the U.S. (it’s a Swiss manufacturer), and none of us has used it personally (sorry!) but it seems to be a reliable option.
The Ardo is a closed system pump that is WHO Code compliant (meaning it aims to protect BF’ing mamas from aggressive or sketchy marketing claims). The Calypso comes with a great warrantee – one year or 400 hundred hours – and users absolutely rave about Ardo’s customer service, which seems to be a weak point with other manufacturers. If any issues arise with your pump, they simply send you a new one. No questions asked. Better yet: Ardo’s website helps make it easy for you to get a breast pump through your insurance – simply fill out a form, they do some homework, and then get back in touch with you.
The Calypso is very quiet (users describe it’s sound as a soft hum), and you can actually listen to it online (!!) here. Women love it for its comfort – almost everyone specifically says it is more comfortable and gentle than the Pump in Style. Although, lots of reviewers noted that the suction wasn’t quite as strong as Medela, so that might be a trade-off. Another trade-off is that while the Calypso boasts 64 settings, it doesn’t have the 2-phase technology that comes with Medela pumps; this isn’t a deal-breaker, it just means that it might take a little more trial-and-error to customize your own settings to achieve an efficient letdown. One more bonus: it can run on AA batteries (power outage, anyone?), which makes it very portable, and it doesn’t require any extra fancy charging equipment.
The Freemie is a unique pump that gives you the ability to pump somewhat discreetly while doing other tasks, such as driving, working or holding your baby. (If you’re like, “Driving!?!? Who would ever pump while driving??”… Just wait!!! Hahahahaha – No seriously.)
The quiet pump motor also helps with discretion. Said one mom: “I could actually pump in the living room visiting family as opposed to having to hide for 30 minutes getting bored out of my mind.”
Hands-free pumping with other pumps is a complicated, gear-intensive affair that involves wearing a special pumping bra, then attaching the shields to the bra, all while looking like something out of an Austin Powers movie. It is NOT something you could do discreetly, much less while holding a baby.
Note that the Freemie collection cups, while subtler than others, will still give you large, Madonna-like boobs while you’re using them, but it’s still 10x more discreet than the alternative.
Another fabulous feature of the Freemie is that all of the bits and pieces are much easier to clean than with the traditional setup. Although, please note they are not dishwasher safe (yes, that’s a common complaint).
The downside of this pump is that it doesn’t quite have the power other pumps have, such as the PISA or the Spectra. While many users report the suction power is sufficient, others complain it takes much longer to pump and may even diminish your supply. Another common complaint is that if you aren’t sitting perfectly straight, the milk will leak back into the tubes. Just some things to consider.
Pro tip: If you already own a stronger pump that you enjoy using, you could simply purchase the Freemie Collection Cups to get the same hands-free, discreet pumping experience. The collection cups can be bought separately for about $60, and you can check if your pump is compatible with the Freemie Cups here.
Note that this pump doesn’t come with a car adapter, but many have reported success using the Energizer 120Watt Inverter 12V DC cigarette lighter to 120V AC (are we scrappy or what?).
Bottom line: Many moms are happy with the Freemie, while others wish it were stronger and had an adjustment for power (not just speed). If discretion while pumping is of the utmost importance, give it a whirl. Most moms seem to rave more about the “idea of the system,” and the cups themselves, rather than the actual Freemie Pump, so remember: you can just buy the collection cups to use with a stronger pump for the best of both worlds!
Remember, the most important quality of a pump is to have enough suction and power to pump enough milk out such that it preserves (or even stimulates) your supply. A more powerful pump will also make for a faster pumping session. If you are pumping heavily, the time savings multiplies quickly.
The pumps mentioned here are in the 2nd tier of power and are generally more affordable. They aren’t our favorites, but seem to be sufficient for casual pumpers. The Medela Freestyle falls into this category too, as the suction just isn’t as powerful as in the PISA (for whatever reason).
