The first thought you have upon looking at your breast pump is, ‘how in the heck do I use this thing? What attaches? What attaches to what? The actual steps to using a breast pump differ based on whether you’re using an electric or manual breast pump. Both will be described so you can get to the point quickly.

Step 1: Go through the instructions.

Take the time to read the instructions that came with your breast pump. You mamas may find this step confusing. However, the instructions are general and may not be applicable to specific breast pumps.

Step 2: Wash your hands and clean any equipment.

No matter what type of breast pump you have, cleanliness is important.

Step 3: Create a calm, peaceful space and state of your mind.

Only in fantasy land is it possible to fly to a spa retreat whenever you need to pump. It’s great if you can find a quiet, relaxing place to pump. You don’t have to be confined to a room at work, or in a public place. Music, reading materials, or deep breathing can help you relax and get you back into a peaceful mental state. Find a comfortable position that supports your body and allows you to pump before you start pumping.

You can bring things with you to pump milk. You will need a milk storage bag, a cloth to catch drips and any other items that can help keep the milk flowing.

Step 4: Attach the breast or flange shields and position the nipple in the middle.

As a support for your breasts, pumping bras can be purchased. However, if you don’t have one, it is a good idea to support your breasts gently with your hands. Attach the breast shields one–or both, if you are using a double-pump. Make sure to align your nipple in center. To avoid discomfort, it is important to position the nipple correctly.

Manual pumps require that the nipple be placed in the middle of the flange. However, manual pumps require that the milk be expressed by hand and first a gentle massage.

Step 5: Turn the machine on. Make adjustments.

You are now ready to go. Turn on the machine. You should begin to see milk flowing around the 2-minute mark. You can adjust the speed and suction of some electric pumps automatically. If not, adjust to a level that you are comfortable with. Although you may feel some pressure during breast pumping, it should not be painful. You should think about the rhythm of your baby sucking. This is the goal.

You are the “on switch” for a manual pump. Start hand pumping at a pace that is similar to your baby’s. Keep pumping manually, switching breasts when the flow seems to stop.

Step 6: Pump for approximately 10-20 minutes

Pumping takes between 10 to 20 minutes. It is possible to stop halfway through to give your girls a break and give them a massage. Pay attention to your body as you pump.

Step 7: Disconnect the pump.

After the milk flow stops for a few seconds (again, be aware of any discomfort), turn off the pump.

Step 8: Disconnect and store the milk immediately.

Take out the breast shields or flanges, and immediately store the milk in a refrigerator.

Step 9: Clean the equipment.

Now we have circled back to step 2. You must clean all equipment that has come in contact with milk or your body.


Pumping a few times can give you a good feel for the process and allow you to make any adjustments to create an individual experience. You’ll soon see this confusing contraption as a friend and not a foe.