Getting Started with Your Breast Pump

An expectant mother’s guide to mastering her breast pump

So, you have your breast pump—excellent! You can officially check that off the pre-baby to-do list. Next step: Learning how to use it. While your pump may seem like a strange milking machine now, you’ll soon become intimately familiar with it. Here’s a quick guide for getting to know this breastfeeding essential.

Our list of to-dos before using your breast pump

Get to know your pump

Even if you’re not one to typically read directions, this is a good time to open that instruction manual and give it a once-over. Yes, it may feel like you’re reading something in a foreign language, but before you know it, you’ll be an expert on all those strange-looking parts with weird-sounding names. If you’re more of a visual learner, watch the YouTube videos about your specific pump. Compare your pump parts to the pictures and videos, and make sure you have everything that’s supposed to be included.

Clean the parts

Before the inaugural pump, you’ll want to sterilize the parts (but not the tubing). Consult your manual to confirm which parts need to be sterilized before the first use. Also, note which sterilizing and cleaning methods are allowed or not recommended (We’re looking at you, dishwasher). Options may include boiling water, microwave steam bags, hot water and dish soap, or the top rack of the dishwasher. After sterilizing, air dry completely on a bottle drying rack, drying mat, or towel. This is also a good time to have your spouse observe and learn how to take apart and clean your pump, too.

Assemble the parts

Bust open that manual again (or cue up the YouTube video) and walk through the step-by-step instructions. Check out the graphics so you know all the parts are fitting together properly. Don’t worry if it feels like a crazy puzzle at first. Soon you’ll be flying through this assembly process like a pro.

Use your pump

Before you turn on your pump, get everything you’ll need within arm’s reach. Snacks, remote, phone, baby if he or she’s awake—this is an important step! Put on a hands-free pumping bra if you have one (and if you don’t have one, consider using that baby shower gift card to buy one ASAP). Double-check that all the parts are fully connected and your pump is plugged in. Slip the flanges (those cone-shaped things) inside the bra and onto your breasts, then turn on the pump and play with the settings. It usually helps to sit up straight and lean slightly forward so milk easily flows down into the bottles.

The first few times you pump, you probably won’t get much milk out. This is especially true if your baby is still very new and your supply is still growing. Don’t get discouraged or caught up in the volume of milk or the minutes pumped and all that jazz—give it time! If you continue to pump at the same time every day, your body will recognize it needs to make more milk for that feeding. You’ll get to know your pump better and better every time you use it, and it won’t take long to figure out what ultimately works best for you.

If you would like more information on prenatal preparation for breastfeeding, please call Ashland Women’s Health. We have endless resources to help you with your breastfeeding journey, and we would love nothing more than to be there for you, whatever you need.