The Breast Pump Dilemma: My Top 5 Pumps for the NICU and Beyond!

When my preemie was born, I was recovering from pre-eclampsia, and basically trying to cope with moving into the hospital for an indefinite amount of time. So, pretty standard for most preemie moms! However, there was also an unexpected challenge that I initially took lightly: Choosing the right Breast Pump!

The impact of having the breast pump that best suits your situation is huge! It can determine whether you’ll have a healthy breastfeeding relationship with your baby or not. Yup, it’s that important. However, choosing the right pump for you doesn’t mean choosing the best breast pump in the market. Choose the one that fits your schedule, length of NICU stay, the location of your pumping sessions, and so on.

Each of the breast pumps I’m going to recommend suit different lifestyles. When you see the one made for you, you’ll just know it!

Top Breast Pump

* Please note that this post has affiliate links, which means that, at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you do decide to make a purchase through any of my links. I would never recommend anything that I don’t utterly love myself. I appreciate your support, and most of all, I appreciate you reading my articles.

What to consider when purchasing or renting a Breast Pump?

Length of Hospital Stay

It is a rule of thumb: the length of your hospital dictates the right pump for you. Every hospital stay is a struggle, no matter how short. However, for a 1-week stay, a manual pump may do just fine whereas for a 50 day stay you should consider getting a hospital-grade quality pump.

Of course at first everyone is unsure of the amount of time ahead in the hospital, but you can ask your doctor for an estimate. Also, you can check my post on the average duration of NICU stays based on the baby’s weight and the week of gestation in which she was born.

Remember that you’ll be pumping wherever you go while your baby is in the NICU. Pumping every three hours is one of the many ways of maintaining a regular flow of milk, avoiding lumps, and collecting milk for your preemie. So, for the duration of your baby’s hospital stay, your pump will be your main source of stimuli for milk production.


Every NICU stay is different, you may be on paid or unpaid leave, you may have other children at home or not, you may live close to the NICU or far away. But a hospital stay always has a cost, so you should consider a pump that matches your budget.

Additionally, before blindly buying a breast pump, please note that some insurances cover the costs of the pump. And, some hospitals rent the pump for mommies who need it, you may be more limited in options but you will save some money!


If you have to go to work and take your pump with you, you may need a discrete, portable pump, whereas if you’ll be mostly pumping at home or in the hospital you can sacrifice portability for comfort or performance.

Each breast pump is unique, so make sure you do choose the one that matches your lifestyle the most. Also, think ahead of the NICU. Will you be needing the pump when the baby is home for night feeds? for how long? Will you need to be able to type on a laptop while pumping?

So, without further ado, let’s check my top 8 breast pumps for a NICU stay and beyond!


1. Medela Freestyle

The best word to describe the Medela Freestyle is “comfort”, this high-quality double electric breast pump comes with a variety of features that will make a preemie mom’s life easier. It has a rechargeable battery to use on the go, a timer to time your pumps, it’s light-weight, it has a backlight to use in the dark, and it comes with a tote bag, a cooler bag, and 4 bottles.Additionally, it has a hands-free option if you purchase Medela’s Hands-Free Pumping Bra.

As in most of Medelas’ breast pumps, the Freestyle is built with the 2-phase expression technology, that mimics the suction of a baby with two modalities:

  • Stimulation: mimicking the quick suction to stimulate the flow of milk.
  • Expression: that compares to the long-, deep suction of a baby.

Suitable for: Moms with a mid-long stay in NICU who need to pump-on-the-go.

Portability: 5 Stars

Efficiency: 3 Stars

Suction Strength: 2 Stars

If Medela’s Freestyle is your match, you can get it here.

2. Medela Harmony Manual

Medela’s Manual high-quality breast pump is less comfortable but highly affordable. It’s soft on mommy’s nipples, portable and practical. The biggest con is that it is manual, making you work your wrist and arm to express your milk.

