How We Tested
I’m Nadine Jolie Courtney, a journalist, novelist, and former magazine editor with more than fifteen years of experience reviewing products and writing about lifestyle. I started my career at the original shopping magazine, Lucky, have worked at Ladies’ Home Journal, FHM, and Jane, and have written for a variety of publications, including Town & Country, Oprah Magazine, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest, and Reader’s Digest. I’m a mom to a kindergartener and 4-month-old and gave birth to my second daughter in the middle of pandemic shelter-in-place orders. Since her birth, I’ve been especially focused on parenting articles for publications like Parenting Insider, Good Housekeeping, and PBS Kids for Parents.
I started by combing through online articles and Facebook pumping forums, looking for the options that moms are currently buzzing about and using the most enthusiastically.
After choosing our finalists, I used each of the pumps at least twice while my baby Charlotte was between the ages of six weeks and four months, in many cases using pumps dozens of times. (In the beginning, I was pumping up to 8 times per day!)
Once testing was complete, I filled out a detailed spreadsheet, and answers were aggregated to give us our final ranking, with both subjective and objective criteria taken into account. We evaluated everything from adjustability to comfort to whether a timer was included, to more subjective factors like enjoyment and ease of storage.
What You Should Know About Buying A Pump
There’s a lot of subjective criteria that go into selecting a breast pump, including ease of use, build quality, and enjoyment: one woman’s easy could be another woman’s terrible. However, in general, any breast pump should meet certain criteria: it should be efficient at removing milk within 15 to 20 minutes. It should be comfortable and not bruise the nipple or pull into too much areola (proper flange or shield fit is critical, and not all pumps offer a variety of sizes that work for every woman). And while pumping can be a not-that-pleasurable experience, it should, at minimum, be tolerable enough that you can keep up with it.
While breast pump design varies wildly, most breast pumps include the same basic components: a pumping motor, one or two flanges or shields for each breast (you may have to buy separately to be able to pump simultaneously), tubing or wiring to connect the flange set-up to the motor, and a bottle to catch the expressed milk.
Newer, tech-forward pumps like Willow and Elvie are designed to be operated without tubes or wires, and placed inside a regular bra or nursing bra for hands-free pumping—no unwieldy pumping bra required. Pumping bras were one of my least favorite aspects of using traditional pumps, so I appreciate the new portable designs. Because this is a newer category of breast pump, the design is exceedingly different from pump to pump. However, based on the evangelical, cult-like enthusiasm I observed from women in Facebook groups—not to mention my own positive experiences—I expect we’ll be seeing more traditional pumping brands following Willow and Elvie with their own wireless, hands-free versions in the next couple of years. Freemie is one such competitor, with its own pluses and minuses (and devoted fans).
Other Breast Pumps We Tested
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Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.