How to Use a Manual Breast Pump

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

Breastfeeding moms can choose between two types of breast pumps: manual and electric. If you're having trouble deciding, Polly Kocher, an international board-certified lactation consultant, says to consider your 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. "If you thrive off efficiency and time-saving techniques, an electric breast pump may be right for you. But if you don't mind a little extra work—and if you're breastfeeding only occasionally—a manual breast pump is probably your best bet.

It's true that manual breast pumps are less popular than electric ones, but Kocher says they have several advantages. Perhaps the biggest one: cost. You can get an excellent hand breast pump for $40 to $50, compared with the $250 to $350 you'd spend on a top-of-the-line double electric pump. Additionally, a manual breast pump is a lifesaver in the absence of electricity or on car rides. It also comes in handy for moms who don't frequently pump, Kocher says.

Are you sold on using a hand breast pump? Follow these 12-step instructions, which Kocher regularly gives her clients.

  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 start 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 total stimulation. Don't worry if one breast produces more milk than the other; this is completely normal.
  8. When you've finished pumping, remove the breast shield.
  9. Carefully unscrew the bottle and place a cap on it.
  10. If any parts of the manual breast pump have touched the breast or milk, wash them in warm, soapy water.
  11. Set the pieces out to air-dry.
  12. The milk is safe at room temperature for four to six hours. Many women prefer to refrigerate it right away; 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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