Breast Pumps

A person pumping milk from their breasts.

Breast pumps are very helpful, allowing women to acquire more freedom while still providing breast milk for their child. With a breast pump, you and your partner (or other helper) can take turns feeding the baby. This is also a good opportunity for the child to bond with their other parent. Pumping can also help reduce and avoid engorged breasts, mastitis and blocked milk ducts. Although the task may seem daunting at first, with time and practice, it will become a fast and mindless activity. Practice makes perfect!

Types of Breast Pumps

A manual breast pump.
A manual breast pump

 There are several types of breast pumps, each of which have their advantages and disadvantages. It is a good idea to look at different models and makers in order to find a breast pump that will suit your needs. Do not hesitate to talk to your doctor, midwife, or a lactation consultant for any advice. When choosing a breast pump, you will have two options: manual or electric. If you are planning on pumping very often, it may be best for you to omit the manual pump and choose an electric breast pump, as they are more efficient. There is a wide range of prices and qualities of breast pumps. Pumps can be single, where you can only express one breast at a time, or double. Decide which pump you are going to purchase based on how often you wish to pump. Keep in mind that it is now possible to rent breast pumps.

How to Use your Breast Pump

General tips

Always wash your hands and make sure that the pump is thoroughly cleaned and sterilized from the previous use. Before beginning, read the specific instructions for assembling and cleaning your breast pump.

Assure that breast-feeding is well established before you give your baby the bottle. It’s a good idea to practice a few times before relying exclusively on it, in case you run into any difficulties. Learning how to express milk by hand is also a good idea in case your breast pump fails you.


A double electric breast pump with pumping bra.
A double electric breast pump with pumping bra
  • First off, relax! The letdown of milk will be best if you aren’t tense and allow yourself to relax. If you are having problems with the letdown, looking at images of your baby, hearing them cry or smelling their clothing, as well as compressing the breast with your hands may help trigger the reflex. Depending on the time of the day, you will be able to pump more or less milk. You will be able to pump the most in the morning, or a few hours after breastfeeding.
  • Place the breast flange (the shield) over your nipple. Take care to place your nipple in the middle of the flange. Be sure you are using the right size flange so that there is no pain, irritation or pinching.
  • If you are using an electric pump, all you need to do is turn the machine on and it will begin the suction. Start the suction on the lowest setting in order to get the flow of milk started. Then increase the suction level according to what’s comfortable to you.
  • If you are using a manual pump, place the flange on your breast and simply use the hand mechanism.
  • If holding the shields in place while pumping seems like a burden to you, you may want to purchase a hands free pumping bra. As a less expensive alternative, you can easily make one at home by cutting holes in an old sports bra and securing the flange in the hole.
  • Typically, pumping sessions last around 15 minutes. However, they can last from 5 to 45 minutes. If the pumping session is long, take breaks every 5 to 10 minutes to gently massage your breast, and make sure you are never feeling any pain.

There are some common problems that women encounter when breastfeeding and pumping:

  • Hormonal contraceptives may have an impact on the quantity of milk produced. Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant about solutions or other birth control options.
  • If you feel that the suction your breast pump is producing is not as strong as it was originally, inspect all of the parts of your pump to check for any fissures and cracks. If there is any damage, purchase a replacement part or a new pump if it cannot easily be replaced. Clean it out thoroughly, as there may be some dried up milk that is blocking airflow. All of the parts of your pump must be clean and dry.2

These are often minor problems that can be easily fixed. However, if you are concerned that you have a serious issue, or need further advice, never hesitate to contact your doctor or a lactation consultant. If severe pain occurs, discontinue the use of your breast pump until you’ve sought help from a medical professional that can help you.


  1. “Pumping your breast milk: an overview.” Baby Center – expert advice. Web.
  2. “Tips for troubleshooting your Medela breastpump.” Medela Moments. Oct. 11 2012. Web.

Last Updated 3 May 2015.