I can’t recall where I first discovered it, but once I picked up a manual breast pump for the first time, I remember wondering—lamenting—why I hadn’t heard about it sooner.
That’s because the Philips Avent Manual Breast Pump single-handedly helped me to extend my breastfeeding journey with my second child—I’m proud to say we made it to 31 months. If I’d used one with my first, I likely would have kept nursing longer than our 15 months (AAP now recommends breastfeeding for at least two years). And now, along with the Haakaa, it’s the one product I’d recommend to anyone looking to reach their extended breastfeeding goals—and the one I text all my breastfeeding friends about.
It’s the ease of use of the manual pump that cemented my love. There were barely any directions. Just a few pieces to wash. No charging cords, connector tubes or hideous pumping bras to squeeze into. (I wish this Bodily bra was around when I needed it!)
But the best part? I could unceremoniously toss the pump in my purse, pump quickly in my office or a restaurant bathroom or my car, bottle the milk, wipe out the pump, place both milk and pump in a cooler bag, and get back to work or keep enjoying my evening. Simple.
I wouldn’t go so far to say this made the pumping experience enjoyable—find me anyone who truly loves pumping—but a manual pump made pumping so much easier for me. You can better control the speed and pumping pressure, there’s nothing to charge up or worry about running out of battery—because your own hand is the motor. Another plus: Because this pump top works with other Philips Avent bottles, you can even pump directly into other bottles or reusable containers in the line-up and cap them off—no need to decant into fussy bags.
I felt like I had finally found a decidedly low-tech way to pump milk, and it was such a relief.
And yes! Before you ask, I had tried hand expression and found it relatively tricky and painful… and therefore unsustainable.
But I wouldn’t have been able to solely rely on a manual pump early in my pumping journey. My relationship with my manual pump started once my second baby was over 12 months old, and by that point, I was alternating nursing just from one side—and only a few times per day. I was often able to pump from one boob every three hours or so, and then pump the other side later. If I’d needed to use the manual pump as my primary pump in the early days, I may have lamented all the hand pumping. Having a motor do the work for you can be helpful when you need to pump both sides at once or extract higher volumes of milk more frequently and efficiently.
Luckily, the pump is affordable enough that I didn’t hesitate to add it to my pumping arsenal, which also included a wired Spectra and a wearable Freemie Liberty II that were covered by my insurance. (You can also use an HSA/FSA card to pay for breastfeeding pumps and supplies.)
In truth, the manual pump let me be lazy about pumping, which is exactly what I needed in year two with my second child.
I needed to pump breast milk, but I absolutely didn’t need it to be complicated. I was through with being strapped to a machine and handwashing a zillion tiny parts. If you, too, are looking for a low-stress, low-lift way to continue your pumping journey, get thee a manual pump.
A version of this story was originally published on June 13, 2023. It has been updated.