A lot of mums get disappointed when they only get a few drops of milk the first time they use a breast pump. It doesn’t mean they are a failure, or that the pump is rubbish. Learning how to use a breast pump is a skill you need to know to get the best results. Think of your first few times as familiarizing yourself with your pump rather than how much milk you get.
Start learning by using the pump for 5 minutes at a time, then for longer as you get more comfortable with the pump. The best time of day to do this is when you are relaxed and free from distraction. With the right knowledge and practice you will quickly build up your confidence and be pump effectively in no time.
Check Expressing Mama’s top tips for using a breast pump.
How to Use a Breast Pump
Preparing the Pump
1. Read the instructions. Whether using a manual or an electric breast pump familiarize yourself with the all the functions. Make sure you know how to set up the parts of the pump correctly. Missing a small part such as a membrane will make the pump ineffective.
2. Sterilize the parts. Even if it’s your first time using the pump. Wash all suitable parts with soapy water, rinse and sterilize before use. This gets you into the habit of doing so before every pump. Check the manual to see what parts should and should not be sterilized.
3. Reset to lowest settings. If using an electric breast pump, ensure the suction dial is at the lowest rate possible. This will give you the opportunity to reposition the breast shield if it is uncomfortable. You may damage your breasts with incorrect shield position and the fast suction.
4. Select the correct fit. The breast shield (the part which fits into your breast) should be a close fit to your nipple, but not so it is rubbing against the sides of the funnel. Your nipple should be in the center and able to move back and forth freely. If you need a larger or smaller size, check to if the brand of your pump sells different sized shields.
5. Wet the breast shield. Adding a small amount of water around the inside funnel of the breast shield can help create a great suction. The water will help create a tight vacuum between your breast the plastic, improving the efficiency of the pump.
7 Steps to Using a Breast Pump
1. Wash your hands. This is important to ensure the sterilized parts of the pump remain as germ free as possible.
2. Breast stimulation. Warm compresses, gentle massage or nipple stimulation before pumping will help improve your milk ejection reflex.
3. Mimic Baby. Start with short quick pumps to stimulate your ‘let down’. Change to long slow pumps once the milk starts to flow. Some electric breast pumps have this feature pre-installed into the motor when you start it up. If you are using a manual pump, this technique will prevent you developing hand fatigue.
4. Pump in comfort. Once your milk starts to flow, set the pump to a speed which is comfortable for you. Comfort is more important that speed, discomfort will slow your milk flow.
5. Relax. Try not to think about to noise of the pump, or how much milk is in the bottle. This will make your tense and slow your milk release.
6. Stop if it’s sore. Do not persist to use a pump if it is painful to use. Try adjusting the settings until it feels more comfortable. If the pain continues consult with your lactation specialist. Do not continue to pump; poor pumping technique can damage the sensitive tissue around your breasts.
7. Wash Up. Once finished store your breast milk for use. Clean all the correct parts with hot soapy water rinse and leave to air dry. Store away until you sterilize the kit before your next pumping session.
Tips to Relax Whilst Expressing
The key to succeeding with a breast pump is to relax when expressing. By relaxing you release hormones help your milk to flow. The more relaxed you are the more milk you will collect when you pump. Here are out top tips to relax when you express milk
1. Get comfortable. Ensure you have a comfy seat with as little distraction as possible. Make sure you have everything to hand before settling down including your phone and a drink.
2. Ensure privacy. A quiet area with plenty of privacy will make you feel relaxed and less exposed to someone walking in. Use an area or room in the house where guests can’t go. If possible lock the door to the room you are in to prevent someone accidentally walking in. Otherwise try to sit in the direction where only your back is exposed to the door or a window.
3. Use a pass time. What do you normally do when you want to unwind? Read a book, watch TV, or flick through a magazine? Adopt techniques you are familiar with and use them whilst pumping. Not only will it relax you but will help the time to pass quicker. Who else can claim they’ve been productive watching re-runs of Housewives of New Jersey?
4. See Baby. If your baby is in the room or feeding from the other breast you will yield more milk. This works by helping your body release the oxytocin hormone which improves your milk yield. If baby can’t be around, such as at work, close your eyes and imagine holding and nursing your baby whilst you pump. You can also try looking at photo your baby when you pump, for the same effect.