While a manual breastfeeding pump can occasionally come in “handy,” so to speak, most moms opt to use electric, double-pump devices most of the time. That’s not surprising, given that these types of breastfeeding pumps allow you greater convenience and efficiency while generating a healthy amount of breast milk in record time. For new mothers, tackling the quandary of how to express breast milk with a pump is definitely intimidating at first. But after just one or two sessions, you’re sure to feel like a pro!
Breastfeeding Pump 101
Obviously, specifics on breast pump set-up depends on the manufacturer. But no matter the maker, reading the maker’s manual will save a lot of stress down the road when you run up against a problem like a pump’s speed needing adjustment.
Sterilize all of the pump’s washable pieces before the first use. These parts include the flanges, bottle connector, membranes, valves, caps, and bottles. Also, before pumping, wash your hands so you don’t end up contaminating milk.
After you find a quiet spot, assemble the parts as directed in the manual, attaching the flanges to the connectors, and so forth. Look for the tube that connects the bottle to the box that serves as the breastfeeding pump’s power source. Plug the power source into a wall jack if you’re not using battery power.
Other than making sure you have a breast pumping schedule, you should set up your space to be as conducive to a peaceful, productive pumping session as possible — even if you’re working in your office while double-pumping. Many women get thirsty as they pump so having a drink within reach is helpful. Many women lower the lights and perhaps place a photo of their baby within view. Watching saved videos of baby’s babbling or even crying on your smartphone can stimulate let-down, as can holding or smelling a piece of her clothing.
Pillows or other support for your arms and back are often helpful unless pressing matters require you to multitask.
Using the Breastfeeding Pump
Once you’re settled into your quiet space and have your pump assembled, consider massaging your breasts before pumping. This mimics your baby’s first mouth-motions after latching on and encourages the let-down reflex for milk production. If you’ve been having difficulty with this aspect, warm compresses applied to your breasts can also stimulate let-down.
Center the flanges over your nipples. Your breastfeeding pump may come with a few size options, so select the one that feels right to you. It may take a few tries to get the hang of it but you’ll soon be automatically selecting and positioning the shields for maximum suction.
Set the pump to the speed you think will be comfortable for you but which also provides a good amount of sucking power. Increase speed if you can do so without pain and lower it if discomfort occurs. If you’re using a single pump, switch sides every few minutes rather than emptying one breast first before moving to the other.
Relax your shoulders, hold the breastfeeding pump by the shields rather than the bottle, and turn the pump on. You may not need to hold the flanges at all once suction is achieved but if you do, hold them to your breast with your thumb and pointer finger while cupping the breast with your palm.
As you’re expressing the milk, your particular breastfeeding pump may automatically vary the speed to maximize production. If it doesn’t have this feature, move the speed dial up and down yourself a few times, if possible.
Once the milk slows down to just a few drops, turn the pump off. Gently unscrew the bottle from the shield and put the bottle caps on immediately to avoid spillage and contamination even before you disassemble the rest of the unit. Put the milk in a fridge or cooler if you won’t be feeding the milk to your baby within about four hours. Refrigerated breast milk can be safely stored for up to five days. Properly-stored frozen breast milk can last months.
Clean the washable parts of the pump with warm, soapy water and set them out to air-dry until the next use.
The Wholesome Feed shows us how pumping milk works:
No matter how easy your Facebook friend might make motherhood look, chances are there’s at least one piece of equipment every new parent fears whether it’s a breastfeeding pump or a car seat. In fact, there’s no such thing as a first-time supermom reaping breastfeeding benefits without a hitch. Relax, cut yourself some slack (stress is no good for milk production), and stick with us for more tips on keeping your child fed and your mind at ease.
Do you know of other breastfeeding pump basics you want to share? Let us know in the comments section below.