- Ameda Purely Yours The Ameda Purely Yours is one of the more widely provided breast pumps from insurers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold a candle to the other options on the market: reviewers are pretty down on this pump. The first review on Ameda’s website is titled “Insurance Companies Should Be Ashamed to offer This.”Yikes.On the plus side, the Purely Yours is small, can run on batteries (and is therefore portable and easy for travel), comes with bottles and bags, and also runs on a closed system. Some women like the Purely Yours just fine, and think it gets the job done. It seems to get more positive ratings from women who just need a pump for occasional, at-home use.For moms who need a full-time, high-quality pump, the Purely Yours is typically a disappointment.The biggest complaint with the Purely Yours is the lack of power (suction), to the point of possibly impacting one’s milk supply; lots of moms said that when they starting using the pump exclusively, they quickly noticed a decrease in their supply. This is obviously a major problem. The Purely Yours is also one of the least comfortable options available (sometimes even causing women pain), and runs on the louder side. I guess you get what you pay for (free), lol.A couple people noted that the suction issue, at least, can be avoided by replacing the valves regularly. Others explain that Ameda’s customer service was very helpful, sometimes even overnighting them a new pump if something malfunctioned. Actually… this seems to be a theme across companies: most of them seem to have pretty stellar customer service. **TIP: If you are having any trouble with your pump, or something breaks, don’t immediately give up on it – call the company. Most of breast pump manufacturers get great marks for customer service and will do everything they can to help you out.
Medela Swing ~ $120
The Medela Swing is simple and elegant single electric pump. This guy is about the size of the Freestyle (yay), but only pumps one breast at a time (boo). Be advised that if you pump frequently, each pumping session will take double the time. It comes with an AC adapter and the option to use batteries (they need to be purchased separately).
Most women appear to prefer the PISA (because it’s a double and all), but for some, this one does the trick. Marketed as an “occasional use” pump, the Swing is good for infrequent pumpers who want something inexpensive, small, and portable; this pump is awesome for travel!
Pumps that are “Coming Soon”
Inspired by the lag between breast pumps and 21st century technology, some new companies are coming out with totally fresh designs – not all of them have even been released yet, so we’re going to be keeping an eye out for these products in the upcoming months! (Here’s a cool article explaining the origins of these new products.)
- Willow – The Willow looks like it will be a more promising, modern version of the Freemie. This pump is designed to work beneath your regular bra (whaaaat? Yeah that’s right!), and it pumps straight into bags – quietly and easily. Plus, the parts are all dishwasher safe. We’re excited about it.
- Babyation – The Babyation is marketed as a super-quiet, super-discreet pump. Instead of attaching collection bottles to your breasts, this pump allows for easy use under a shirt because the collection bottles are distanced from your breasts. Sounds pretty great.
- Naya – The Naya Smart Pump is the first pump that uses water technology, rather than air, as its driving force. Designed by a pumping mom who was frustrated by the pump options available, it’s supposed to be hospital-grade, quiet, and comfortable (though it may sound like you’re hitting a bong…) – the Naya runs on the premise that it is helping “release” milk rather than “extract” it. Major downside: it’s one thousand dollars. Yes, US dollars. Yikes.
3. Manual Pumps (or Hand Pumps)
In addition to an electric pump (or, for infrequent pumpers, in lieu of an electric pump), I highly recommend a simple hand pump that you can throw in your bag when you’re leaving the house for a long period of time.
Here’s the scenario: you’re going to visit a friend for the day who lives an hour away. Your baby isn’t as hungry as usual and your breasts are getting really full. Uncomfortably so.
This is the situation I (as well as five of my mommy friends) experienced on a day trip to Napa when our babes were about 5-months-old. I was DYING and had forgotten my hand pump. It felt like someone had poured concrete on my right breast and allowed it to dry. That’s what it feels like to be engorged.
A manual pump is also a must-have for airplane travel. Trust me, you do not want your giant Pump In Style cement-block-of-a-bag to be your sole carry-on item. You will have lots of other sh*t that you have to carry. And if you need to pump while flying, for example… it’s all good.
I have actually used my hand pump while on a car trip — because you (obviously) can’t breastfeed while the car is moving. So, just pump in the back seat and bottle-feed! This makes men-who-hate-to-stop very happy.
Honestly, after four years of pumping, I will tell you that you can indeed get a very strong suction from a handpump, and a nice long pull.
I prefer the Lansinoh Manual Pump because the shields are very comfortable, but any of them will do.
