Do you want to know how to use a breast pump?
Of course, you do.
Let me guess, you’ve already bought your breast pump, and it’s still sitting in the box? Because let’s face it, they’re pretty intimidating.
It’s time to stop staring at your new
mom toy breast pump and cursing under your breath.
I’m going to help you learn how your nip sucking machine will get milk as much milk as possible from your tata’s, into the bottle.
Trust me you’re going to be making soooo much milk. All the boys will be coming to your yard.
Right, let’s get started.
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What to Expect from Your Breast Pump
Before you start pumping, there is one important thing I want you to know.
Pumping is a skill.
Now I know you’re savvy enough to know that the shield goes to your breast and you press the on button. But do you know how to use a breast pump to get as much milk as you can?
Yep, just like changing a diaper, it’s another thing you need to learn.
Trust me; once you see the results of these tips, and you’ve done them a few times, you’ll be a pro in no time.
But first, that means you have to practice.
Do you remember learning drive? At first, it seemed impossible to learn all the steps and put them together. How about now you’ve practiced a million times?
I bet you do all of those things automatically now. It seems natural, and you don’t even think about them anymore, let alone worry about them.
Well, pumping is the same.
The first time you use your pump, you probably won’t even get any breast milk. Or maybe only a few drops. But don’t worry.
You’re not doing anything wrong. And no, your pump isn’t faulty. You need to practice.
And you know what practice makes, right? Well, that’s your new motto.
Your first task is to familiarize yourself with your pump. That means getting to know how it works. At this stage, you are not focusing on how much milk you are pumping.
I repeat, don’t focus on how much milk you’re pumping.
Get To Know Your Breast Pump
I want you to get your breast pump. Right, let’s start with just unboxing it.
Before you even attempt to use your breast pump, just get to know it. Get a good feel for it. Place it up to your breast. Press the buttons. Push the levers.
Now, this may sound obvious but read the instruction manual. I know you’re tempted to skip that part and get hands on. But you’ll save yourself time, and the urge to throw your pump out the window in frustration!
That little book will have hints and tips for you to use the breast pump better. When you’re having problems with your pump your brain will go “oh, I remember reading something about that in the manual!”. Then you’ll be able to refer to it and solve your problem quickly.
Now, familiarize yourself with the all the functions. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, still read about it. It’s easy to forget your breast pump has these functions if you don’t use them all the time. But even just reading about them or trying them out once can keep the function fresh in your mind. You may find it useful later down the line and benefit from using it.
Gather all the breast pump parts and learn what they do. If you are unsure what a piece does, then find out. Hint: The manual will tell you. See I told you not to skip that part!
Build them up, then pull them apart. Keep doing that until you can make up the pump without looking at the manual. Then do a demo for your partner. Encourage them to ask questions or give feedback. They may mention something you haven’t thought of or noticed yet.
Trust me. This step can affect how well your pump works. The first time I used my breast pump, I remember forgetting to attach a membrane. That membrane was a thin piece of plastic the size of a nickel. But, without it, my breast pump wouldn’t suck properly and was pretty much useless.
Remember it’s a learning curve. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’re struggling, ask for help. Heck, I’d be happy to help if you leave a comment below.
If you have family, friends or a breastfeeding support worker who has experience of using breast pumps, use them as a resource. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn. They’ll give you pump hacks that you won’t learn from the instruction manual.
Now you’ve familiarized yourself with the pump, let’s discuss getting hands on.
When to Start Using a Breast Pump
Once your supply has established your beginning to wonder “When is a good time to start pumping?”
The answer will depend on this question “Do you need the milk for a specific reason?” Are you going back to work? Or have an appointment and can’t take your baby?
If your answer is no, and breastfeeding is going well, you can start pumping whenever you want.
If your answer is yes, get started as soon as possible. Don’t leave using your pump to the last minute.
What I mean by that is if need a bottle of milk for next Tuesday, don’t start pumping for the first time on Monday night. Why? Because, it’s common not to get any, or much milk when you start to use a breast pump. I don’t want you to panic you’ve not pumped enough milk for your baby and turn to formula in desperation.
Start using your pump way before you need the milk. I’d recommend at least a few days to a week before you need it.
