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Using a Medela Symphony Breast Pump and Parts

Updated on July 2, 2013
Medela Symphony Breast Pump with tubing attached.
Medela Symphony Breast Pump with tubing attached.

Our baby was born 11 weeks early and required long term hospitalization in a neonatal unit. I planned to breastfeed her, so to get started, I rented a Medela Symphony breast pump from the hospital to express milk for her until she was mature enough to breastfeed on her own.

I delivered her by emergency c-section, but I was able to begin pumping the day after she was born. The lactation department of the hospital brought the double electric pump along with the basic parts kit which included:

  • 2 breast shields
  • 2 connector pieces
  • 2 yellow valves & membranes
  • Bottles
  • Tubing

Breast shield and valve attached to the connector.
Breast shield and valve attached to the connector.

Start by washing your hands thoroughly. All parts need to be sterilized, and it is a good idea to sterilize the surface you’re working on. I like to use a sani-wipe or alcohol wipe to make sure the pump surfaces are clean. There is a button on top of the pump that opens the lid to attach the caps connected to the clear tubes. Press on the caps and close the lid. The tubes can just dangle for a minute while you prep your bottles.

The yellow valves have little white flexible membranes that help create the vacuum seal. Attach the yellow valve to the inside of the connector piece. Tightly screw the connector piece to a fresh, sterile bottle. Repeat for the other side. The breast shield attaches to the top of the connector piece. The shield is placed directly against the skin. A lactation consultant can help size you for the shields—they come in several sizes. You can also mix/match the shields if you have one breast larger than the other.

I use a hands free pumping bra top so I can pump both sides and not have to hold the shields in place. Medela’s top is compatible with all of their pumps and accessories. Slip the ends of the shields through the openings in the top, press firmly against your skin, attach the bottles, and start the pump. You can adjust the suction to your comfort level.

My pump has 2 cycles—the first is a fast suction pattern that transitions to a regular let down suction pattern. You can skip the first cycle if you prefer to hand express to start. Pump for 15-20 minutes, every 3 hours. Never go longer than 4 hours because you risk painful engorgement or blocked milk ducts. Establishing a schedule will help keep you on track and will help increase your milk supply.

I’ve found I get much more milk if I don’t look at the bottles or think about pumping. Cover up with a comfortable blanket, watch TV, read, or talk on the phone. Distracting yourself will help you relax, and you will let down milk much easier.
When you are finished pumping, disconnect the bottles. You can combine the bottles into one if it will all fit; this helps save freezer space. Label your milk with the date and time pumped. I keep a journal of the times and the amount expressed so I can follow a schedule and look for changes in my supply.

Wash the shields, connectors, valves and membranes in hot, soapy water. Allow pieces to air dry completely before the next use. The best advice I received was to buy a couple of sets of parts. I have two sets for home and one I keep at the hospital. To make late night pumping easier, I go ahead and prep the bottles and have them connected so all I have to do is put on the shields, connect the bottles, and pump. You can also save time by not having to immediately wash the parts by having a back up set.

All parts should be sterilized once a day. Medela makes a steam bag that you put the parts in and microwave for just over a minute. Otherwise, you have to boil the parts. Sterilized parts can be sealed in zip top bags until they’re ready for use. Bottles can be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher.

If you notice water or milk in your tubing, disconnect and thoroughly wash with soap and water. Running a few drops of rubbing alcohol through the clean tubing helps to dry them.


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    • mlowell profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Georgia

      This pump is amazing. I can't imagine using anything different--renting from the hospital has made it so easy. I agree with the lanonlin too--I keep a tube in my bag. I found putting it on the inside of the shield was more effective when I just have friction issues. I apply it directly to the skin if I have cracks or soreness.

    • rkhyclak profile image


      6 years ago from Ohio

      I use this pump as well! Neither of my children were born early, but both had breathing and feeding issues for the first few months. I pumped for my daughter until 6 months and had a freezer stash that kept her EBF until 10 months. And I'm currently pumping for my 4mo old son. Only thing I can add is apply lanolin or olive oil prior to pumping to help with soreness and friction burns!


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