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Using a Breast Pump

Health considerations when using a breast pump:

Breast milk is not sterile and its anti-infective properties hinder the growth of bacteria. Still, you do not want to introduce "outside" bacteria unnecessarily when getting ready to pump, during the actual pumping session, or when storing milk or transporting milk. To minimize the risk of infection, consider the following:

  • Always wash and rinse your hands thoroughly before handling any clean pump parts, your breasts, or the milk collection bottles/containers.
  • Pump collection kit parts should be cleaned, according to the instruction manual.
  • The collection bottles/containers that attach to the pump and are used to collect and store your milk should be sterile.

Read the instruction manual first, but you may have to experiment with different techniques and settings on the breast pump before you find ones that work best for you. Here are some general tips for using a breast pump:

  • Some mothers moisten the rim of the breast flange (the cup or funnel that is centered over the breast) before pumping to create a better seal on the breast.
  • Some mothers prefer to center the breast flanges on the nipple and areola (the pigmented ring around the nipple) first and then turn the pump on; others turn the pump on first and then place the flanges over the breasts.
  • Start the pump at the low/minimal suction setting and gradually move the setting to increase the level of suction. The level should be set as high as comfort allows. Decrease the suction if it causes discomfort.
  • Suction cannot be maintained if the seal of the flange on the breast is broken, so check the seal of the flange periodically. Also, watch for the rhythmic pull and release of the nipple and areola within the flange.
  • Expect to pump for a few minutes before you see a steady flow of milk.
  • Do not fill collection bottles more than two-thirds full to avoid any back flow of milk and to allow for expansion if milk is to be frozen. If you easily fill bottles, have additional collection bottles ready. Stop and change bottles as needed. You also might use bottles that hold more.
  • When you are ready to stop pumping, use a clean finger to press in on your breast just above the pump breast flange. This should break the seal between the flange and the breast tissue. If milk has pooled in a flange, tilt it so that milk can drain into the collection bottle as you remove the flange. Then turn off the breast pump. You can also turn the breast pump off first, and then break the seal between the flange and the breast.

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