How To Use A Medela Breast Pump - Pro Tips

By Paige Ames | March 03, 2020

So you received your breast pump through insurance and you’re all set to start pumping milk for your baby! Or are you?

Medela has been helping breastfeeding mothers feed their babies since 1961. It’s a top choice for moms and lactation consultants alike because of the pumps’ dependability, two-phase technology and ease of use.

The brand features a range of pumps to meet nearly any pumping need - from the lightweight Swing Maxi and the hands free Medela Freestyle Hands-Free to the high-tech Medela Sonata and the "mom-favorite" Medela Pump In Style with MaxFlow.

Medela Pump In Style Maxflow

How to use a Medela breast pump

Medela breast pumps make it easy to pump breast milk for your baby. But many moms - new moms especially - aren’t confident that they know how to pump properly, so below are some breast pumping tips from our 1 Natural Way team.

These instructions are for the popular Medela Pump In Style MaxFlow, since we get the most questions about this pump; however, other pump models will follow similar instructions.

  1. Find a private, comfortable place to use your breast pump
  2. Fit the breast shields so your nipples are centered (if they’re not placed correctly, you may feel uncomfortable tugging). Also be sure that your breast shields (also called flanges) are the right size. With a breast shield that is too small, your nipple will rub along the sides. Too big and it will pull the nipple, along with excess areola, far into the flange tunnel. Medela has a great breast shield fit guide here.
  3. Turn the pump on. It will start with a faster pace to encourage let-down. If you want to pump hands-free, invest in some breastfeeding or pumping accessories like a hands-free nursing bra or tank top.
  4. Once you notice milk spurting, start the expression phase with Medela’s easy one-touch let-down button. This will pump at a slower, more moderate pace (just like a nursing baby) to encourage milk flow. If you don’t touch the let-down button, the pump will switch to the expression phase after one minute of pumping.
  5. Use the Increase vacuum and Decrease vacuum buttons to adjust suction for maximum comfort and the most efficient milk production (hint: faster and stronger isn’t always better).
  6. When you’re finished pumping, remove the tubing from the breast shields, put the caps on the bottles, and store the milk. Let the pump run for a few extra minutes to remove any condensation in the tubing.
  7. Clean the pump parts (any parts that the breast milk touches) with warm, soapy water.

How to pump one side with Medela Pump In Style with MaxFlow

If you are only using one side of your double electric breast pump, make sure to put the tubing port cover over the side you're not using and then proceed as normal. The breast that isn’t being pumped may leak, so it’s a good idea to use something to catch the milk that drips. Some moms like to save that milk, and others just use a clean towel or blanket to catch any spillage.

Pumping with the Medela Sonata, Medela Swing Maxi and Medela Freestyle Hands-Free

The above instructions for pumping are similar for the Medela Sonata, Medela Swing Maxi and Medela Freestyle Hands-Free.

The biggest difference is that all three of these pumps connect to the Medela Family app, where you can create a personalized profile and track your progress.

Assembly of the Medela Pump In Style with MaxFlow

These instructions are for the Medela Pump In Style MaxFlow, but other Medela breast pump models will follow similar steps.

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Collect all your breast pump parts - breast shields, connectors, valves, valve membranes, tubing, bottles, and the pump itself (motor).
  3. Wash and sterilize the bottles, breast shields (sometimes called flanges), connectors, valves, and membranes.
  4. Snap the membranes onto the valves until they lie completely flat.
  5. Securely attach the breast shields to the breast shield connectors.
  6. Push the assembled valves with membranes onto the bottom of the breast shield connectors.
  7. Screw bottles onto the breast shield connectors.
  8. Insert tubing into the hole on the back of the breast shield connectors.
  9. Plug the power adapter or battery pack cord into the power jack on the front of the breast pump.
  10. Double pumping: Insert the free ends of the tubing onto both ports on the front of the breast pump.
  11. Single pumping: Insert the free end of the tubing onto one port and place the port cap over the unused one.
  12. Plug the power adaptor into an electrical outlet.

How long should you pump with your Medela Breast Pump?

How long you should pump varies - depending on your (and your baby's) needs, how much milk you are producing, the pump you are using, and whether you are exclusively pumping, or pumping and breastfeeding.

If you are pumping exclusively, you’ll want to pump along the same schedule as a nursing baby - and with a newborn, that will be about 8 times in a 24-hour period, or every 2-3 hours.

Generally speaking, most experts and lactation consultants recommend pumping for at least 15 minutes, but not much longer than 20 minutes. And if you pump for 5 minutes after your milk stops flowing, you will encourage more milk production.

How much milk should you be pumping?

How much milk you pump using your Medela breast pump will depend on factors such as the baby’s age, the time since the last feeding or pumping, the pump type, and even how stressed you are.

Medela pumps help moms attain their pumping goals with their ease of use and their 2-Phase Expression Technology. They’re known for natural feel and excellent suction that encourage efficient milk production.

Moms who exclusively pump will typically produce about 25-35 ounces of milk in a 24-hour period during the newborn stage. This is considered full milk production. Of course, each baby and mother is different, and it’s important to find what works for you (and consult a professional if you believe you are not producing enough). In the beginning, it can take time to work up to full milk production - so don’t get discouraged!

The best time to pump when you are establishing your milk supply is between 1:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. when your milk-making hormone levels are increased. Once you are consistently producing 25-35 ounces of breastmilk in a 24-hour period, you can start to reduce the number of pumping sessions (and hopefully get more sleep).

If you are primarily breastfeeding, you may find you have higher milk production earlier in the day, with volume gradually decreasing into the evening.

Since every baby and mom has a unique relationship and different needs, the most important factor when breastfeeding or pumping is to follow your baby’s lead. What works for one mom may not work for another, so remember to keep your own comfort and needs top of mind.

Paige Ames

About the Author

Paige Ames is 1 Natural Way's Contract Administrator, working with insurance providers to find out what benefits moms can receive through their insurance plan. In addition to benefits, Paige is also very knowledgeable about the breast pumps and pumping accessories. Because of her range of knowledge, you can find her educating moms at online baby showers and on podcasts like the Army Wives Network. Paige is mom to one beautiful daughter. She enjoys gardening, going to the movies and spending time with her family.

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