How to Use a Breast Pump

When adding items to your baby registry, remember the essentials. If you plan to breastfeed, a pump will be one of them. Pumps let you feed your baby even when you're not with him/her. They also stimulate milk production when necessary and keep your lactating if you must stop breastfeeding temporarily due to medications that contaminate breast milk. Once you have a pump, here is how to use it.

Choose a Shield‚Äč

Begin by sitting in a comfortable position, leaning slightly forward to avoid drips. When you're comfortable, choose an appropriately sized breast shield. The right shield will be just a bit bigger than your nipple, creating a good seal but leaving ample space for your nipple to move in and out freely. Once you've found the right shield, hold it firmly against your breast to create a seal.

Start the Pump

While holding the breast shield securely in place with one hand, use the other to turn on your breast pump. Set the pump to a rapid, low-suction pumping action. This simulates a nursing baby and tells your body to let down your milk for easier retrieval. When you see milk start to enter the collection container, turn the speed of your pump down and the amount of suction up. Pump at the highest level of suction you can without pain or discomfort.

When to Stop

Continue pumping until milk stops flowing into the collection bottle. This typically takes about 15 minutes. When the milk stops, continue pumping for another two to five minutes. Then turn off your pump and remove the breast shield. Lean forward as you do so to catch every last drop of milk. Apply nipple cream after pumping or allow your nipples to air dry and then place your pumped milk in the refrigerator for later use.

Clean Your Pump

Your pump itself can simply be wiped down occasionally with a dry cloth. The breast shields, however, need a thorough cleaning after each use. Clean your breast shield with an organic soap free of harsh chemicals. A bottle brush will help you do a thorough job. When you empty the collection bottles, they too will need a thorough cleaning before being reused.


Generally, you should expect to pump or breastfeed around eight to ten times per day. You and your baby should set the schedule that works best for you. To ensure adequate milk at feeding time, pump 30 to 60 minutes after nursing your baby or at least one hour before your next planned nursing. Milk production is typically highest in the morning, so you may be able to both nurse your baby and pump immediately after upon waking up.

Tips and Tricks

If you're having trouble getting your milk to flow, try placing a warm cloth on your breasts before or during pumping to encourage milk let down. Always pump in a quiet, relaxed place where you feel comfortable, as a stressful environment makes pumping difficult. Try looking at a picture of your little one or smelling an article of clothing they have recently worn to stimulate milk flow. Be aware that pumps that do both breasts at the same time are an excellent way to make pumping go faster. You can also purchase a pumping bra to hold your breast shield in place for you and free your hands up, allowing you to multitask while you pump.

Though pumping may feel a bit uncomfortable at first, soon you're pump will be as indispensable to you as your baby carrier or favorite diaper bag. With a little practice, you'll be pumping like a pro in no time. If you're not, enlist the help of a lactation specialist to help get you on the right track.

Zoey Miller

Zoey is our baby equipment expert. Her topics are baby, diapers, feeding, and pregnancy. After finishing college, she started work as a kindergarten teacher. She is a mother to Naomi and Daisy and has gained an immeasurable knowledge from her teaching job.