That way if you don’t get a lot of milk in one session, you can add all the small volumes together for one big feed. Any extra milk can be stored long-term in the freezer. It won’t go to waste.
Begin with a 5-10 minutes daily pumping session. Then increase the time. Or pump twice a day.
This routine may not always be possible. Do what you can. Get the practice.
Why You Need to Prepare to Use a Breast Pump
Pumping ahead of schedule will help you spot any issues you have with the pump. That way you can fix them before they become a problem.
Those little blips can cause enough stress for you to give up on breastfeeding. Let’s nip that in the bud right here.
On that note. Don’t decide to start pumping during a hectic time of day.
You know, when your husband is leaving for work, your baby is screaming for a feed, and the dog has just run off with the dirty diaper.
Jeez, that makes me want coffee just reading that!
Wait for a quiet, distraction-free time. If that means waiting ten more minutes to put on a load of laundry, then so be it.
Being relaxed, less frustrated and without interruptions will help your milk flow better.
That’s just how you boob hormones work.
Have something to eat and drink beforehand. You don’t want to be hangry pumping. Or having to get up mid-pump for a drink (did you know that pumping makes you weirdly thirsty?).
Let’s get on to using the boob sucker.
How to Use a Breast Pump
Breast Pump Preparation
You know how you make all those little changes to your driving area before you start the engine?
Do the same before you start to pump. Don’t skip this part.
These little steps will keep you comfortable, prevent any nipple damage and keep your breast milk safe for baby.
I’ll take about 2 minute’s tops to do all of these before you start.
Clean the Pump
Even if it’s your first time using the pump. Wash all parts, well the ones that can be washed, with soapy water, rinse and sterilize before use. Get into the habit of doing this and have them ready to go before you next pump.
Save yourself time and check the manual to see what parts you should and shouldn’t sterilize.
You need to do this to keep your pump free from bacteria. Those little pests love warm, sugary milk to grow in.
Remember, this milk is going into your baby’s tummy. You don’t want to be adding any extras that can make them ill.
Reset the Suction
This one is for electric breast pumps only. Turn the suction setting to as low as possible.
That way, when you start to pump, the suction won’t be too powerful, and you can make adjustments.
You don’t want to be starting the pump on high suction with the breast shield in the wrong position.
That’s the kind of rookie mistake that will cause damage to your breasts.
Make Sure it Fits
Did you even know that breast shield ( you know the part which fits into your breast) could be the wrong size?
When you think about it, itty bitty nipples aren’t going to fit the same saucer sized ones.
That means you want a breast shield with a close fit. But not so your nipple is rubbing against the sides of the funnel. It should feel comfortable to use.
Most pumps come with a standard shield size, which is usually 24mm. You need to know if that’s right for you.
Measure across your nipple, the bit that sticks out, not the areola. Add 4mm to that measurement and choose the shield size closest to that.
So if your nipple measures 22mm, you want a breast shiled that is 26mm or above.
If the standard shield is too small or large for you, use a different size shield. The bad news is you’ll probably have to buy this separately.
Create a Seal
Wee-oo, wee-oo *Awesome pumping tip alert.*
Before you position the breast shield, slightly wet the inside of the funnel. Using nipple cream has the same effect if you have sore nipples.
The water will help the shield grip to your skin and create a tight vacuum. That means great suction and a productive pump session for you.
Let’s look at how to get the best from each pump session.
7 Steps to Using a Breast Pump
1. Wash your hands
Remember you are trying to keep the milk as sterile as possible.
Keep some purell beside your breast pump. It’s a great alternative if you have no access to soap and water.
2. Stimulate Your Breasts
Don’t rely on the breast pump to do all the work. Give it a helping hand.
Stimulating your breasts will get the breast milk flowing.
Great ways to help your ‘Let Down reflex’ are gentle breast massage, warm compresses, and nipple tweaking.
You can do this as you set up the pump.
3. Mimic your baby
The best way to get more milk is to pump as your baby feeds.
During a feed, your baby starts with short quick sucks to stimulate the milk. Then, they switch to long, slow sucks when the milk flows.
You need to copy this pattern with your breast pump. If your pump has a ‘two-phase’ expression mode, then you’re onto a winner. Your pump will automatically follow this pattern.
