Pumping — just hearing the word aloud elicits groans and exchanges of painful looks between moms. Personally, I have yet to meet any mom who enjoys, or even doesn’t mind, pumping. Add work into the mix and the conversation quickly becomes about the incredible challenge of adhering to a schedule, pumping quickly and handling work responsibilities all at once. While we all want the best for our baby, we also want the best way to express breast milk quickly and easily.
So what's the best breast pump for working moms? There are tons of breast pumps on the market that your lactation consultant or family member or friend may recommend you and other mothers, whether it be a hospital grade electric breast pump, a double electric breast pump or some manual breast pump. Different mothers have different preferences when it comes to breast pumps to produce ample milk supply, but one thing is for sure: Pumping at work isn't always easy for the working mother.
Returning to work can be difficult for the working mother who may have a love-hate relationship with having to breastfeed. That's because producing an ample milk supply may mean lugging around a tote bag with a pump, a battery pack, breast shields, a hands-free pumping bra and maybe a cooler bag with an ice pack to carry the mother's milk. The truth is that learning to breastfeed via pumping at work can be a process, especially since many workspaces don't offer ideal pumping areas for women.
As a mom of two young girls, I’m now on my second stint of being a pumping working mom trying to get the best milk production. And while pumping is no picnic, finding the right pump and supplies has been a game-changer.
The first time around I was armed with the tried-and-true go-to pump for many working moms, the Medela Pump In Style. Almost every working mom I knew had recommended this pump to me and in theory, it was great. While I wouldn’t exactly call the backpack “stylish,” it was easy to tote around and had enough room to throw in all the bottles, cleaning wipes, steam bags and milk storage bags a mama could ask for. I also immediately purchased a “pumping bra” for hands-free pumping. I was ready to go!
Unfortunately, I struggled with milk supply and ended up needing to rent a hospital-grade pump. When it was time to go back to work, instead of using my little portable Pump in Style, I was stuck lugging around the huge hospital-grade every day. The hands-free bra was useful but added to my set up time. Then I’d spend 20 minutes pumping and then at least five more minutes to put myself back together and clean up a bit. Let’s just say, pumping was a challenge.
When baby number two arrived, I vowed to do things differently. I spoke to numerous moms, particularly working moms, about what supplies made life as a pumping mom easier. I researched electric pumps and manual pumps, reading countless reviews to figure out how much suction each pump had and how easy it was to carry around. Between both girls, my job situation changed and I knew I would often be on the go, in the car and not in the same office regularly. After all of my research, I landed on a combination that I absolutely love (if you can love a breast pump!).
My Breast Pump Winner is… The Spectra S2! I found this pump to be quieter, fairly portable, with hospital-grade quality suction. Ultimately I chose the S2 because that is what my insurance covered (Thanks ACA! Check out to see if you are covered!) but if I was able to choose the S1, I would have. The biggest difference between the S1 and S2 is that the S1 is rechargeable and battery-powered, making it even more portable!
Now the real game changer for me was pairing the Spectra with Freemie Cups. I was able to throw away my old pumping bra because with the Freemie Cups I can easily pump without having to remove my shirt. In fact, I’ve used this combination to discreetly pump on a plane while staying in my seat. Add a car charger to the mix and I’ve pretty much pumped all over the cities of Los Angeles, New York and Austin!
Though the Spectra was the best fit for me, through my research I’ve come across some other pumps that are worth mentioning.
Fully wearable and free of tubes and wires, this pump looks like a huge step up from even the Freemie Cups, allowing for greater freedom of movement. Unfortunately, it comes with a steep price tag (starting at $480) and is not covered by insurance. While I haven’t personally tried this pump, the testimonials from their users show that they are huge fans of the product and that this pump has helped them meet their pumping goals.
This pump is barely larger than your iPhone and, according to many testimonials, is just as strong as its sister pumps the S1 and S2. Personally, I am tempted to add this to my pumping arsenal as I’m intrigued by its size (it could fit into your pocket?!). Pairing this with the Freemie Cups makes it almost as convenient as the Willow… at about half the cost!
This is the newest pump out of the Medela family. From reviews this pump seems comparable to the Spectra S1, with one notable exception: It has smart features that allow you to track your pumping time, daily milk output, phases, suction level, and so on, all through the MyMedela app. It’s also extremely quiet and portable just like the S1 and S2. My only hesitation with this pump is that the parts are not interchangeable with other Medela products and cannot be used with the Freemie Cups.
While I have already expressed my love for these, I do want to point out that they pair with numerous pumps, not just the Spectra family. The Freemie Cups can be paired with the popular Medela pumps (Pump in Style, Symphony and Lactina), the Spectra Family (S1, S2, S9 and M1), and The Hygeia Enjoye & Q. In addition they work with Evenflo, Ameda, Ardo, Philips and Lucina. Plus you can even purchase the cups with the Freemie-branded manual or electric pumps. In addition, Freemie has just recently released their newest pump, the Liberty, which looks to be comparable to the Spectra S9. Pricewise the Liberty comes in at $300, slightly more than the S9 paired with the Freemie Cups but still substantially less than the Willow.
Regardless of which pump you choose, one of the key things for pumping at working is having back-up parts. Having a second set of cups or bottles for collecting your milk can make clean up and toting milk to and from the office much easier! With a second set, you can potentially even leave a full set at work, as long as you are able to clean your parts. Boon also came out with a new travel drying set.
Remember your breast milk is good in the refrigerator for three to five days, so one of the easiest things to do to make your pumping sessions quicker is to simply put the entire collection cup into the refrigerator and use them throughout the day until full or you need to transfer the milk home!
Mary Beth Ferrante is the owner and founder of Live.Work.Lead., an organization dedicated to working with companies to retain top female talent by supporting women navigate their first critical year of becoming a new parent. Live.Work.Lead. works with new and expecting moms through 1:1 and group programs. They also provide training to managers on the maternal wall and how to better support their employees planning for and returning from parental leave. Prior to founding Live.Work.Lead., Mary Beth was an SVP of Business Strategy for a Fortune 100 company. In addition, Live.Work.Lead.offers Virtual "Mommy and Me" Classes designed for Working Professionals.