How to use a breast pump | Baby Journey

How to Use a Breast Pump for First Time Moms

Busy moms-on-the-go have a lot to do, and making sure your baby is fed is top of the list. Even if you’re not a working mom, you may find that occasional pumping has great benefits for you, and it frees you up for an occasional date night with your husband. If you’re a new working mom who still wants to breastfeed, pumping is the way to go. And if you’re one of those new moms who wants to pump, you may be wondering how to use a breast pump.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about breast pumping basics as well as give you some breast pumping tips and tricks to help you navigate this new world of working moms.

Understanding the Types of Breast Pumps

First of all, what is a breast pump? A breast pump is a small pump that removes and collects milk from your breasts. It collects milk through funnel-shaped shields that go over your nipple and mimic how a baby sucks to pull out milk. Once the milk’s collected you can store it or feed it to your baby right away. You can pump anywhere, even at work.

There are many reasons why mothers choose to pump even if they are not planning to return to work. Breast pumping has many benefits aside from feeding your baby: it relieves engorgement and prevents mastitis. It allows your partner to take a more active role in feeding your baby. Some mothers use pumping to help pull out nipples that are flat or inverted, or if their babies are preemies and cannot breastfeed. Pumping can even help increase your milk supply.

There are several different types that mothers can choose from, whatever their reasons for pumping. These include manual, battery-powered, and electric pumps, and each have their uses and benefits.

Manual Pumps

Manual pumps are hand-operated by squeezing a trigger or sliding a cylinder to create suction that removes the milk from your breasts. These types of pumps are small and inexpensive, but they are not suitable if you want to pump a lot of milk, as they will be tiring and take up a lot of time.

Manual pumps are small and portable. - How to Use a Breast Pump for First Time Moms | Baby Journey
Manual pumps are small and portable. Source: Target

Battery-operated pumps

These are similar to manual pumps in that they are only suitable for pumping once a day or less. They are not strong enough for stimulating milk production or keeping up a steady milk supply, and will need to be supplemented with breastfeeding. They are small and portable, but will need to be supplied with batteries. In terms of usage, battery-operated breast pumps work similar to electric pumps.

A battery-operated breast pump gives you the flexibility to pump without the need to plug in the device. - How to Use a Breast Pump for First Time Moms | Baby Journey
A battery-operated breast pump gives you the flexibility to pump without the need to plug in the device. Source: Medela Baby

Electric pumps

Electric pumps are best for working moms as they will give you the highest supply of milk. They are stronger and more powerful, so you can use it if you are trying to increase your milk supply, or keep up a steady supply of milk for your baby. They are time-saving, but are more expensive, larger, and need to be plugged in.

Electric breast pumps are a great option to pump breastmilk efficiently.- How to Use a Breast Pump for First Time Moms | Baby Journey
Electric breast pumps are a great option to pump breastmilk efficiently. Source: Kids Room

Pumping and Breastfeeding Schedule: Knowing When to Pump

The best pumping schedule depends on your situation. If you’re a working mom, pump frequently during the day while you’re away from your baby, and stick to the general times when your baby would be nursing, around every 3-4 hours.

When to Start Pumping?

The best time in the day to start pumping is after your first morning feed. Don’t worry about not having enough breast milk for the next feed. There is usually enough milk after your first feeding for pumping and for the next feed, if you’re planning to breastfeed as well.

If you’re wondering when to start pumping after your baby is born, there’s no need to start right away as long as you’re able to spend the first few weeks with your baby. If breastfeeding is going well, you can put off pumping for a little while. On the other hand, if your baby is having trouble nursing or your milk isn’t coming well, pumping can help.

How Long Should I Pump?

There’s no exact time for how long to pump. Spend at least 15-20 minutes pumping and pump until your milk slows and your breasts feel empty. If you’re breastfeeding and pumping, you can pump on one breast while your baby is nursing on the other.

When to Start Pumping for Storage

Make sure you build up a good bank of milk in your freezer for about a month before you return to work. That way, you will have a ready supply of milk and you can enlist the help of your spouse or others to feed your baby while you’re away.

Setting Up Your Breast Pump

Before you start, read the manual that comes with your pump carefully so you are familiar with your model of pump.