Pump Parts & Pieces
Admittedly, there are a lot of bits and pieces that go along with a pump. If you’re buying a new pump, all of these accessories should come with it.
You may need to buy more shields (see below) to get you through the day, especially if you are Pumping At Work. If you are borrowing or inheriting a second-hand pump, you may want to buy new tubing and breast shields, or just sterilize the ones you inherited. It’s fine. Really.
Here’s what’s what:
The breast shield (above) goes over your nipple and funnels your milk into a bottle (or storage bag). It looks like a megaphone or a horn (it’s more fun to call it a horn, non?).
Your nipple goes into the horn and the flange creates a tight seal on your breast. You’ll want to have MANY of these on hand so you don’t have to run to the kitchen and wash them each time you need to pump again. OH — and, they come in five different sizes. It’s okay for them to be a little too big, but if they are too small, you will squeeze the bejesus out of your poor nipples. This can cause damage and pain, which you do. not. want.
The default size is Medium (24 mm). This works fine for normal-sized nipples (and dainty English nipples). If you have big Italian pepperoni nipples, you need to get the larger horns (they come in 30 and 36 mm). If you’re not sure if your nipples are big or small, they are probably big.
In between the bottle and the horn is a little white piece of plastic that acts like a valve. It keeps the milk flowing in one direction. If the valve is not in place, the pump will simply not work. Before you freak out when your pump isn’t working, always check to see the valve is in place. You can buy extra valves too because they get lost easily.
All non-wide mouth bottles should screw into whichever breastshields you buy, so you don’t need to buy special bottles for pumping unless specified. Ideally, you should pump directly into the bottle you are going to use to save on dish washing.
For an electric pump, there are two plastic tubes (or one tube, if you are using a single pump) that go from the housing and connect to the back of the shield (horn thingy).
The air in these tubes creates the suction that expresses the milk. They don’t ever get wet or anything, they only carry air. You only need one pair and you can always buy replacements.
Nobody enjoys pumping, you guys. But isn’t it so cool that we can do it? Technology is so cool.
For double-pumpers who need an efficient way of pumping milk, get the Simple Wishes pumping bra ($37). I know it looks like something out of Austin Powers (young people: Google it), but everyone uses it. You know she’s trying not to laugh (left)…
You can pump both breasts at once, hands-free, without having to sit there and hold the horns on your breasts. Yes, many a working mum (pretending to be English) is sitting up in her office (or lactation room) wearing this bra as we speak.
Another option is the PumpEase Hands-Free Pumping Bra ($40). This one is a little more simple to use and is super easy to put on and take off. However, if it’s not the right fit (i.e., too big), it wont hold the horns on well enough for a tight seal. Check out their “fitting room” size chart before you purchase.
If you’re not planning on using your pumped milk within 6 hours, you should put it in the refrigerator (in the bottle is fine). If you’re not planning on using it within 6 days, you should freeze it. In the freezer, it will stay good for a maximum of 6 months. *You may not want to pump too far ahead because the composition of your milk – and your baby’s needs – will change over time.
This is the 6/6/6 rule. Cool huh? Six hours, six days, six months.
How do you store it, you ask? You can store your milk in bags or containers, like in the AVENT Via container set. Most pump makers also produce storage bags that you can pump directly into. Sadly, the Medela bags rate very poorly, so I would instead recommend Lansinoh storage bags.
Milkies Milk Trays allow moms to freeze expressed breast milk in 1 oz servings (no more waste!). Each tray freezes eight 1-oz milk sticks so you can thaw the exact quantity you need, and these reusable milk sticks fit in all bottle openings. *Made in the U.S.A.
Kiinde also makes a VERY cool system that allows you to pump, store (freeze), organize, re-heat, and feed — all without having to transfer the milk. Best of all, there is only one little piece (the nipple) to clean! People are gaga over this one (even though he went to MIT and I went to Tech (the real Tech, that is), we can still be friends).
Check out the video here shot at the 2015 ABC Baby Show:
Yes, I highly recommend the Kiinde system for pumping mothers.
You can also buy a milk storage organizer by The First Years [below] to organize your milk by date.
And you thought strollers were overwhelming. 😉
Next!!!! (You’re doing good, stay the course) ——> 8. Clothing…