Learning About Using a Breast Pump

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A breast pump is a device that you can use to empty milk from your breasts whenever you want. Then you can store the milk for later. Pumping can help keep up your milk supply. If you have problems or have concerns about your milk supply, talk to your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant.

What types of breast pumps can you use?

There are different types of breast pumps to choose from.

Manual pumps:

  • Don't require a power supply since they're pumped by hand.
  • Are easy to carry with you.
  • May cost less than other types of pumps.
  • Are slower than electric or battery-powered pumps.

Battery-powered pumps:

  • Use a battery-powered motor to create suction and remove milk. In most pumps, the battery can be recharged.
  • Are convenient when you don't have an outlet handy.

Electric pumps:

  • Use an electric motor to create suction and remove milk.
  • Are often faster and more comfortable than manual pumps.
  • May work like the action of a breastfeeding infant.
  • Are larger and heavier than manual pumps. But some newer models are lightweight.

How to use a breast pump

Pumping milk with a breast pump will probably take 10 to 20 minutes for each breast. But it may take longer.

1. Read the instructions that came with your pump. Understand how to put it together and how often to clean and sanitize the parts. Have supplies and spare parts ready.

2. Choose a good place to pump. Find a spot that's clean, comfortable, and private so you can relax.

3. Wash your hands before you touch the breast shield or your breast. Use soap, and scrub your hands for 10 to 15 seconds. Then rinse well in warm water.

4. Put the pump together. As you put it together, check to see that all parts are clean.

5. Think about or hold your baby. This may improve your milk letdown. If you aren't with your baby, try looking at a photo or sniffing a piece of clothing your baby has worn.

6. Position the breast shield over your breast. Your nipple should be right in the middle of the shield. You may need to try a few different sizes of breast shield to find one that fits you best.

7. Start pumping. Begin with a low level of suction. Increase suction as the milk starts to flow. You'll feel a tugging while pumping, but it shouldn't be painful. If it hurts, stop pumping.

8. Empty both breasts during each pumping session. After you pump, your breasts should feel soft with no hard areas.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.