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Breast Pumps - Everything You Need to Know

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Breast pumps are beneficial to mothers for extracting breast milk that can be used later for feeding. Read the article below to know more about breast pumps.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sonal Prasad

Published At June 15, 2022
Reviewed AtApril 13, 2024


There are certain situations when direct breastfeeding is unavailable for infants. In cases such as premature birth, some congenital abnormality like tongue-tie, some breastfeeding problems with mothers like sore nipples, low milk supply, or death of mother at the time of delivery.

Human breast milk fulfills nutritional needs and protects babies against infections. Despite many advances and research in formula milk, human milk remains the best nutritional supplement for the baby for the initial six months of their life.

According to WHO (World Health Organization), stored breast milk is the best alternative when direct breastfeeding becomes impossible. Breast pumps play a significant role in overcoming these unavoidable circumstances by helping the mother extract milk.

What Is a Breast Pump?

A breast pump is a device used by lactating mothers to extract milk from their breasts so that it can be used later. Various advancements have been made in the breast pumps to imitate the mother's breast. Breast pumps are manual, where milk extraction is done by manual pulling, or electric, where the entire process of extracting milk is automatic.

What Are the Parts of Breast Pumps?

All breast pumps are made up of a few essential components:

  1. Breast Shield: A breast shield is a cone-shaped cup covering the nipples and areola (the darker area surrounding the nipple).

  2. Pump: The pump may be attached to the breast shield or sometimes have a plastic tube to connect the pump to the breast shield. It creates a vacuum that helps to extract milk from the breast.

  3. Milk Container: A milk container is a detachable container that fits below the breast shield. It collects and stores the breast milk when pumped. The container can be a reusable bottle or disposable bag.

What Are the Types of Breast Pumps?

A breast pump is a handheld device or a nursing bra, a breast pumping bra. Breast pumps extract milk from the breasts by applying and releasing suction around the nipple. The combination of each suction and release is called a cycle.Many types of research are being conducted to make breast pumps comfortable for both the mother and the baby. However, there are three basic types of breast pumps:

  • Manual Pumps: Once the breast shield is attached to the nipple and areola, a handle is squeezed to create suction. The suction and the release express the milk from the breast, which is then collected in an attached container. Some manual pumps consist of a small tube pumped in and out of a larger tube to create a vacuum. The milk is then extracted and collected in an attached container. The other manual pump type is popularly known as the bicycle horn pump. It consists of a hollow rubber ball attached to the breast shield. The disadvantage of this design is that it is difficult to clean and dry, contaminating the extracted breast milk.

  • Battery-Powered Pumps: A powered breast pump uses batteries to create suction to extract milk from the breasts. The pump has a control panel with a switch to control the suction.

  • Electric Pumps: Electric pumps have a cord plugged into an electrical outlet as a power source to create the suction for extracting breast milk. It is accompanied by a switch to control the degree of suction.

There are powered breast pumps with adjustable suction that closely mimic the nursing baby. It is enclosed with features of let-down reflex. Let-down is a natural reflex that incorporates the release of milk from the breast when the baby starts sucking nipples.

When Should Breast Milk Be Pumped?

Your situation based on your baby’s feeding time decides when you need to pump breast milk. Still, it is better to pump breast milk after you finish your baby’s first feed of the day in the morning, may it be at 2 AM or 6 AM. The reason is that your milk supply greatly increases from 1 AM to 5 AM. Your milk supply would be sufficient enough to pump and store and also to feed your baby before or after pumping. Though your breasts have enough milk supply you need not and would not necessarily feel full. So continue to pump without any worry.

What Are the Drawbacks Associated With Battery-Powered or Electric Pumps?

The breast pumps rely on a power source; hence, the mothers who are dependent on the powered breast pumps must be prepared for emergencies when extra batteries or electricity are unavailable. Under such circumstances, a mother can feed her baby by breastfeeding, or if breastfeeding is not an option, she needs to seek a backup method, like a manual breast pump.