It fits for short hospital stays, any mom expected to stay less than 15 days in the NICU (and with no need to express milk after NICU) could save a few bucks with a Medela Harmony Manual pump. However, if you use it for longer than a couple of weeks it could affect your milk flow and your much-needed rest hours. Just try to picture yourself manually pumping at 5 am and you’ll understand why an electric breast pump would suit best.

Initially, I thought I could do with a manual breast pump, but after 15 days my arms were getting sore, my pumping sessions were shorter and less effective, and my milk flow was being affected. So I finally caved in and got an electric pump, it changed my life!

Of course, having both a manual and an electric breast pump is the perfect combination. You have a discrete, small, portable pump for short, occasional, emergency pumping sessions, but you also have your main electric pump for continuous, practical use!

Suitable for: Moms who can latch their babies from the first day and who have an expected hospital stay of 15 days or less.

Portability: 5 Stars

Efficiency: 1 Star

Suction Strength: 1 Star

If this pump fits your need, you can get it here.

3. Medela Pump In Style

This pump comes in three styles: a backpack, a tote bag, and a metro bag. All models except the Metro Bag are basically a motor build in the bag and extremely hard to detach. The Metro bag has the same principle but the pump is detachable. The concept behind the Pump In Style is to have a strong breast pump that is portable and comfortable to use on the go. It’s a portable, electric double pump.

As in other Medela pumps, the Pump In Style comes with 2-phase technology, which will work well to improve and maintain your milk flow.

Suitable for: Moms who need a strong but portable pump, have a NICU stay of 15 days or longer, or need to pump on the go during the hospital stay and beyond.

Portability: 5 Stars

Efficiency: 4 Star

Suction Strength: 3 Stars

Are you a mommy who Pumps in Style? Click here to get the pump!

4. Medela Symphony

The Symphony is Medela’s Hospital Grade pump. Packed with the 2-phase technology, this single or double electric pump is a hospital favorite.

It is on the expensive side but is especially good for moms who have supply issues. The Symphony completely empties your breasts in 8 minutes, leaving in most cases no lumps.

By completely emptying your breasts, a biological signal is triggered to produce more milk to fill them. It also has the Initiation technology, which means that if you use it soon after your baby is born you can significantly increase your milk production with Medela’s Initiate program.

This pump also has the hands-free with easy expression option, for us multitasking moms!

If you have a hospital stay ahead of you longer than 30 days and you have supply issues, you may want to consider getting a Medela Symphony.

Suitable for: Moms who need a strong but portable pump, who have a NICU stay of 15 days or longer and who need to pump on the go during the hospital stay and beyond.



Portability: 5 Stars

Efficiency: 5 Stars

Suction Strength: 5 Stars

You can get this hospital grade pump here.

5. Medela Sonata

The Sonata is Medela’s highest-performing pump for personal use. Its features and design are at the performance level of a hospital grade pump. It comes with the 2-phase expression technology, as Medela’s electric pumps do. It is also one of the quietest pumps out there, making the pumping sessions super discrete.

This double electric pump has an instant connection to the My Medela App. From this app, you can keep track of your daily milk output, sessions length, phases and levels, and your pump’s battery life. It is a pump that truly takes advantage of technology!

You can also personalize the rhythm and strength of the suction and it comes with a handy adjustable light. On the downside, however, its parts are not compatible with other Medela pumps.

Suitable for: Moms who have a hospital stay of 50 days or greater.



Portability:  5 Stars

Efficiency: 4 Stars

Suction Strength: 5 Stars

If you believe this is the pump for you, you can get it here.

That’s a Wrap

I know I’m a big Medela fangirl, but there are other great options available out there like the Spectra S1 and S2. However, Medela comes in high quality and I wouldn’t steer away from it until personally trying other brands. These pumps come with a varied set of features to satisfy every need. A good breast pump will do wonders to the breastfeeding relationship between you and your preemie! Which breast pump is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section!

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