Whether you are heading back to work, looking to build up your milk supply or freezer stash, preparing to exclusively pump, or just want some milk on hand to get a break, using a breast pump will be crucial. Knowing where to start and how to use your breast pump will help you meet and exceed your breastfeeding and pumping goals. Use this beginner’s guide to help you kick off your pumping journey.
Select your Breast Pump
Before you can even think about pumping, you need to have a breast pump. With how many options there are, it can feel overwhelming to choose one. Thankfully, we can help you through the process of choosing your breast pump. Start by downloading our free Breast Pump Selection Guide, which gives you an overview of how breast pumps work, types, and top brands. For a more in-depth review of features, things to consider when getting a pump, tips & tricks, and more, we have our free On-demand Pump Exploration Webinar.
The good news: your health insurance plan should cover the cost of a breast pump! Our team of pump experts will review your fully covered breast pump options, go over possible upgrade options, and verify your coverage. If needed we will request a prescription on your behalf. If you haven’t gotten your free breast pump through insurance yet, get started here.
Set Up your Breast Pump
Once your breast pump is delivered, you open the box and wonder, “What do I do with all of these pieces and parts?” As part of our free service when you get a pump through us, we offer an Unbox Your Pump virtual consultation to help you get started. During this one-on-one consultation, we will review what your pump comes with, how to set it up, features specific to your pump, how to clean it (more on this below), additional tips & tricks, and provide you a chance to ask questions.
What to Expect When Pumping
It would be nice if the motherly art of breast pumping came naturally. The reality is it takes practice, determination, and patience. As time goes on, it will become easier. According to Kellymom.com, it is normal to pump 1/2 to 2 ounces total (for both breasts) if you are breastfeeding full-time. Keep in mind, pump output is not necessarily indicative of your milk supply, or how much your baby may be getting at the breast. Be sure to set realistic expectations so you are not disappointed and give yourself undue stress that can hurt your milk supply. Have faith in your body and the process.
When to Start Pumping
The right time to start pumping depends on your situation. If you are exclusively pumping or unable to nurse your baby, you may start pumping soon after birth. If you are breastfeeding and there is no anticipated need for being separated from your baby, then you may begin pumping at a time that feels right. It’s important to note that for a healthy term baby, pumping is not recommended until the breastfeeding/milk supply is well established, or there is a medical indication to do so – usually, this is 4- 6 weeks postpartum. If you are planning to return to work, you will likely want to start pumping a couple of weeks in advance to build up a small milk stash to send to your baby’s caretaker.
How Often you Should Pump
Again, this depends on your situation. If you have access to your baby and can breastfeed directly, then you may only need to pump occasionally, in preparation for when you may be away from your baby. If you will be away from your baby, it is typically recommended to pump at least as many times as your baby would feed if they were with you.
How to Clean your Breast Pump
For the health of your baby, it is important to keep your pump parts clean. The CDC recommends cleaning breast pump parts after each pumping session. Wash pump parts in an area and with a brush bottle specifically used for breast pump parts and bottles only, or clean them in the top rack of the dishwasher and allow to air dry. Having an extra set of pump parts on hand will make it easier to stick to your pumping schedule without worrying about water in the components, which can reduce suction.
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
It is important to store breast milk safely for baby. Be sure to follow the CDC’s comprehensive list of storage guidelines and how to prepare milk to maintain quality and baby’s health.
Breast Pumping Tips:
- Stay hydrated
- Eat nutritious meals and snacks
- Get rest
- Reduce stress
- Massage breasts before/during pumping
- Look at pictures or videos of your baby while pumping
- Try to relax while pumping
- Double pump to help increase output
- Do not smoke
When to Replace Breast Pump Parts
To ensure optimal performance and suction from your pump, it is important to replace parts according to the manufacturers’ recommendations.
Duckbill valves are silicone pieces that connect to the bottom of the flange. Since they expand and contract during the duration of the pump session, these should be replaced every 2 to 3 months for daily pumpers, or immediately if there is a tear.
While not all pumps come with backflow protectors, most do. These are designed to prevent milk from entering the tube. These should be replaced every 6 months, or immediately if there is a tear or damage.
Breast shields and flanges
Look for signs of residue in the cracks and corners in hard-to-reach places. If there is buildup that cannot be cleaned, or the shield is cracked, distorted, or torn, it is time to replace. If not, replace every 6 months.
If the tubing slides off, or moisture or milk gets in it, then it is time to replace. Keep an eye on performance and replace according to the manufacturers’ guidelines.
The Easiest Way to Get your Breast Pump Through Insurance
Getting a breast pump through insurance has never been easier! Ready to get started? Simply select your insurance provider and the state you live in. We will show you your options, work out the details with your insurance, and ship your pump. It’s that easy! Plus, we will be with you to help support you on your pumping journey.