How to Use a Manual Breast Pump

Learn how to use a manual breast pump in 12 simple steps.

breast milk in fridge Image Source/Corbis

When helping moms decide whether they should purchase a manual breast pump or an electric one, Polly Kocher, an international board-certified lactation consultant, asks them about their cooking prep. "I say, 'Do you cut up your own carrots or do you buy the little ones already cut up?'" says Kocher, who works at the OSF Breastfeeding Resource Center at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois. "Think about what your personality is, and how much process you want to put into something."

Kocher says that, although manual pumps are less popular than electric, there are a number of reasons that a mother would choose a manual. Cost is one. You can get an excellent manual pump for $40 to $50, compared with the $250 to $350 you'd spend on a top-of-the-line double electric pump. A manual pump is useful in the absence of electricity, on car rides, and for moms who don't frequently pump, Kocher says.

Kocher regularly instructs her clients on how to use a manual breast pump. She shared the following steps.

    1. Read the instruction manual and familiarize yourself with your model.
    2. Wash your hands and make sure all parts of the breast pump are clean.
    3. Find a private place where you feel relaxed. Think about your baby; this will trigger the hormones that help release your milk.
    4. Place the assembled breast shield on your breast. Make sure the shield is centered over the nipple.
    5. Begin pumping. It may take a couple of minutes for the milk to begin flowing.
    6. Once the milk is released, adjust the rate of pumping to make it inconsistent, similar to a baby's sucking motions.
    7. Switch breasts about every five minutes. Make sure that each breast gets about 15 minutes of stimulation. Most women find that one breast produces more milk than the other. This is completely normal.
    8. When you've finished, remove the breast shield.
    9. Carefully unscrew the bottle and place a cap on it.
    10. Wash any parts that have touched the breast or milk in warm, soapy water.
    11. Set the pieces out to air-dry.
    12. The milk is okay at room temperature for four to six hours. Many women prefer to refrigerate it right away, and it can remain in a cooler for up to 24 hours. The Centers for Disease Control says it's safe to refrigerate breast milk for up to five days. When stored in a chest or upright deep freezer, the milk keeps for six to 12 months.

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