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A Guide on How To Pump Breast Milk in 3 Different Ways

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jun 21, 2022

A Guide on How To Pump Breast Milk in 3 Different Ways

From breastfeeding your baby for months, you may now be seeking better means to pump breast milk for your infant. Whether it is expressed through the hand, or with a manual or electronic breast pump, you should be able to collect and store breast milk properly for your baby to consume later. Knowing how to pump breast milk can help in many ways — from providing relief when your breasts are full of milk to giving you more flexibility when it comes to feeding your baby. 

There are several reasons why many mothers opt to learn how to pump breast milk:

  • Some babies need a “top-up feed” after breastfeeding. 
  • The child may not be getting enough milk from the breast because of an inability to latch well.
  • The mother may need to come back to work. 
  • Mother is considering feeding the baby with bottled breast milk.
  • The father or caregiver may need to help feed the baby. 
  • Mother can produce more breastmilk by seeing how much she can pump from one set to another. 
  • If any of these reasons are true for you, then you should also know that there are three different ways of how to pump breast milk:

    • By hand
    • Through a manual pump
    • Using an electronic pump

    Each of these methods has its own learning curve, as well as advantages and disadvantages.

    How To Pump Breast Milk by Hand

    Hand-expressing breastmilk is a simple and cost-effective method. It may take some practice to learn this method, but once you have mastered the skill, you can correctly express your milk whenever you are ready. This also means you won’t have to buy any specialized equipment, which can be costly. 

    • To catch the milk as it flows, place a sterile feeding bottle or container beneath your breast.
    • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water before coming in direct contact with your breast.
    • Try your best to be relaxed as anxiety might cause the delay of a let-down response.
    • Massage your breasts with the flat of your palms for about a minute, making your way towards each nipple.
    • With a finger and thumb on either side of the nipple at the base, gently extend and roll it.
    • Place your thumb about 2 cm above your nipple and your first finger down at the margins of the areola (dark area around the nipple).
    • Gently compress your breast tissue back against your chest wall with your thumb and finger. Breastmilk drops should emerge on your nipple soon. 
    • Squeeze in a rhythmic manner (about once per second). Breastmilk will soon start to flow, and it may even spray out.
    • Try switching your hands frequently to avoid fatigue.
    • When the breast milk has reduced to a few drops, try pressing and squeezing another part of your breast.
    • Continue until your milk drips extremely slowly or completely stops.

    How To Pump Breast Milk Through a Manual Pump

    If you are having difficulty hand expressing breast milk, you can still opt for  a manual pump. While you will have to buy a device to help you, a manual pump is significantly cheaper than its electronic counterpart. 

    Manual breast pumps have breast shields that attach to a pump handle and a collection bottle.

    The first step in expressing breastmilk, similar to hand-expressing, is to relax and get comfortable. This aids you in achieving your let-down in whatever way works best for you. 

    When you are ready, you may follow these steps:

    • Place the pump’s breast shield directly over your breast, with your nipple in the center.
    • Squeeze the pump handle softly and rhythmically. You may only notice a few droplets of milk until the let-down occurs, after which it will spray.
    • Pump until the milk stops flowing.
    • Switch to the other side of the breast. 

    How To Pump Breast Milk Using an Electronic Pump

    Electronic pumps work in a similar way to manual pumps, except they are powered by electricity — no hand pumping required. Among the three options, this method is the most expensive one. But you do not have to do any work, unlike the other two methods. 

    As with the other methods, clean your hands before you start. This prevents contamination of the milk. 

    • Position the pump’s breast shield directly over your chest, with your nipple in the center.
    • Begin with a low suction level and gradually increase to a level that is comfortable for you.
    • Pump until the milk stops flowing.
    • Switch to the other breast if you are using a single pump, as needed. 

    Key Takeaways

    It may take a while to learn all the different methods of pumping breastmilk and be able to choose what works best for your situation. Remember, what’s important is that your baby receives the nutrition they need.
    Pumping as frequently as your baby consumes breast milk should assist your body in determining the required amount of milk.

    Learn more about breastfeeding here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jun 21, 2022

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