Even for the full-time stay at home mom, a breast pump is likely on your list of essential items to support your baby.
While they are great for high volume breast pumping, an expensive electric pump may not be necessary. Especially for those who get a lot of time with their baby and can mostly nurse on demand.
In comes the cheap, convenient, and often overlooked option of a manual breast pump.
We’ve created this guide for mothers who think that manual breast pumping will work for their lifestyle and will teach you how to use your manual breast pump.
In addition, we will cover the components and assembly involved, as well as the hygienic maintenance to keep your pump clean.
What is Manual Pumping
Just like any other breast pump, a manual pump is designed to extract a mother’s breast milk so she can store it to use for supplementing or replacing breastfeeding.
While electric pumps have different settings that can help to mimic your baby’s suckling automatically, manual pumping is all done by hand.
With a manual pump, you will physically squeeze the “trigger” at regular intervals in order to get your milk to start flowing and capture it in the attached bottle or chamber.
It requires a bit more work and isn’t always as efficient as an electric pump, but it does have its benefits in a mother’s pumping routine.
Why Pump Manually
There are several reasons why a mother may opt to use a manual pump over an electric pump.
First, manual pumps are compact and have very few parts, making it easier to take with you wherever you go. It is easy to slip into a breast pump bag to lighten the load!
It can be handy to keep one in your purse or in your desk at work to maintain your pumping schedule out of the house.
Their smaller size also makes them more inconspicuous and easier to use privately when out in public.
Second, manual pumping is a great option for mothers who aren’t pumping full time.
They may be primarily breastfeeding but just want an option to store some milk in case of an emergency (father feeding during the night, babysitter for date night, etc.).
It’s convenient to have for those occasional times you need to pump.
Third, manual pumps are overall cheaper than electric pumps.
This may not be a huge deciding factor for mothers who want to pump their breast milk, especially since most insurance companies will cover the cost of an electric pump.
However, for mothers who are paying out of pocket and on a budget, a manual pump may be a more attractive option.
Finally, manual pumps can come in handy when you are starting to wean your baby.
Your milk production won’t stop right away when your baby finishes breastfeeding; you will still have times when you feel slightly engorged and need relief.
A manual pump can help you express just enough milk to relieve the pressure while sending your body signals that it doesn’t need to produce as much anymore.
Components of a Manual Pump
The main components of a manual breast part are pretty much the same as an electric pump. Manual pumps just don’t have all the tubes and electronic parts that make up the extra bulk.
A manual pump contains three parts:
- A breast shield: this is the cone-shaped part that sticks out from the pump, fitting over your nipple and areola. They come in different sizes, so you want to be sure you find the right one for your breast size and shape.
- The pump: this is the main part that creates a vacuum to draw the milk out of your breasts. In a manual pump, it is attached directly to the breast shield and works by squeezing the lever at regular intervals.
- A container: this is the part that collects the expressed milk. For most pumps, both manual and electric, the container is a bottle. However, you can find some pumps that drop expressed milk directly into a bag, making it easier to transfer and store.
How to assemble
Most manual pumps are assembled in a similar fashion, but you should always read through your model’s instruction manual completely before attempting to put it together.
As a general rule, however, you can follow these directions:
- Insert the valve – the valve is a small plastic or silicone piece that is inserted into the pump from below (under the “lid”).
- Attach the bottle or storage cup – simply screw the top (the pump part) onto the cup or storage container, ensuring a tight seal. In some cases, you may need to screw on an adapter for the storage cup first.
- Insert the silicone diaphragm – the large silicone diaphragm with stem needs to be pressed into the top of the pump, ensuring a tight seal.
- Snap on the handle – the handle usually attaches to the diaphragm by the stem. Just line it up and press down until it snaps in.
- Attach the massage cushion – on the front of the pump on the breast shield, attach the massage cushion by pressing it into the hole as much as possible to create a tight seal. Also be sure to press around the edges to remove any excess air.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular manual breast pump models. Most are going to be assembled in the way we just described, but some may have a few differences.