Gather everything you need for pumping, including any accessories like a special pumping bra, storage bags, a cloth for cleaning up drips, and something to entertain yourself. Find a comfortable and private spot to sit.

Wash your hands well with warm water and soap, and make sure any parts that come in contact with the milk or your baby’s mouth are sanitized. (See below for instructions on how to sanitize.)

How to USE A Breast Pump 101

How to operate a manual pump vs electric breast pump differs slightly. Here are the basic steps to use the different types of breast pumps:

How to Breast Pump With An Electric Pump

  1. Assemble your pump.
  2. Wash your hands.
  3. Place the breast shields against your breasts and adjust them so that they are centered over your nipples. If they are not adjusted properly the suction can cause damage to your nipples.
  4. Turn the pump on according to the instructions. It usually takes about two minutes for the milk to begin to flow.
  5. Some machines vary the speed of flow automatically, but if yours doesn’t, adjust the speed to make it inconsistent, which imitates how a baby sucks.
  6. Once the milk flow slows down, turn off the pump.
  7. Remove the breast shields.
  8. Unscrew the bottles and put on the caps.
  9. Wash any pieces that have touched your body or milk.
Pumping with an electric breast pump is easy and requires less effort.- How to Use a Breast Pump for First Time Moms | Baby Journey
Pumping with an electric breast pump is easy and requires less effort. Source: The Pump Station and Nurtury

How to Pump Breast Milk with a Manual Pump

  1. Assemble your pump.
  2. Wash your hands.
  3. Place the breast shield against your breast and center it over the nipple.
  4. Start pumping with your hand. The milk will take a few minutes to start flowing.
  5. Once the milk starts flowing, adjust your rate of pumping to mimic the inconsistency of a baby’s sucking.
  6. Switch breasts every five minutes to ensure that each one gets equal amounts of stimulation.
  7. When you are finished pumping remove the shield.
  8. Carefully unscrew and cap the bottle.
  9. Wash any pieces that have touched your body or milk.

Here’s an example of how to use a manual pump:

Depending on the breast pump model you get, some pumps like the Willow Breast Pump offer a hands-free wearable technology that lets the machine pump for you quietly as you work. You can just latch the portable breast pump to your breast without having to support it with your hands. The breast pump app on your mobile will keep you notified of the let down rate, the amount of milk you’ve successfully expressed and when the pumping session is over.

Power Pumping

Power pumping allows mothers to increase their milk supply through an increase in the production of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates production of breast milk. It mimics when a baby “cluster feeds” – meaning the baby is feeding more frequently because of something like a growth spurt. After power pumping your milk supply will most likely increase within a few days.

If you’re at work and not able to get in that cluster feeding, it’s easy to mimic it by power pumping for an hour. Follow the instructions below to start power pumping.

How to Power Pump

  1. Pump for 20 minutes
  2. Rest for 10 minutes
  3. Pump for 10 minutes
  4. Rest for 10 minutes
  5. Pump for 10 minutes

How to Power Pump on A Time Limit

If you don’t have an hour to power pump, you can get a similar effect in two half-hours sessions. Just follow these instructions.

  1. Pump for 10 minutes
  2. Rest for 5 minutes
  3. Pump for 5 minutes
  4. Rest for 5 minutes
  5. Pump for 5 minutes

Cleaning A Breast Pump

It’s very important to clean your breast pump after each time you use it. Failure to clean it causes harmful germs and bacteria to grow, and you certainly don’t want your little one ingesting any of those.

It’s easy to clean and sanitize your pump – you don’t even need any special equipment aside from a designated basin – and it doesn’t take very long to ensure that your baby remains healthy and safe.

If your breast pump is dishwasher safe you can simply put in in the top rack and run it on a hot water cycle with heated dry. If your parts are not dishwasher safe, follow the steps below.

