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How to Use a Breast Pump


It’s like a Tinder date.

You were interested.   Now it’s here and you’re sizing it up.  Will it live up to the hype?  Not unlike that online romance, you will have to take your top off to find out.

Men don’t come with manuals, but breast pumps do.  Before you try to use your pump, read the manual.  They are all different and there is no greater encumbrance to the let-down reflex than frustration.

Once you have done your homework, wash up.  Make sure that you have washed and sterilized the breast pump and that your hands are clean.

Next, assemble the breast pump according to directions.  If the parts don’t come together correctly, you could experience a lack of suction.

Differences with breast pumping abound depending on which kind of breast feeding pump you bought.  One thing is universal.  In order to make milk, you have to trick your body into thinking that you are feeding your baby directly.  Picturing you and your baby nursing will trigger the let-down response and allow the milk to flow.

Using a Manual Breast Feeding Pump

If you bought a manual breast feeding pump, this is more like your high school boyfriend.
There’s a lot of fumbling around, but generally gets the job done if you’re patient and don’t expect too much.  Unlike the aforementioned boyfriend, it takes a long time.

Place the shield on your breast, making sure that the shield is centered around your nipple. Start pumping.  Manual breast feeding pumps can feel awkward at first.  Just try to mimic your baby’s sucking pattern as much as possible as your body is familiar with that.  Be patient.  It may take a couple of minutes for milk to flow.

With a manual pump, switch breasts every 5 minutes.  This keeps your boob from getting sore and keeps both breasts stimulated to produce milk.  Each breast can be pumped for about 15 minutes total.  Don’t be alarmed if one breast produces more than the other.  Most women experience this.

Remove the breast shield, cap the bottle, and clean the shield in warm, soapy water.

Using an Electric Breast Feeding Pump

This is more like the guy that has it together.  He requires less work, and he does more.  He can be pretty intense, though.  He does his share, but will make you see yourself differently.  (Seriously, when you have seen your boob get sucked up into the contraption, you may take pause and re-evaluate your life.)

Place your breasts inside the shields, making sure that your nipples are centered.  A double breastfeeding pump is a treasure, but can feel a bit bumbly to get started.  Hold the shields, not the bottles.  Turn the machine on and your milk will start to flow within about 2 minutes.  Try to ignore the sound, the weird nipple-in-the-cone visual, and the fact that you feel like a science experiment gone awry.  Maybe go back to visualizing the Tinder date that we started with.

Play with the adjustments.  Pumping should not be painful.  Most electric pumps have many settings that you can tailor to what feels right.

If you don’t have one already, get a hands free breastpump bra and just relax.

Again, let your thoughts surround your baby and your nursing experiences.  Many of us who have pumped have stared at the bottles, looking for some milky affirmation.  This doesn’t work.  The focus and measuring puts your mind at a logical place when it needs to be relaxed, emotional, and open.  Listen to music, read a book or poetry, watch a movie, or meditate.  This sounds like a great first date!

When the milk has slowed down, turn off the pump.  Remove the shields and cap the bottles.  Wash the shields with warm soap and water.  Follow any additional instructions with your pump.

Storing Breast Milk

The Center for Disease Control reports that breast milk can be left in room temperature for 4-6 hours, refrigerated for 5 days, or frozen for 6-12 months.

Click here for breast milk storage supplies that will simplify your journey.

Now for that glass of wine and first date.  You don’t even have to shower or put on eyeliner.

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