Pumping Basics

When it comes to choosing the right breast pump there are a number of important features to consider. Here, we define the key terms and components that make up most breast pump systems.


Manual vs. Electric pumps


With manual pumps, milk is expressed by hand pumping each breast one at a time. Manual pumps are usually smaller, lighter, and easier to transport than electric pumps. However, they take longer to express milk, and the repetitive pumping motion you use may be a strain on your hand muscles. Electric pumps are larger and stronger systems that are powered by either disposable batteries, a built-in battery pack, or by being plugged into an electrical outlet. Most electric pumps can operate as either a single or double-expression system.


Single vs. Double Electric


Single electric pumps are used to pump from one breast at a time. Double electric pumps allow you to pump from both breasts simultaneously, cutting your pumping time in half. Most double electric pumps also include the option to be used as a single electric pump. Every pump on our website is a double electric pump.


Closed System vs. Open System  


Closed systems are ideal when it comes to pump cleanliness and hygiene. With a closed system, barrier filters are used to separate your milk from the parts of the pump that are prone to trapped condensations. This is important because if moisture in the pump or suction tubing is not cleared out, it can result in mold or mildew growth.

Open-system pumps do not offer this protection, and usually need to run for a few minutes after each pumping session in order to clear out any moisture buildup.


Two-Phase Expression


Two-phase expression is the most efficient way to pump, because it mimics a baby’s natural nursing behavior. Phase one stimulates the breast’s letdown reflex through a rapid, gentle suction and phase two uses a strong and slower suction to maintain milk flow. Most of the best pumps on the market switch from phase one to phase two automatically, but allow you to adjust this feature manually as well.




Flanges, or breast shields are the part of the pump that fit over your breast and nipple. A proper flange-fit is essential to maintaining a strong and comfortable suction. Unless noted, all pumps come with at least one set of standard size flanges, which will fit most moms. Breast shield size is determined by mom’s nipple size, not breast size, and most moms only discover which size is best for them once they’ve started pumping.


Suction tubing


The tubing that connects the pump’s motor to breast flanges.


Maximum suction strength


This is the standard measurement we use to gauge how strong a pump is on its highest settings.