How Should I Be Pumping?

Medically Reviewed on 7/1/2022
How Should I Be Pumping
Learning how to pump your breast milk can be intimidating at first.

For many new moms, breast pumping can be daunting at first. Here is a step-by-step guide to ensure you are doing it correctly:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water and make sure the pumping instrument is clean.
  2. Place the flange over the center of your breast and hold it in place.
  3. Follow the instructions on the label of the equipment on how to set the dial. 
  4. Start with a higher speed but lower suction pressure. 
  5. Then, gradually switch to a lower speed and high suction pressure.
  6. Continue pumping for anywhere between 15-30 minutes.
  7. Once you finish pumping, break the suction and remove the bottle carefully from the breast.
  8. Unplug the equipment and clean your pump according to the instructions on the label.

When should I start pumping?

During the first 2 hours after birth, you can express your breast milk by pressing with your hands and then pumping every 2-3 hours. Keep pumping to gradually increase your milk supply.

If you need to go back to work or leave your baby for an extended period, start breast pumping 3-4 weeks beforehand. This will help your baby get used to drinking from a bottle so that you do not have to worry when you are not around the baby.

Breastfeeding without the use of pumps is ideal. However, you may need to start pumping if:

  • Your baby is losing weight
  • Your baby is premature and can't latch onto your breast
  • Your baby can’t eat due to illness or jaundice
  • You have to stay away from your baby for longer periods 

If your baby is gaining weight, avoid starting pumping early as it can create an oversupply of breast milk. Producing too much milk can cause your breasts to become engorged and lead to problems such as mastitis, which is inflammation of the breast.

How often should I be pumping?

When you are away from your baby, pump as many times as your baby feeds during the day. This signals your body to keep producing milk so that your supply does not decrease. The amount of breast milk your baby needs may change as they grow.

It’s best to pump soon after your baby has breastfed. Avoid pumping before a breastfeeding session because your baby may lose interest in breastfeeding if your breast is low in volume after pumping. Once you are back to work, try pumping about every 2-3 hours.

What are different types of breast pumps?

Depending on the manual or electric nature of the pump, there are two types of pumps:

  1. Manual pumps: Also called hand-operated pumps, manual pumps are small and cheaper compared to electric pumps. While they may prove useful if a power outage occurs, they do require more effort and time to extract milk. If you do not need to pump often but only occasionally, a manual pump may be a good option for you.
  2. Electric pumps: Also called automatic pumps, electric pumps require much less effort and are easier to use than manual pumps. They come in many sizes and most of them are either plugged in or battery-operated.

Check your insurance plan to see if it covers breast pumps. If not, you can buy or rent a breast pump from a hospital, lactation consultant, retail store, or online.


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Can I buy a used breast pump?

Avoid using a breast pump that has already been used by someone else. Used pumps carry the risks of contamination, meaning your baby could become infected with bacteria if the pump has not been properly cleaned.

Hospital-grade pumps are an exception, which are meant to be reused. You can use the accessory kits, which lowers the chances of contamination. Moreover, hospital-grade pumps come with protective barriers and are FDA-approved for multiple users.

How long does pumped breast milk last?

How long pumped breast milk lasts depends on how it is stored:

  • Room temperature: Up to 6-8 hours
  • Refrigerator: Up to 5 hours
  • Freezer: About 6 months (to make the milk last in the freezer longer, store it in the back instead of in the door)

Always remember, however, that the fresher the breast milk, the better. Once refrigerated breast milk comes to room temperature, do not re-refrigerate or freeze it.

How should I clean my breast pump?

Make sure to clean your breast pump so that germs do not multiply on it and get transferred to your baby. 

  • After each use, wash the pump with soap and warm water, use a brush to clean it thoroughly, rinse under running water, and then air-dry.
  • Check the label to see if your pumping equipment is dishwasher-safe. If it is, you can place it on the top shelf of the dishwasher.
  • If your baby is premature or has a weakened immune system, sanitize the equipment daily.
Medically Reviewed on 7/1/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Kids Health. "Breastfeeding FAQs: Pumping." <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Pumping Breast Milk." <>.