What Are the Different Pumping Types?

There are mainly two different pumping types; single and double.

Different Breast Pumping Types


The innovation of breast pumps serves as a very needful requirement for many mothers in all populations. Breast pumps are helpful for working mothers, premature infants, critically ill infants, or infants born with some abnormality that restricts their suckling ability. It is essential to follow all the pump guidelines that you choose to use for your baby. Proper cleaning and sanitization of the pumps are of utmost importance to avoid breast milk contamination. If you are using rechargeable breast pumps, make sure to keep them charged whenever not in use so that it will not run out of charge and create a hurry burry situation for the mother and the baby. Doctors recommend purchasing an electric breast feeding pumps for extracting breastmilk.

Frequently Asked Questions


Which Type of Breast Pump Is the Best to Use?

A portable, lightweight, double electric model breast pump is the best to use as it enables the mother to collect more milk from both breasts simultaneously. The milk obtained also has a higher fat and calorie content.


Is It Preferable to Use a Breast Pump?

A breast pump is not identical to breastfeeding, but it allows the infant to consume breast milk instead of a supplement and helps him to enjoy the health benefits of breast milk.


Does the Breast Pump Cause Pain?

Using a breast pump is not painful. However, a slight pain may be felt for 10 to 15 seconds at the start of pumping, and nipples may be tender. As the milk flows, a tingling ‘pins and needles’ sensation is experienced.


Does Pumping Lead to an Increase in the Breast Size?

As pumping takes place, the blood flow to the area increases, and swelling occurs, which increases the breast size. But, after an hour or so, the swelling subsides. However, certain breast pumps are featured to increase breast size in women.


When Should a Breast Pump Be Bought?

A breast pump can be bought at any time. However, most women prefer to buy it around the 30th week of their pregnancy.


How Frequently Should a Breast Pump Be Used?

If exclusively pumping, then a breast pump should be used a minimum of 8 to 10 times in 24 hours. It can be used in between or immediately after breastfeeding.


Does Pumping Damage the Nipples?

The high vacuum of the pump can damage the nipples and the area around them, causing pain. But, this effect varies individually, and it gets reversed after some time as the pump use is stopped.


Is It Fine to Just Use a Pump and Not Breastfeed?

Exclusive breastfeeding is not preferable under normal circumstances. It can only be done when the baby is not latching properly.


Which Is Better, Breastfeeding or Pumping?

Breasting is a natural process where the milk is sucked by the baby’s mouth. This enhances milk production in the breasts. Whereas in pumping, the suction of the pump is not as effective as the baby’s mouth and can cause less milk production. So, breastfeeding is better than pumping.


What Are the Adverse Effects of Breast Pumping?

The adverse effects of breast pumping are as follows:
- Pumped milk provides fewer benefits to the immune system.
- It requires additional expense for its equipment.
- It provides less privacy and is inconvenient for use, particularly in public places.
- It is difficult to store pumped milk as it expires even after refrigeration.


What Should Be the Duration When I Pump for the First Time?

When pumping for the first time, the session should be for at least 15 minutes.


What Are the Signs of Empty Breast After Pumping?

As breasts are never empty so, after pumping, the breasts feel light, soft and floppy; which means that the majority of the milk has been removed from the breasts.


Should Pumping Be Done After Every Feeding Session?

Pumping should be done every three to four hours for at least 15 minutes. This is generally in accordance with the baby’s demand, as he or she needs milk every few hours.


Is It Difficult to Pump Large Breasts?

The size of the breasts does not affect the supply of milk. A pumping bra or bustier can be used during pumping sessions.


Why Should a Breast Pump Be Not Used?

A breast pump should not be used as it can cause engorgement, blocked milk ducts, and poses an increased risk of mastitis.
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Dr. Sonal Prasad
Dr. Sonal Prasad

Obstetrics and Gynecology


breast milk
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