during pregnancy, one of the things on my pre-baby checklist that intimidated me most was setting up and figuring out the breast pump. i was lucky enough to inherit a pump from my sister-in-law, and while the company recommends that pumps not be shared, i couldn’t think of any medical reason not to take advantage of this windfall! it sat dormant in one corner of the nursery for months before i finally decided to open it up and figure out which parts i needed and how to put things together.
i’m not a ‘gadget person.’ when my car breaks down, i don’t open up the hood, i call AAA! as it turns out, however, the pump was much easier to figure out than i had initially thought. of note: i am NOT a lactation consultant, nor do i have any special expertise in pumping, but i thought i’d put together a little mini-guide of
–the basic parts of a pump and how to set it up
–accessories i love
hopefully this will be helpful to others like me, who are not fans of parts and pieces. i promise, it’s easier than putting together a bookshelf from IKEA– something i am not good at!
here she is:
this is the main body of the breast pump. i have a Medela Pump in Style, which is one of the more common types of dual electric pumps, but there are plenty of others out there that are similar. a lot of the Medela pumps come built into black bags [backpack or tote-type] so that one can be discrete around the office [although i’m not sure how discrete one really can be when taking time-outs for pumping every few hours!].
as you can see, there are two plastic tubes attached to the front of the pump. the open ends simply plug into two plastic ports on the front panel. the tubes connect the breast covers [see below] to the pump so that the suction can work its magic. milk does not flow into these tubes, since there are caps on the end [this confused me when i first got the pump!], but i nevertheless received my own replacement tubing from one of the lactation consultants at the hospital.
here are all of the plastic parts that attach the pump tubing to your breast. it’s actually quite simple. the connector piece (2nd piece from the left) has 3 ports: one plugs into the cone-shaped breast cover, one plugs into the bottle and valve/membrane (the yellow piece), and one has a hole that goes to the tubing.
the breast covers come in different sizes, and most lactation consultants can help hook you up with the right one if the standard one doesn’t seem to work. of note: the sizes depend more on nipple size/shape than breast size, so it’s sort of hard to guess ahead of time!
once you have all of the above [pump, tubing, breast cover, connector, valve/membrane, and bottle for collection], you’re all set!
to start pumping, all you have to do is connect everything as above, put the breast covers on, and turn on the switch. i was told by a lactation consultant to adjust the suction level until it hurts slightly…and then dial back until it is comfortable [i.e., no pain!].
eventually, milk will start flowing into the bottles. the whole process is admittedly annoying, but it’s somewhat cool the first time to actually see what’s going into your baby.
you will need:
the separation is normal – this had been in the fridge for a day or so.
—something to store your milk in. there are a number of bags and containers on the market. some [like the one shown above] can connect directly to the pump, but i’m too paranoid of spillage so i use the plastic bottles and transfer the milk afterward. bags are great because they can be stacked up and stored in the freezer.
if we have a power outage i will be extremely displeased
—hands-free pumping bra. yeah, it’s totally the least glamorous piece of lingerie you will ever own, but unless you want to sit there holding the cups up for 20+ minutes at a time, you need one of these. simply put, the breast covers go on with the bra over the top, and everything connects to the pump on the outside. you could certainly make your own out of an old sports bra, but i do think the front zip makes things a little easier.
—cleaning supplies. some pump parts can go into the dishwasher, which is great. but if you’re at work and aren’t able to do a deep clean, there are sanitizing bags that can be put into the microwave to steam clean the plastic parts in a hurry.
that’s it! i hope this was helpful to at least someone out there! if you have additional tips/tricks/gadgets to share, please do!