How Do Breast Pumps Work?

Breast Pump Parts DiagramWhile it might seem like an intricate medical device, the breast pump is easy to assemble and use (with a little practice!).

  1. All breast pumps have flanges, also known as breast shields, which are placed over a woman’s nipples.
  2. The pump creates suction, creating a vacuum seal on the nipple that’s much like a nursing baby. As the vacuum suction engages and disengages, it emulates the natural nursing rhythm of a child.
  3. How does a breast pump work to emulate a nursing baby? When a baby nurses, he or she doesn’t apply constant pressure to the breast – the baby sucks 50 to 90 times a minute, slowing once the milk is released. An electric pump mimics this cycle of suction and release, typically producing about one pull per second, which causes milk let-down.
  4. The milk that is expressed from the breast is collected in a bottle, where it can be stored.

And that’s it! The bottles are “gravity fed” so that the breast milk is released from the breast, it drips downward into the bottles.

Types of Breast Pumps

There are several different types of breast pumps available for women to use, although how each breast pump works is pretty similar.

  • Electric breast pumps use an electric motor to create the suction that draws out the milk.
  • Suction is created in a manual pump by the mother squeezing a lever or bulb.
  • The most common type of breast pump for mothers planning to pump on a regular basis is the double electric breast pump, which offers high levels of efficiency as both breasts can be expressed simultaneously.
  • Battery-powered breast pumps work much like any other electric breast pump, but they don’t need to be plugged into the wall.

Why Use a Breast Pump?how breast pump works

Many women find pumping necessary to relieve engorgement, maintain adequate milk supply, and provide breast milk when nursing isn’t possible. One of the most common reasons that women offer for pumping is that they are returning to the workforce, which typically makes pumping necessary if they want to continue regular breastfeeding.

How do breast pumps work in the workplace? Many are designed to be portable, and they may come with backpacks or bags so that they can be easily transported. Many employers are required by law to provide mothers a location for expressing breast milk while on site, as well as sufficient break time during working hours in which to pump. The location cannot be a bathroom and must be shielded from view of other coworkers.

How Often Should I Pump?

How often you use your breast pump will depend on several factors:

  • Are you planning on being away from your baby regularly, such as going back to work?
  • Are you planning to pump exclusively or also breastfeed?
  • Does your child have trouble latching on or face other issues that make breastfeeding difficult?
  • Do you want to build up a supply of milk for use at a later time?
  • Do you need to stimulate your milk production?

If you plan on being home with your child and available to breastfeed most of the time, you may find that you only need to pump occasionally. You should breastfeed or pump for your baby at least 8 to 10 times each day early on, as your milk supply is being established. Your breasts will make more milk when there is a demand for it, so it’s important in those early days to pump or feed regularly to increase your supply. If your baby is feeding regularly and you only want to pump occasionally, you may want to pump in the morning, which is when most mothers get the most milk. You can also pump between feedings, about 30 minutes after or 60 minutes before.

How Much Milk Should I Pump?

When you’re using a breast pump, you should pump until your breasts are as empty as possible. This often takes about 15 minutes for each breast. Try to continue to pump for a few minutes after the last drops of milk to make sure that you’re done. Many women find that massaging the breasts before and during pumping helps them to express more milk.

How much milk you produce during each pumping session will vary by your baby’s age, the time of day, how often you pump and feed, the quality of your pump, and many other factors. If you’re pumping instead of breastfeeding, you should be producing enough milk for a regular feeding. When pumping between feedings, you’ll often produce about half as much.

Based your child’s age, you should expect to pump:

  • Days 5-7 = up to 2 oz.
  • 1 to 3 weeks old = up to about 3 oz.
  • 4 weeks to 6 months old = up to 5 oz.

Of course, some mothers produce more and others produce less. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you’re concerned that you’re not producing enough breast milk.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Research has consistently proven that infants provided breast milk experience a stronger immunity, advanced cognitive development, and significantly reduced risks of heart disease and Type II diabetes in adulthood. These outcomes are just some of many health benefits breast milk offers and explains why more mothers are choosing to nurse. This cultural trend has made breast pumps a necessity for women expecting to experience separation from their infant before they are ready to stop breastfeeding.

How Do I Get a Breast Pump Through Insurance?

If you need a breast pump, Aeroflow Breastpumps can help. Aeroflow  is an industry leading Durable Medical Equipment (DME) supplier offering a variety of double electric breast pumps, as well as other pumps and parts. Breast pumps must be covered by insurance plans in the United States, although each insurance plan may have its own guidelines as to which pumps and equipment is covered. At Aeroflow, our team of Breastpump Specialists will work to verify the specific plan benefits on your behalf to determine your coverage.

A Breastpump Specialist serves as an excellent resource to mothers who are not sure which pump would best meet their needs. Visit and enter your information via the Qualify through Insurance form. A Breast Pump Specialist will communicate with your insurance carrier, and then work with you on getting a pump that meets your specific needs. Your insurance policy may even provide ongoing coverage for breast pump supplies.

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