How to Use a Manual Breast Pump

Manual breast pumps are a great back-up or alternative option to electric breast pumps. They allow women to pump milk into a bottle manually, without requiring electricity or a charged battery.

The biggest reason women choose manual breast pumps is that they’re easier on the wallet. Most manual breast pumps cost less than $50, while power-operated breast pumps can cost around $300.

The drawback? Manual breast pumps take work. Instead of a motor, it is your hand doing the work.

You have to squeeze the pump each time to mimic the suction action of an infant. For this reason, manual breast pumps are best for those who only occasionally pump milk.

Even if you pump milk routinely, you may wish to have a manual pump as a backup, in case your electric pump breaks. Or, because of its compact size, you may want to take a manual breast pump on short trips. A manual pump may even come in handy if your body stops responding well to the electric pump.

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How to Use a Manual Breast Pump

Before beginning, make sure all the breast pump parts are clean and dry. You can wash them in hot, soapy water. Wash your hands as well.

Next, put the pump together as shown in the instruction manual. Find a quiet and calming place to pump. Thinking about your baby will help you release milk.

If you have difficulty letting down milk on cue, you can also use warm compresses. You can also try a breast massage to stimulate the let-down reflex.

Place the funnel-shaped flange tightly over your breast to create a seal, so that air doesn’t leak out the sides. Then, gently squeeze the handle. This will create a suction that will draw milk out of your nipple.

As you pump, the milk will collect in the bottle. Try to gently squeeze the pump as often as your baby would suck when breastfeeding. (The average infant sucks about 75 times per minute.)

Once you empty one breast (the milk flow will stop), you can move the pump to the other breast to empty it. At the end, you may wish to go back to the first breast to pump any additional milk.

In some situations, you may choose to manually pump just a small amount, rather than emptying the breasts. For example, pumping a small amount can help stimulate your breasts to let down milk before nursing. It can also help relieve engorgement (when your breasts are firm and swollen from too much milk).

How Much Milk Should You Pump and How to Store It

If your baby is exclusively drinking breast milk and over a month old, they should be drinking three to four ounces per feed. If you are using the pumped milk to replace a nursing session, you should try to produce at least this much when you pump. If you have any extra, you can save it for future feedings.

In general, it should take about 30 minutes to empty both breasts manually. This will depend on your milk production and whether you tend to let down milk quickly or slowly.

Once you’re done, put a lid on the bottle. You can keep the milk at room temperature for up to four hours before you feed it to your baby. Or you can store it in the fridge for four days or freezer for up to six months.

Remember, it can take some time to get used to pumping. If it’s a stressful or daunting experience, you can try pumping for just a few minutes to begin with. This will help you build up to full pumping sessions in the future.

Dr. Frances Biagioli. American Family Physician. Returning to work while breastfeeding. Link

CDC. Proper storage and preparation of breast milk. Link

La Leche League International. Pumping milk. Link

Breastfeeding USA. How much milk should you expect to pump. Link

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.