Midwife Matters

Pregnancy preparations, women's health, and care options

Using a Breast Pump

Before using your breast pump for the first time it is a good idea to read through the entire instruction manual. The instruction manual can help you learn the correct way to assemble and use your pump. It should also include the manufacturer’s contact information. If the instruction manual is missing from the box, check the outside of the box for a customer service line you can call to request a copy.

General Tips for Using a Breast Pump

Wash and Dry Your Hands:  Before using your pump, wash your hands with soap, scrubbing for 10-15 seconds, then rinse with plenty of warm water. After washing, dry your hands thoroughly with a clean paper towel.

You do not need to wash your breasts before you pump unless you have been using a cream, ointment, or other product on your breasts that must be removed first. Check the labels on products you have been using and ask your doctor for advice.

 Assemble Your Pump

Consult your pump’s instruction manual for the proper way to assemble your pump.

 Get Comfortable

Find a clean and comfortable place where you can relax and not be disturbed while pumping. If you have an electric pump, find an area near an outlet so you can plug the pump in. Some mothers find it helpful to hold their baby, or to have a picture of their baby in front of them while they pump.

Position the Breast-Shield(s)

Consult your instruction manual for tips on positioning your nipple in the breast-shield(s). Your nipple should fit comfortably in the center of the opening in the breast-shield(s). Gently adjust the breast-shield(s) until it feels comfortable without pinching, pulling or otherwise irritating your nipple or breast tissue.

Begin Pumping

If your pump is electric or battery-powered, turn the switch to the on position and the lowest suction and/or speed (cycle) setting. If you are using a manual pump, begin pumping. Consult your instruction manual for suggestions on an appropriate pumping speed. Adjust the speed until you find one that is comfortable for you.

What to Expect While Pumping

A qualified health professional, such as a certified lactation consultant, can help determine the best pumping method for you. Keep in mind that the amount of milk produced is different for everyone. A typical pumping session lasts about 10-15 minutes per breast, but you should only pump as long as it is comfortable and productive for you.

Your breast milk may not flow immediately after you start pumping, so try to be patient. When it does flow, your milk should be collected in the container attached to your pump. If milk is leaking out of your pump, stop pumping and make sure you have assembled the pump correctly before trying again. If your pump continues to leak, call the manufacturer’s customer service line for help.

When you have finished pumping, gently insert a finger between your breast and the breast-shield to break the vacuum seal. Remove the bottle or bag of collected milk from the rest of the pump, and label it with the date and time of pumping before storing it in the refrigerator or freezer.

For information about storing breast milk, visit the Womenshealth.gov Breastfeeding website.

« Breast Pumps


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