Bulb-Style Breast Pumps

Definition and Information

What You Need To Know About Bulb-Style, Bicycle Horn Breast Pumps
Bulb-Style, or Bicycle Horn Breast Pump. animalluv10

What Is A Bulb-Style Breast Pump?

The bulb-style, or bulb-type breast pump, looks like a bicycle horn. It is made up of two parts: a breast flange and a collection bulb. The breast flange, which is also called a breast shield, is the part that is placed over the nipple and areola. The collection bulb is attached to the end of the breast flange. 

How Does A Bulb-Style Breast Pump Work?

The bulb-style breast pump is a manual style breast pump.

 It does not require batteries or electricity to work. Instead, it is operated as a hand pump. When the bulb, or ball, is squeezed and let go, it creates suction on the breast. This suction removes the breast milk from the breast. As the breast milk is removed from the breast, it flows directly into the bulb. The suction bulb is also where the breast milk is collected. You cannot attach and use a breast milk collection bag or bottle with this type of breast pump.

Why Shouldn't You Use A Bulb-Style Breast Pump?

Bulb-style breast pumps are small and inexpensive; however, the negatives of these pumps outweigh any benefits. 

  • Bulb-style breast pumps should never be used to collect breast milk for your child. Since they cannot be cleaned thoroughly and effectively, the collection bulb is easily contaminated. It can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria even if it is washed in boiling water. 
  • The suction/collection bulb is small and it can only hold a small amount of breast milk. The bulb gets full quickly and needs to be emptied very often. 
  • The bulb suction is difficult to control. It can damage the tissue around the breast, and it can cause breast issues such as sore nipples and mastitis.


Can You Use A Bulb-Style Breast Pump To Relieve Occasional Breast Engorgement?

Bulb-style breast pumps have been used as breast relievers, to ease the fullness and pain of hard, swollen breasts for women who find it difficult to remove breast milk through hand expression. If you choose to use a bulb-style breast pump for the occasional relief of breast engorgement, keep in mind that it can potentially cause damage your breast. In addition, due to the dangers of contamination, you should never feed your baby any of the breast milk that you collect in the bulb.

What Other Options Are There?

If you are looking for a small, portable, hand-operated breast pump, there are other types of breast pumps to choose from. A trigger-style or cylinder-style manual pump could be a good option. Learning how to use hand expression is also helpful if you only need to occasionally remove a small amount of breast milk.


American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Khatoon, S., Begum, T., Begum, N. Expression of Breast Milk – An Update. Journal of Shaheed Sahrawardy Medical College. 2012; 4(2): 62-64.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

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