How To Use a Breast Pump

Woman breast pumping

A breast pump can be a big help if you want to give breast milk to your baby but are returning to work or want to leave your baby with a caregiver.  It can also be a plus if Dad wants to have the fun of feeding your baby, but you don't want to offer your baby formula.  Remember though, if you are exclusively breastfeeding, don't offer an artificial nipple to your baby until your baby is four to six weeks old.

A breast pump suctions breast milk out of your breasts and into a container so you can save it for your baby.  

  1. Since each breast pump is different, remember to always read and follow the instructions that come with your breast pump.  This is extremely important when putting together an electric pump because it will not work the way it is supposed to if not put together properly.    
  2. If you are borrowing or renting an electric pump, please buy brand new tubing and never borrow anything that might come in contact with your breast milk.  Never borrow a manual or hand breast pump since breast milk comes in contact with the majority of this kind of pump.  Always clean everything that comes in touch with your breast milk with soap and water each time you use it.
  3. When your pump is put together, start with just one breast on the lowest setting if you are using an electric pump.  Once you become used to the pump, you can increase the strength of the suction-but it should never hurt your nipples.  If it hurts, decrease the strength until it stops hurting.  If you are using a manual pump, the suction should never hurt your breasts. If it does, consider trying a different kind of pump.
  4. Think about your baby, look at your baby or look at a picture of your baby while you pump to start the let-down reflex.  You can also apply warm compresses to your breasts for a few minutes before you start pumping if you are having difficulty with the let-down reflex. 
  5. Only pump for a maximum of ten to fifteen minutes on each breast.  Pumping more than that may cause damage to your nipples and breasts since the suction in a breast pump is stronger and less effective than your baby's mouth.  
  6. Once you become used to pumping, feel free to pump both breasts at the same time if you have a pump that allows you to pump both breasts.
  7. Remember that when you pump, you may see runny thin-looking milk (similar to skim milk) first.  This is foremilk and is ideal for quenching baby's thirst.  After a minute or two, you will see thicker milk (similar to whole milk).  This is hind milk and is full of the nutrition, proteins and fats your baby will need.  If you don't notice the difference in your breast milk while you pump, you may notice the separation when you put your breast milk in the fridge and let it sit for a few hours.
  8. Once pumped, breast milk should never sit out for more than an hour without refrigeration. You can also put it in a cooler to keep it cool if you are pumping at work or traveling with your baby.
  9. Always date your breast milk when you put it in the refrigerator.  You can refrigerate your breast milk for up to a week, and freeze it in a freezer for up to three months.  


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