How to Use a Breast Pump

There are many reasons you may decide to use a breast pump. You might be looking to increase your low milk supply, preparing to go back to work or simply want your baby to take a baby bottle. Whatever the reason, it's understandable if you're curious about exactly how to use a breast pump.

Types of breast pumps

If you've tried shopping for a breast pump, you'll no doubt have noticed just how many options are available to you. Here's a quick run-down...

Manual breast pump: A manual breast pump lets you control the speed and intensity of the suction. It is hand-operated and tends to be cheaper than electric pumps.

Electric breast pump: An electric breast pump will automatically create suction in the breast shield to express breast milk.

Hands-free breast pump: Designed to sit in your bra, for a completely hands-free breast pump experience, these comfortable breast pumps are battery-powered, express, and collect milk all in one unit.

Single breast pump: A single breast pump is a device that extracts milk from a lactating mother and can be done with either a manual or an electric pump.

Double breast pump: With one of these pumps, both breasts are expressed at the same time so you'll get more milk at a time compared to when using a single pump.

When to use a breast pump

Some women start pumping as soon as their baby is born or decide to exclusively pump while others will combine breastfeeding and pumping. You may also want to try power pumping. This all means that when you would use your breast pump depends on what you decide to do when it comes to feeding your baby.

Before you start pumping, have a chat with your doctor or midwife and discuss what you'd like to do and from when.

How to prepare a breast pump

Before you begin pumping, you should make sure to read through the instructions from the manufacturer that came with it. It's likely that this will tell you to both clean and sterilise all washable components before first use.

Depending on the pump that you have, it may require some assembly before you can get started. You'll also want to find the best position for breast pumping to suit you to help you feel comfortable before you begin.

How to use a breast pump

You probably have a good idea about how a breast pump works but how exactly do you use one?

How to use a manual breast pump

Below you will find instructions for how to use the Medela Harmony breast pump. If you have a different manual pump, it may differ slightly so you should consult the instructions.

  1. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching the breast and pump parts.
  2. Inspect breast shields, valves and membranes prior to use for cleanliness.
  3. Center breast shield over your nipple.
  4. Start pumping in the stimulation mode by pressing down on the milk drops symbol on top of the pump handle. Press and release quickly until you see milk flow begin. This mode mimics baby’s initial rapid sucking and is designed to stimulate milk flow/let-down.
  5. The adjustable handle can be positioned for your maximum pumping comfort. The level of vacuum is controlled by the compression and the speed of the handle stroke. You decide the pumping rhythm that is best for you.
  6. Once let-down has begun, switch to the expression mode by pressing the bottom of the pump handle. This will give you a longer stroke that mimics baby’s deeper, more relaxed sucking and is designed to maximize milk flow.
  7. Once the milk stops pumping, you can move onto the other breast.
  8. As soon as you are finished pumping, place the breast milk bottle or breast milk storage bag in a cooler with an ice pack.

How to use an electric breast pump

Below you will find instructions for how to use the Medela Swing Maxi double electric breast pump. If you have a different electric pump, it may differ slightly so you should consult the instructions.

  1. Place the breast shields on the breasts so that the nipple is properly centred in the tunnel.
  2. Hold the breast shields and connectors onto your breasts with your thumbs and index fingers.
  3. Support your breasts with the palm of your hands.
  4. If not already done, connect your assembled pump set to the tubing port on the right of the pump unit.
  5. Make sure that the pump set is connected and positioned properly.
  6. Press the On/Pause/Off button to start pumping. The stimulation phase begins and the status light is flashing.
  7. Adjust the vacuum with the Increase vacuum and Decrease vacuum buttons to find a comfortable level.
  8. As soon as your milk begins to flow, press the Let-down button to go to the expression phase.
  9. Adjust the vacuum with the Increase vacuum and Decrease vacuum buttons to find what is comfortable to you.
  10. When your pumping session is over, press the On/Pause/Off button to stop the pumping operation.
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