Using a Breast Pump

Using a Breast Pump

Health concerns when using a breast

Breastmilk itself is not sterile.
But its anti-infective properties make it hard for bacteria to grow. Still, you don’t
want to introduce outside bacteria when getting ready to pump, during the actual pumping
session, or when storing or transporting milk. To reduce the risk of infection, consider
the following:

  • Always wash and rinse your
    hands thoroughly before handling pump parts, your breasts, or the milk collection
    bottles or containers.

  • Pump collection kit parts
    should be cleaned according to the instruction manual.

  • The collection bottles or
    containers that attach to the pump and are used to collect and store your milk
    should be clean.

Technical aspects

Read the instruction manual first,
but you may have to try different methods and settings on the breast pump before you
find ones that work best for you. Here are some general tips for using a breast

  • Make sure the breast flange is correctly fitted. The flange is the
    funnel-shaped part that centers over the darker ring around your nipple (areola).
    If you have a question about the fit, ask your healthcare provider or lactation

  • Massage your breasts before you pump. This causes a faster let-down and
    milk with more fat. Massaging your breasts near the end of the pumping session
    will ensure that you fully drain your breast of milk. It may also help you to make
    more milk, if you need to.  

  • Try moistening the rim of the breast flange before pumping. This creates a
    better seal on the breast.

  • Try different ways of getting a seal on the breast. Some mothers prefer to
    center the breast flanges on the nipple and areola first. Then they turn on the
    pump on. Others turn the pump on first, then place the flanges over the

  • Start the pump at the low or minimal suction setting. Then slowly move the
    setting to increase the suction. The level should be set as high as comfortable.
    Decrease the suction if it causes mild pain.

  • Suction can’t be kept if the seal of the flange on the breast is broken.
    If you don’t see a rhythmic pull and release of the nipple or areola within
    the flange, check the seal. Sometimes the tube can disconnect from the flange and
    needs to be reattached. Sometimes a part of your clothing is under the edge of the
    flange and needs to be removed.

  • Expect to pump for a few minutes before you see a steady flow of milk.
    Most pumping sessions will last 10 to 20 minutes. But you can pump as long as
    the milk is flowing and it’s comfortable for you. Some women will have a second
    let-down. After the milk has stopped flowing, if they keep pumping, it will flow

  • Don’t fill collection bottles more than 2/3 full. This prevents any
    backflow or spilling of milk. It also leaves room for the milk to expand if it
    will be frozen. If you easily fill bottles, have additional collection bottles
    ready. Stop and change bottles as needed. You also might use bottles that hold

  • When you are ready to stop pumping, slide a clean finger under the rim of the
    This should break the seal between the flange and the breast
    tissue. If milk has collected in a flange, tilt forward so that milk can drain
    into the collection bottle as you remove the flange.

  • Keep in mind that women can pump very different amounts of milk. Work with
    your healthcare provider or lactation consultant. They can help you to figure out
    how much milk you may be able to pump. Even a small amount of breastmilk is very
    good for you and your baby.

  • Correctly store your pumped milk. And properly clean your pump parts
    after pumping.