August 4, 2019

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Generally speaking, when people talk about breast pumps, they are referring to the electric kind. These are highly efficient machines that extract milk almost as quickly as a baby might.

Check out How To Use a Breast Pump for Beginners for an in-depth guide to electric pumps.

It’s much more uncommon to use a manual pump.

The fact is that a manual pump is slow. It can take 15-20 minutes to extract the same amount of milk that an electric pump can in five to ten.

Even worse, you are doing all this extra pumping by hand. I’ll be perfectly honest, I hated using my manual pump.

But it did live on my night stand for months!

Why? Because when I woke up engorged in the middle of the night and everyone was asleep, I was able to pump quickly and silently in bed. (I didn't have a super awesome Elvie pump back then)

I didn’t have to fiddle with any tubing. I didn’t have to mess with a pumping bra. And I didn’t need to turn on a light to make sure I was pressing the right buttons.

I just reached over, grabbed the pump, and set to work. A few minutes later, I was done and could go back to sleep. (I always checked the clock first to make sure my milk wouldn’t be sitting out too long.)

Also, manual pumps are much less expensive than electric pumps. They are often available for under $50, whereas you’d be hard pressed to find a decent electric pump under $350. Though both are often covered under insurance. If you want to see if it would be covered for you, you can click here to find out.

Using a manual pump is very simple.

Make sure to read the instructions for your particular pump. You’ll want to clean and sanitize anything that might touch the milk or your breast.

You want to start by ”warming up” your breast. Most people don’t do this and are able to pump fine, but I find that a minute or so warm up helps with comfort, milk production, and can help create a better seal.

Simply give your breast a gentle massage. Work from the outside towards the nipple, and be sure to work you way all the way around.

Technique isn’t super important. You just want your boob to soften up a bit.

Position the pump so that it forms a good seal, and double check that your nipple isn’t going to rub. If it’s dark when you are trying to pump, just make sure to pay attention to the possibility and adjust as needed.

Then, you just start pumping. Usually this is a squeezing motion, but follow the instructions on your particular pump.

I usually do a few slow pumps to make sure the seal is good and nothing is rubbing.

Then, you’ll want to pump quickly for a minute or two. You are trying to stimulate your letdown reflex by emulating baby’s rapid sucking when she’s hungry.

Once you feel your let down, or if you start to see milk flowing, then go ahead and slow down to a comfortable pace that you think you can maintain.

My hand usually cramps up at this point, but maybe you’ll have better endurance than I do.

Depending on your goal - see my post on Pumping Tips and Strategies for more in-depth info - you’ll want to pump for anywhere from 10-20 minutes.

If you want to pump from both breasts, it may be easiest to finish one before starting the other. Some moms do have success switching every 10-15 minutes, but I’ve found that this is more time-consuming since you have to get your breast “started” every time you switch.

Due to the effort needed and how inefficient they are compared to electric pumps, I definitely would not recommend a manual pump as your main milk extraction tool though.

For help getting started with your electric breast pump, check out How To Use a Breast Pump for Beginners.

If you enjoyed this guide, please let me know in the comments below!

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