You can still follow this technique with a manual breast pump. It’ll stop you getting the dreaded hand cramp.
Once your pump is on, and your milk is flowing. Ask yourself “Is this comfortable?”
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that high suction and speed will get you more milk. It won’t.
Comfort is essential for a good pumping session. Remember we spoke about those breastfeeding hormones?
Well if your pump is hurting you, your milk flow will slow down.
You should know, from your pump practice, which settings feel best for you. If you don’t. Start at the lowest setting and slowly turn it up until it starts to hurt a little. Stop at that point. Then dial it back down one setting or two.
Do you feel any discomfort? If not. That’s your sweet spot.
This is the setting that will help you pump the most milk.
Stop thinking about the noise of the pump, or how much milk is in the bottle.
The more relaxed you are, the more you’ll pump. It’s that simple.
Now chill like you’re in a candle-lit bubble bath with a lovely glass of wine in hand.
Check out my tips on how to relax during a pumping session below.
6. Pain is not gain
Does it hurt when you use your breast pump?
If it does, stop right away. Now, readjust the breast shield or suction setting and try again. Your pump should feel comfortable to use.
If the pain continues, check the best shield fit is right. If you can, ask a lactation specialist for help. I’d recommend you stop using the breast pump until you get help.
A poor pumping technique can cause irreversible damage to your breast tissue.
You can try hand expressing if you still need to collect milk for your baby.
7. Wash up
Would you leave a carton of milk out at room temperature? No, you wouldn’t. You know it would get all smelly and gross.
That’s why you should at least rinse your breast pump parts as soon as possible.
When you have access to a sink, give the parts a good soak and wash in hot soapy water. Leave them to air dry and then store away until your next pump session.
Get into the routine of doing this. That way your pump is good to use the next time you need it.
Tips To Relax When Using a Breast Pump
Do you want to collect as much milk as possible each time you pump? Of course you do.
You need to learn to relax Mama.
I know, I know. It’s easier said than done now you’re living the
vida loca mom life. The trouble is if you don’t relax your milk won’t flow. That means triggering what’s called the ‘let down reflex.’
Think of this reflex as a faucet. When you feel good things (happy, relaxed), it turns on, and the milk pours. When you feel bad things (sad, pain, embarrassed) it turns off, and you get little or no milk.
Let’s look at how you can turn ‘the faucet’ on when you’re pumping
Make your nest
Do you have a favorite place in your home? You know where you love to be. A place that makes you feel happy and relaxed?
Well, you need to make a place like that for pumping. A little pumping nest.
Get it set up so you enjoy going there. What would make it comfortable for you? A big comfy chair. Cozy blankets. Everything on hand.
Make it so you associate your little nest with good feelings, rather than dread.
I know you don’t want someone walking in on your pumping sesh with your top off. You need privacy to pump. Without it, you won’t be able to relax.
Consider a locked room at home or work. Just in case you have any wandering guests or colleagues.
Don’t worry if you can’t control who can access the room. You can use a nursing cover and pump with your back facing the door.
That way nobody gets an unexpected eye full.
Pass the Time
How many hours can you pass by falling in the internet rabbit hole? Half an hour has passed before you even know it.
Use this trick to stay entertained as you pump. It keeps your mind off watching the collection bottle.
Use that 30 minutes to catch up a Netflix series you love. You’ll start to look forward to your next pump session.
Who else can claim they’ve been productive watching re-runs of Game of Thrones?
Do you hate sitting around, especially when you know there are things you need to do?
If it makes you anxious to think of the next laundry load as you pump, then multi-task as you pump.
That means going hands-free. You’ll need a pumping bra and a portable electric pump. Set up the pump and get on with your ‘to do’ list. There is nothing as quite like scoring out two tasks at once.
All about Baby
Your happy hormones are in overdrive when you have your baby near. It’s the reason why pumping during or straight after a feed will get you lots of milk.
If your baby can’t be around you as you pump, try to trick your brain into thinking they are. This is a technique used by NICU nurses to help moms pump more milk.
Go for anything that will stimulate your senses. Look at a photo, play a sound clip of your baby laughing or smell a toy with their scent.
How to use an Electric Breast Pump
Now you know how to use your breast pump – watch those ounces rain.
What’s your favorite tip for using your breast pump? Share it below.