- Phillips Avent – assemble in a similar manner to what is described above.
- Pureen – this one differs slightly since it is pumped by a bulb rather than a handle.
- Medela – assemble in a similar manner to what is described above.
- Pigeon – assemble in a similar manner to what is described above.
- Haakaa – this one is very different from the others. The capture container also works as the pumping mechanism, and the pump itself is all one piece. This makes it easier to clean and doesn’t require any assembly.
- Evenflo – assemble in a similar manner to what is described above.
Instructions for use
Manual pumping is pretty straightforward, but it’s good to know the basics to ensure you are pumping efficiently and comfortably.
- Making sure you are using the right size breast shield, place it over your nipple. It should easily fit inside the hole with the shield resting against the breast.
- Using both hands, place one under the breast to support it while you also hold the shield in place, and place the other hand on the pump handle.
- Start squeezing the handle, moving around it to find the right level of suction. You should start to see milk draining into the container after the first few squeezes.
- Continue pumping until you see the flow of milk slow down or stop altogether. It could take about 10 to 15 minutes per breast.
- Take the hand that was on your breast and insert your finger between the shield and your breast in order to break the suction.
- Repeat on the other breast if needed.
Every woman’s breast composition and milk supply will be different, so the amount of time needed to pump each breast may vary.
The type and brand of pump you use can also make a difference with efficiency, affecting the amount of time you need to pump each breast.
If you are pumping into a bottle, you will want to transfer the milk into a bag for easier, more compact storage.
Be sure to label the bag with the date, time, and breast pumped (left or right).
- Room temperature (77 Fahrenheit or cooler): up to 4 hours
- Refrigerator (40 Fahrenheit): up to 4 days
- Freezer (0 Fahrenheit or colder): up to 6 months is best, but it can go up to 12 months safely
Importance of Hygiene
Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or pumping your breast milk, hygiene plays an extremely important role when feeding your baby.
You do not want to pump them at risk by exposing them to bacteria that may be present in your pump or on your breasts.
Before you start pumping, you want to be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water as well as the breast(s) you are going to pump.
Assemble your pump (if it is not already), inspecting all parts to ensure cleanliness and quality.
After you pump, you need to take care of your pump and your milk properly. Use the guidelines outlined previously to store your milk and prevent contamination.
Take your pump completely apart to its most basic parts, and start by rinsing any parts that came into contact with your milk or breast.
Some pumps or parts can be cleaned in the dishwasher, which makes sanitizing much easier.
However, if your pump instructions state you should only wash by hand, you should follow these directions closely so you don’t compromise the integrity of your pump.
All parts should be completely rinsed free of milk and soap, and allowed to dry entirely before reassembling.
If your pump is reassembled with milk or moisture remaining, interior parts may be at risk for molding or mildewing.
If you do notice any mod building up in your tubing or any other pump part, throw it away and replace it immediately.
Other Manual Breast Pumping Tips
Here are some other general tips to follow when manual breast pumping:
- Find a clean and comfortable place to pump where you won’t be interrupted or disturbed by others.
- Don’t feel like you have to commit to a certain amount of time to pump; pump as long as you feel comfortable and still see milk flowing.
- If your breasts are hurting when you pump, something isn’t right. You may have the wrong size breast shield or you may not have it centered over your breast.
- Be sure to clean all of your pump parts after each use. This includes the container, shield, and any sort of tubing or vent that is attached to the actual pump.
- Read through the instruction manual completely before assembling and using your manual breast pump.
Manual pumping may not be an option for every mother. For those full-time pumpers who are frequently away from their babies due to work or other engagements, a double electric pump is obviously the better option in the long run.
However, for those mothers who need to pump on occasion at work, who aren’t looking to pump an overly abundant back supply, and who may just be looking for something simpler and less expensive, a manual pump may be just the right choice.