If you or your baby has a condition or if it’s just not possible for both of you to breastfeed, do not feel guilty in trying out a breast pump. Your little one doesn’t have to miss the benefits of liquid gold because you can collect the milk and just feed him/her later on.
As a newbie mom, it can be daunting to try breast milk pumping. But worry not, you don’t have to cry over spilled milk because this guide contains everything you need to know about using a manual breast pump.
What is a Breast Pump?
A breast pump is a device that moms can use to stimulate milk letdown and also express the milk into a container. Some brands are capable of mimicking a baby for more effective milk extraction so your baby can still get his/her milk if either of you is incapable of being in a breastfeeding session.
Types of Breast Pumps
As technology continues to expand, different manufacturers have designed more advanced models of breast pumps. However, there are also manual breast pumps.
- Manual Breast Pumps
From the name itself, a manual breast pump does not rely on electricity or battery. Instead, it works as a literal pump in which you’ll exert the effort on it. It typically has a lever that you can use to express breast milk into a container. Because they don’t rely on other sources of energy to work, they are more portable and affordable. However, you will be limited in suction capability and other features. Nonetheless, if you find this type more appealing for you, the best manual breast pump is not going to be as tedious to use.
There are also passive manual breast pumps or milk catchers that don’t rely on manual intervention. If you’re pumping on the other breast, you can use them on the other side to catch the milk. This way, you don’t waste any precious drop of your liquid gold.
- Electric Breast Pumps
If you have difficulty in initiating a milk letdown or expressing milk on your own, you might benefit from an electric breast pump. You won’t need to rely on your effort in order to get the milk flowing, and you have control over the suction strength. And depending on the model, you might get two flanges if you prefer to pump on both breasts at the same time. However, these models cost more than their manual counterparts, and you need to recharge them.
What are the Parts of a Manual Breast Pump?
Different models might have some parts unique to them, but just to give you a general idea, a manual breast pump is composed of 3 parts:
- Breast Shield
Sometimes, brands refer to the breast shield as flange. This part of the breast pump is what you’ll attach over the areola and nipple. In order to keep it from feeling uncomfortable or from falling, you need to get the fitted size for you. You might find manual breast pumps that come with multiple breast shields upon purchase, and some brands offer other sizes separately.
The pump contains the parts that do the work. It works by creating a vacuum so that you can extract the milk from your nipples. It is important that you find the right suction strength for you to get comfortable and to be efficient in expressing a good quantity of milk.
The pump opens from the container and is where the milk collects. Depending on the brand, you may or may not need an adapter for bottles and bags. A bottle is convenient for some moms because they can immediately attach a nipple and feed it directly on their baby. But the option of pumping directly in the bag also means minimal waste from transfer when you are collecting milk to build a stash.
How to Use a Manual Breast Pump
Before we familiarize you on how to use a manual breast pump, let us remind you to still read the instructions of your model. The manufacturer might have specific instructions in using your model more comfortably and efficiently.
- Make sure both your hands and everything that you’ll use are clean and dry. Follow the instruction manual on how to assemble your breast pump to avoid any leaks.
- Place the breast shield over your areola and remember that the nipple should be in the center of the shield. At the same time, there should be a small amount of air inside the shield when you begin to pump.
- Start pumping using the handle or lever. You can also move the handle until you feel comfortable with the suction strength. However, some brands allow control over the strength of the pump, so make sure you’re feeling comfortable with the suction.
- You can start pumping slowly and lightly, and then adjust the rate when the milk starts flowing to keep it consistent. If you’ve breastfed your baby before, you can mimic the way he/she sucks. Otherwise, find some models that are capable of 2-phase suctions themselves for your convenience.
- If you are not using a milk catcher on the other breast, you can switch the manual breast pump on each breast every 5 minutes. You can use the pump for as long as 15 minutes on each breast to make sure you collect all the milk. And if you notice that one side produces more than the other, that’s completely normal.
- If you feel that you’re finished and the milk stops flowing, gently remove the flange on your breast. But if the seal is difficult to remove, you can slowly insert your finger between the breast and the shield.
- Depending on the design of your breast pump, you can unscrew the top part and transfer the milk to another container. Some pumps use bottles or bags for direct feeding or storage to minimize spills during transfer.
- Make sure to follow the directions in washing and sanitizing all the breast pump parts. These parts involve everything from the shields up to the tubing and container. And afterward, make sure to air-dry them.
Bonus Reminders for Newbie Pumpers
- It is important that you feel relaxed during pumping. Similar to breastfeeding, you want to feel comfortable, so it might help to pump in a private and quiet place.
- You can trigger milk letdown much easier if you think of your baby. You can use photos, a toy, a blanket, or even videos of your baby to trigger hormones.
- Some moms find it easier to express milk when they put a warm compress on their breasts before pumping. You can also gently massage them beforehand.
- Don’t feel discouraged if you’re not expressing a large amount of milk immediately. Give yourself some time to get used to the suction. You might even feel a bit uncomfortable during the first seconds, especially if it’s your first time using a breast pump. However, pumping shouldn’t hurt, so make sure to consult your doctor if the discomfort never leaves.
- Make sure that you’re using safe containers to store breastmilk. If it’s plastic, it should be BPA-free. You can store freshly pumped milk for 4 hours at room temperature, 4 days in the fridge, and 6 to 12 months in the freezer. However, never restore a thawed frozen milk, and any leftovers can only be consumed within 2 hours.
- Pump as much or as little as you want. What’s important is that you feel comfortable, and productivity will follow. At the same time, don’t be afraid to talk to a lactation consultant to know more about pumping.