Learning how to use your electric breast pump is easy when you know the steps! This guide should help you set up your electric pump effectively to enhance milk flow and prevent pain during pumping. I’ve got a few handful tips, too, to make your pumping session more productive.

Steps on How to Use Your Electric Breast Pump

Your pump equipment may look complicated, with all its parts and controls. First-time mums and beginners may take some time to learn how to use your electric breast pump. The best way around it, though, is to get to know your electrical pump ahead of time. With sufficient information and a bit of practice, expressing breast milk will become second nature!

Read the manual early on

When your newborn baby arrives, you’ll have little time for things like reading the instruction manual of your electric breast pump. So, I recommend doing this before your due date. Allocate an hour or two to familiarise yourself with the breast pump parts and assembly. Find out how to fit the breast shields properly, turn the pump motor on and adjust the suction settings.

Read the troubleshooting section of your manual, so you know how to tackle problems that may arise during your pumping and breastfeeding journey. Practice the cleaning and storage instructions of your expressing equipment as well. Also, some breast pump manufacturers have instructional videos for assembling, using and cleaning their products. Make sure to check online if these are available for your expressing equipment.

Look for a comfortable place

Comfort is essential when pumping breast milk. Experts have concluded that being in a relaxed environment causes the release of a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone, in turn, encourages your let-down reflex or milk flow.

So, find the most comfortable chair at home to support your back and arms. Look for a spot with minimal distraction. Some mums find it comforting to put a warm compress on their breast before expressing. It can help in simulating natural baby sucking action to trigger your let-down reflex. A breast massage before pumping can help you relax, too.

Also, depending on your preferred pumping schedule, you’ll be expressing milk for 15 to 30 minutes. So, make sure you have everything you need within easy reach. Have baby bottles, milk storage bags and muslin cloth ready. You might want to put your phone, TV remote control or snacks near you, too.

Prepare and assemble the breast pump parts

When you’re ready to pump, it’s time to put your expressing equipment together. Make sure to wash your hands first and that all breast pump parts are clean and sterile. Then assemble your electric breast pump according to your manufacturer’s instruction manual.

Fit the breast shield and begin pumping

This step is the most vital when learning how to use your electric breast pump. It takes some getting used to, but one thing you should always remember is to keep the assembled breast shields centred over the nipples. These are the cone-shaped parts that go on your breasts. Make sure to use the proper flange size and to lay the cups flat on your skin, leaving no room for air to get in. Aligning the breast shields to your nipples allows you to express milk successfully without any pain. Once that’s done, turn on the pump motor to start pumping.

Electric breast pumps have different suction settings, but I recommend starting at a slow pump speed first. The idea is to simulate how babies suck, which is low and slow, to express your milk supply. Besides, setting the suction on high speed doesn’t mean you’ll get milk out faster. It might even make you uncomfortable.

Milk usually starts coming out after two minutes of pumping, but be patient if it takes a bit longer. It’s just that breast milk flows faster when breastfeeding your baby than when expressing by machine. But once milk flow begins, you might want to vary your pump’s suction settings to simulate a baby’s natural suckling pattern. Some electric models, however, do have automated speed adjustments, like the Medela and Philips breast pumps. Just make sure to stick to the most comfortable and efficient suction strength. You can also stop for a minute, massage your breast and have a break before continuing.

Apply ways to enhance milk flow

On the first few days after delivery, you won’t be expressing much milk yet. However, you’ll be producing colostrum instead. This yellow and thick fluid is essential to make your newborn baby strong against diseases. It’s also tummy-friendly. As the days go, your breasts feel fuller and start to produce a greater milk yield. Your breast milk will typically form a creamy layer on top. Its colour may vary, however, depending on the time of milk expression and how long since you fed your baby last.

Your milk supply naturally adjusts to your baby’s feeding needs and capacity, so you shouldn’t worry if you’re expressing enough. However, there are helpful ways to encourage milk production:

  • Think of your baby. Rather than stare at the collection bottles, relax and fill your mind with happy thoughts. Some women find it comforting to look at photos of their baby or to have their baby’s blanket with them while pumping.
  • Keep yourself busy. Try listening to music, checking your email or watching TV while sitting on a comfortable chair. Being preoccupied can lessen the pressure and ease your worries.
  • Consider a double pump kit. Pumping both breasts at the same time stimulates prolactin to help you produce and express more milk. It cuts pumping time, too.
  • Follow a pumping schedule. Mums produce breast milk on demand, and a pumping schedule trains your breast to make milk in time for your pumping session.
  • Try combining breastfeeding with pumping. When you can, use your breast pump 30 minutes after breastfeeding your baby for a better let down. If this is not possible, you can also try pumping more often.

Store pumped milk and clean the breast pump

Turn off your expressing equipment when you see your milk flow starts to slow down. Remove the breast shield and put the cap on your collection bottle. Follow proper storage guidelines for your pumped milk. Expressed milk can stay safe up to 6 hours at room temperature, five days in the fridge or six months in the freezer. Make sure to label the storage container with the date of milk expression. For fridge storage, place it at the back for consistent temperature. Use dedicated milk storage bags for freezing to avoid bacterial contamination.

Follow your instruction manual for cleaning your breast pump parts properly. Wash them with soap and hot water then allow to air dry thoroughly. Wipe the pump motor clean as well. You can check out this guide for more detailed steps in cleaning and sterilising your electric breast pump.

Establish a schedule

Whether you’re exclusively pumping or doing breastfeeding in between, a schedule can help you manage all your other tasks as a mum. But how often do you need to breast pump? Initially, you may need to breastfeed or pump up to 10 times a day until your milk supply stabilises. Just make sure to do either regularly to promote breast milk production.

Consult an expert for assistance

If you need further assistance with your pumping goals, milk production or scheduling, a breastfeeding counsellor or lactation consultant can be a big help. In Australia, the Australian Breastfeeding Association has over 400 trained volunteers to assist mums through their breastfeeding helpline. They can also help members via email or in-person support. For infection or health-related concerns, call your doctor for medical advice.

Consider getting breast pumping accessories

Once you learn how to use your electric breast pump, you may want to add a few accessories for a smooth-sailing pumping experience:

  • Bleach-free wipes and steam bags are perfect for mums who pump at work. The wipes can be used for cleaning up your pump motor, while the steam bags can sterilise your breast pump parts in the microwave. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, though, when selecting power and time settings.
  • Breast pump bags make your expressing equipment and supply portable and organised. You can also add an insulated cooler to fit inside to transport expressed milk safely.
  • Hot packs or warm compress for the breast can stimulate your let-down reflex. In cases of engorgement, cold packs slipped in your nursing bra can provide relief. Applying nipple cream, especially during the first days of pumping, also help relieve soreness.
  • Nursing pads or milk catchers can be paired with your nursing bra to solve nipple leakage.
  • Nursing bras and clothes make your top easy to lift or remove without making you feel uncomfortable while nursing in public. You can avoid extra expenses by considering a nursing dress for hire, too!