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Breast Pump Guide

How to use your breast pump

  1. Ensuring correct fit – It is very important to ensure the flange of the breast pump fits your nipple. If it does not fit well, it could cause damage as well as reducing the amount of milk removed from your breast. The flange needs to be a snug fit but not too small that it causes damage. Using a little olive or coconut oil can help. Size ranges are usually 15mm to 32mm. Measuring the width of your nipple to help fit this is a good option. If during pumping your nipple rubs on the tunnel of the flange it is too small, if a lot of your areola is pulled into the flange tunnel during pumping it is too big.

  2. Position the opening of the flange directly over the nipple and keep the tube part of the flange in line. Tilting it down could cause pain or damage.

  3. Start on the lowest suction to stimulate your let-down, this mimics the rapid sucks a baby does when attached to the breast. Most breast pumps have this setting. Once the let-down comes (milk starts flowing) increase the suction to the highest comfortable setting and switch the setting to longer sucks. Never have the suction so high that it is uncomfortable as this will only inhibit the let-down.

  4. When milk flow slows reducing suction and going back to the rapid sucks can initiate another let-down more easily.

  5. Depending on the reason you are using the pump will alter how often it is recommended you use it. Those that are exclusively pumping or if baby is not with you (for example in NICU or you are at work) will be advised to mimic a baby’s feeds and express milk 8-12 times in 24 hours (every 2-3 hours) ensuring no gaps of >6 hours (4 at most is ideal). Please seek advice if unsure.

  6. Time – depending on the person expressing it id advised to try and express through at least two let-downs, this is usually around 15-20 minutes but for some maybe shorter or longer.

Important: Milk supply is based on demand and supply. Therefore, the more a baby feeds or a parent expresses the more milk is made. You may start with just a few drops but over time this should increase with pumping sessions. Some parents struggle to express but this is not necessarily an indicator of milk supply especially when your baby is gaining weight well and has a good nappy output.

Milk is released due to the hormone oxytocin, when pumping it is important to feel relaxed and comfortable to allow your body to release this hormone and maximise the amount of milk you can express. If you require tips on how to feel more relaxed, please seek further advice.

How to safely clean your breast pump

  1. Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.

  2. The parts of the pump that come into contact with breastmilk are the only parts that need cleaning and sterilising. These parts need to be cleaned separately so take them apart before cleaning.

  3. Use fresh hot water and washing up liquid in a bowl or very clean sink using a new toothbrush or brush exclusively for cleaning your pump. Scrub the items to remove all milk residue and rinse with cold water. If not sterilising immediately dry with clean paper towels and store somewhere dry.

  4. Sterilise as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Steam or cold-water sterilising tablets/liquid can be used. Dry parts with clean paper towels before use.

  5. Clean the pump dials and surfaces with a disinfectant wipe regularly.


Storing breast milk

  • Room temperature (25◦C): Up to 6 hours

  • Fridge (<4◦C): Up to 5 days (some resources say 8 days). Always store at the back of the fridge.

  • Freezer (<18◦C): 6 months

Frozen milk can be defrosted slowly in the fridge over 12 hours or in warm water if needed quicker. Gently shake milk before use as fats may have separated when stored. This milk then needs to be used within 24 hours of being thawed. Never re-freeze frozen milk. Any milk not used within 1 hour should be thrown away.

The temperature of the milk is usually down to the baby’s preference. Some are happy with milk straight from the fridge but other prefer warmed milk.

It is not recommended to defrost breastmilk in a microwave.

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