How to Use the Controls on Your Breast Pump

By: Amy Peterson, BS, IBCLC of Friday, 07 May 2021 07:00 AM Breast Pump Controls

Breast pumps, like babies, express milk from the breasts. To be most effective, breast pumps are designed to duplicate how a baby sucks.

The “best” milk expresser is a baby with a good, functional suck. This baby can switch his sucking speed between fast and slow. He sucks fast to stimulate mom’s letdown, slow when the milk flows, back to fast to simulate another letdown, and so on. At the same time, this baby can generate suction during the slow sucks to help draw the milk from the breast.

We want to copy how a baby breastfeeds with the pump. We do this by adjusting the speed (also called cycles) and suction (also called vacuum). Let’s look at how you can adjust these features with the Evenflo Feeding Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump. This can help you pump more effectively.

At the beginning of a pumping session, your breast pump turns on at the best setting automatically. The speed is at the highest rate, and the suction is at the lowest setting. This mimics how your baby sucks at the beginning of breastfeeding: lots of fast, light sucking. This type of sucking triggers a hormonal response in your body, releasing prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin tells your body to make milk. Oxytocin tells your body to release milk, or to have a letdown.

Once your milk begins to flow, adjust your pump speed to match how your baby sucks. How long are your baby’s sucks when your milk is flowing? Adjust the speed down, or more slowly, to match the speed of your baby’s suck. There are 4 speed options to choose from.

Also as your milk begins to flow, your baby generates more suction with slower sucking. To duplicate this with the pump, increase the suction when your milk begins to flow to match how your baby sucks. If your baby isn’t at the breast yet, increase the suction one light at a time until it is mildly uncomfortable, then reduce the suction one light. Pumping should never hurt.

As your baby breastfeeds, his sucking changes between each letdown. You can duplicate this with the pump by increasing the speed when your milk flow slows and reducing it when your milk flows again.

Using your breast pump’s speed and suction can help pumping feel more like breastfeeding. Moms and babies have unique speed and suction patterns. Which settings work best for you?

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