Learn how to use an electric breast pump in 14 simple steps.


When helping a mom decide whether she should purchase an electric breast pump or a manual breast pump, international board-certified lactation consultant Polly Kocher asks about the mom's cooking style. "I say, are you a person who mixes a cake up by hand or do you use an electric mixer?" 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."

Today, most women choose to use an electric pump, Kocher says. She tells them, upfront, to plan on spending $250 to $350 for a high-end model. The less expensive models, she says, "cost half as much, are half as good and last half as long."

Kocher regularly instructs her clients on how to use an electric 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 the breast milk.
  4. Place the assembled breast shields on your breasts. Hold the shields, and not the attached bottles, so you can adjust them as needed. Make sure the shields are centered over the nipples. If the placement is off, the suction can be damaging.
  5. Turn the machine on.
  6. Milk will usually start to flow within two minutes. At that point, some machines, such as Medela pumps and Philips AVENT pumps, will adjust in speed. If your pump doesn't adjust by itself, it's helpful to vary the speed so that it's inconsistent, similar to the sucking motions of a baby.
  7. Find a speed that is comfortable and efficient. Pumping should never be painful.
  8. Continue thinking about your baby, listening to music, checking e-mail, or engaging in other distracting activities. For some women, staring at the bottles can actually impede milk flow.
  9. When your milk flow has slowed down and you feel as though you're finished, turn off the pump.
  10. Remove the breast shields.
  11. Carefully unscrew the bottles and put caps on them.
  12. With warm, soapy water, wash any pieces that touched your body and/or your milk.
  13. Set the pieces out to air-dry.
  14. The milk is okay at room temperature for four to six 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.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.