  • Designate a clean wash basin for cleaning your breast pump supplies only. Never put your breast pump supplies in the kitchen or bathroom sink.
  • Wash all parts of the breast pump that have come into contact with your breast or your breast milk.
  • Scrub in hot, soapy water with a cleaning brush.
  • Rinse under hot running water.
  • Let all the parts air dry completely before storing them.
  • Sanitize the parts once a week.
Always clean your breast pump and accessories thoroughly.- How to Use a Breast Pump for First Time Moms | Baby Journey
Always clean your breast pump and accessories thoroughly. Source: Ameda Direct

How to Sanitize a Breast Pump

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Make sure there is enough water in the pot to adequately cover all of the breast pump parts.
  • When the water is boiling, carefully place the parts in the water and let it sit for 10 minutes, stirring periodically.
  • After 10 minutes turn off the heat and let the water cool.
  • Once the water is cool, remove the parts with tongs and air dry completely.

10 Simple Tips and Precautions When Using A Breast Pump

Here are some useful reminders to help you have a smooth breast pumping experience:

  1. Make sure you have everything you need before you sit down to pump. You don’t want to have to get up in the middle of a pumping session!
  2. Have a manual pump as a backup in case of power failure, or if you’re out for the night and just need to let out some milk.
  3. Make sure the shields (also known as flanges) fit your breasts properly. Your nipples shouldn’t be compressed or painful.
  4. Invest in some backup parts in case you lose any or they break. This is also a great hack so you don’t have to wash your parts as frequently.
  5. Use a pumping bra to keep your hands free while you pump.
  6. Use nipple cream if your nipples start getting dry and cracked.
  7. Try to pump while holding your baby or near your baby whenever possible. Being in contact with your child helps to stimulate milk production, making it easier for you to pump. However, if you’re away from your child, thinking about your baby while you’re pumping can help with the let-down reflex and get the milk flowing too.
  8. If you’re able, skip pumping on days when you’re home with your baby.
  9. Keep your pump parts clean between sessions by storing them in a large ziploc bag in the fridge. Wash them at the end of the day.
  10. Relax! The more relaxed you are, the more milk you’ll get. Read a book, watch a TV show, or listen to soothing music. Have a snack before you start, and make sure you’re in a comfy spot.
How to determine if your pumping shield or breast pump flange is the correct fit. - How to Use a Breast Pump for First Time Moms | Baby Journey
How to determine if your pumping shield or breast pump flange is the correct fit. Source: Mom Loves Best

Breastmilk Storage Post-Pumping

Breast milk can safely remain out at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours. After that you should either put it in the refrigerator if you’re going to use it in the next few days, or in the freezer if you’re planning to keep it longer.

Breast milk is safe in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, and in the freezer for up to to 12 months.

Always label your stored breast milk with the date that you pumped it to ensure that you will always know if it has gone bad.

Store your milk in 2-4 ounce packs in the freezer. It’s easy enough to heat up an extra bottle, but if your baby isn’t hungry enough for a bigger amount you won’t be wasting it.

Always make sure the containers you use to store your breast milk are sterile. Glass is a great option because it is easy to sterilize in boiling water, but if you’re going to use plastic make sure it’s BPA free. Another option is plastic bags, but make sure to use only bags that are made specifically for freezing breastmilk to avoid tearing and contamination.

Never fill the containers that you are freezing all the way up to the top. The milk expands when frozen and can crack or tear your containers. Leave at least an inch of space at the top.

Don’t place the frozen milk in the door of your freezer. Every time you open the door the temperature changes. Keep your frozen milk at the back of your freezer where the temperature is most constant.

If you’re using freezer bags, lay them flat in the freezer until they are fully frozen, then you can stack them up or place them in a container.

Always put the oldest milk at the front, and the newest milk at the back.

Make sure to store your breast milk safely.- How to Use a Breast Pump for First Time Moms | Baby Journey
Make sure to store your breast milk safely. Source: Aeroflow Breast Pumps


Whether you’re a working mom or just like to go out for a girls’ night or date every so often, having a breast pump on hand is a lifesaver – literally! You don’t need to worry about your baby getting their meal while you’re away as long as you have a good stockpile of frozen milk.

Breast pumping can be easy and pain-free if you follow our simple steps and tips. Be patient with yourself when you’re starting out, and with a little practice you’ll be a pro in no time!

Hope you find our How to Use A breast Pump guide useful! Do you pump? What are your tips and tricks? Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

How to Use a Breast Pump for First Time Moms | Baby Journey

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