How to use a breast pump

How to Use a Breast Pump: 6 Breast Milk Pumping Tips and Tricks

I didn’t really understand how to use a breast pump correctly until a Lactation Consultant showed me. If you’re having trouble with pumping (or breastfeeding) I can’t stress enough how helpful and beneficial the support of a qualified professional can be. That being said there are definitely some tricks to pumping effectively which I want to share with you here.

Check out my previous post here if you would like to read more about my journey with breastfeeding and pumping.

How to Use a Breast Pump

Step-by-step Guide on How to Use a Breast Pump Properly

Here’s a step-by-step guide to using a breast pump. If you’re having trouble, consulting with a lactation consultant can be very helpful.

how to use a breast pump

Total Time Needed :



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Required Tools:

– Breast Pump
– Breast Shield
– Breast Milk Storage Bottles
– Nursing Bra

How to Use a Breast Pump

Step 1: Assemble the Pump

Begin by assembling your breast pump according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure all parts are clean and correctly fitted.

Step 2: Find a Comfortable Position

Sit in a comfortable chair with good back support. Relaxation is key to effective pumping.

Step 3: Place the Breast Shield

Center the breast shield over your nipple. The nipple should be in the middle of the shield and move freely during pumping.

Step 4: Start Pumping

Start the pump on a low setting and gradually increase the suction. Pumping shouldn’t be painful. Adjust the settings as needed for comfort.

Step 5: Pump for 15-20 minutes

Pump for about 15-20 minutes per session. If you’re double pumping (both breasts at once), this time might be shorter.

Step 6: Store the Breast Milk

After pumping, store the breast milk in clean storage bags or containers. Label them with the date of pumping.

Step 7: Clean the Equipment

Clean all pump parts that come into contact with your breast and breast milk following each use.

6 Tips for Efficient Pumping

Your baby finally fell asleep! You want to pump and you only have 15 minutes because, let’s face it, you need a nap too. How can you get the best “bang for your buck” so to speak when it comes to pumping?

Keep reading for 6 tips on how to pump most efficiently.

1. Don’t get discouraged

Let your body get used to pumping.

If you’re just starting out, you’re not going to get as much as you will once your body grows accustom to your pump. Our bodies weren’t designed to produce milk for a machine. They were designed to produce milk for the sweet, warm bundle of joy you nourish.

So keep at it. Once your body realizes it’s safe to letdown for your pump, it will. Though, under normal circumstances, you will never pump as much as your baby can transfer, so don’t get discouraged by the amount in the bottle either. Every drop of milk is a blessing.

2. Relax

There’s an element of instinct when it comes to milk production. In a flight or fight situation OR when you’re under stress, your breasts aren’t going to want to respond with the ample supply of milk that flows so well in response to happy hormones. So when it comes to pumping (and nursing too), it’s important to relax.

Grab a book, warm some tea, and, my favorite, eat a cookie. Favorite recipe here. You want to activate those lovely happy hormones (prolactin and oxytocin)  to get your milk flowing.

I’ll never forget when the LC came out to my home for the first time and showed me how to use my pump. We were manipulating the breast tissue in the pump and a loud pfft escaped. Like an adolescent, I cracked up laughing. I immediately had a letdown, which my Lactation Consultant attributed and announced was due to a lovely…boob fart.

3. Use the Correct Flange Size

Usually pumps come with a standard flange which varies by brand. And let’s face it, boobs are not one size fits all and neither is the size flange, which is actually determined by the size of the nipple, not the breast.

Correct flange size is critical for comfortable pumping. Ideally, one should be able to use the highest setting on your pump for the purpose of drainage, without pain.

Flanges are too small if the nipple is being pinched or touches the wall of the flange. Small flanges cause problems with draining, not to mention a lot of pain.

Flanges are too large if breast tissue is being pulled up into the small cylindrical part of the flange. This can caused pinched ducts farther up the breast, which can also hinder proper draining of the breast.

Flanges that fit correctly will, first and foremost, be comfortable. With the breast shield in place, the nipple will  move easily as the pump stimulates and extracts the milk. The areola will constrict slightly (but not painfully – similar to when a baby nurses) which also aids in stimulating for optimum milk transfer.

Flanges of different sizes and for different pump brands can be purchased when the size provided with your pump doesn’t fit properly.

Keep in mind that the size of flange you need for one breast may differ from the size needed for the other. Get what you need! Don’t sacrifice your nipples!

I bought my Spectra flanges on Amazon, which also carries Medela, a very popular brand for pumping. Other brands of pumping accessories can also be found and purchased.

(Medela kits also work with hospital grade pumps, which you can rent at fairly reasonable costs. If you’re struggling with supply, using a hospital grade pump may be a help to you. Ask your LC!)

4. Make Certain the Nipple is Centered

This may seem easier said than done, especially when manipulating the breast and breaking suction can cause precious milk to leak out and make a mess.

In my experience, it’s best to get everything situated during the two minute stimulation phase, rather than the extraction phase.

Center the breast shield around your nipple. If necessary, move some of the breast tissue up into the shield a bit. This can help avoid “wandering nipples” as my lactation consultant calls them. (Experiment to be sure scrunching the breast tissue doesn’t hinder the flow and emptying of the breast.)

If one or both of your nipples look like it’s going off to one side (a.k.a. Wandering Nipples), slowly pull the breast tissue away from the direction it’s leaning. Be sure to hold the flange so that the whole thing doesn’t come off. Also be sure the milk flow is going down and away from your body so that if the suction does break, you aren’t mourning the loss of that precious liquid.

5. Be Handsy. Shake. Massage. Do Compressions.

What do I mean by handsy? Well, I mean get in there and see what makes your milk flow. Don’t be shy.


Quite literally shake your breasts out before pumping (and nursing) to loosen the fatty milk in the ducts. This makes it easier to get the hind milk when you experience letdown and extract a great volume as well.

Breast massage.

Doing breast massage before pumping (and nursing) is also effective at loosening the milk in the ducts. Start up and out, away from your nipple and work down and in, towards the nipple in long, downward strokes. Don’t forget the tissue near your armpits as milk can be stored there as well.

Breast Compressions.

Using breast compressions can potentially increase the extracted volume of milk by 50% or more. Breast tissue can be found all the way up near your armpits, so get to squeezing and see what works the best. See technique here.

6. Twisted Nipple Trick

Say what?! Yes, you heard me but don’t go hurting yourself. Milk ducts don’t always form a nice straight line like anatomical diagrams may suggest. In fact, they can be a lot like a wet noodle, so sometimes changing the direction of the breast can help a bit.

To do the “twist”, simply take the flange and gently twist 90 degrees one way and then the other. See what happens.

This is not an exhaustive list of tricks while pumping, but it’s a start. Everyone is different so what works for one person may not work for another and vice verse, so don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works best for you!

Bonus Tip:

Use your nursing bra or camisole to hold your pump in place, so you can be hands free!

For all you seasoned pumpers, what tricks have you found helpful?

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