How to Pump and Store Breastmilk

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How to Pump and Store Breastmilk

What breastfeeding moms should know about expressing baby’s first food

If you are unable to breastfeed your baby directly, it is important to remove milk during the times your baby normally would feed. This will help you to continue making milk.

Before you express breastmilk, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Make sure the area where you are expressing and your pump parts and bottles are clean. Breasts and nipples do not need to be washed before pumping.

If you need help to get your milk to start flowing, you can:

Think about your baby. Bring a photo or a blanket or item of clothing that has your baby’s scent on it.
Apply a warm, moist compress to your breasts.
Gently massage your breasts.
Gently rub your nipples.
Visualize the milk flowing down.
Sit quietly and think of a relaxing setting.
You can pump by various methods. The pros and cons of each method:

Hand expression. You use your hand to massage and compress your breast to remove milk.

Requires practice, skill and coordination.
Gets easier with practice, and can be as fast as pumping.
Good if you are seldom away from your baby or you need an option that is always with you. But all moms should learn how to hand express.
Manual pump. You use your hand and wrist to operate a hand-held device to pump the milk.

Requires practice, skill and coordination.
Useful for occasional pumping if you are away from your baby only once in a while.
May put you at higher risk of breast infection.
$30 to $50
Electric breast pump. Runs on battery or plugs into an electrical outlet.

Can be easier for some moms.
Can pump one breast at a time or both breasts at the same time.
Double pumping may collect more milk in less time, which is helpful if you are going back to work or school full-time.
Need a place to clean and store the equipment between uses.
$150 to more than $250
You can rent an electric pump from a lactation consultant at a local hospital or from a breastfeeding organization. This type of pump works well for creating a milk supply when a new baby can’t feed at the breast. Mothers who have struggled with other expression methods may find that these pumps work well for them.

Store your breastmilk in clean glass or hard BPA-free plastic bottles with tight-fitting lids. You can also use milk storage bags, which are made for freezing human milk. Do not use disposable bottle liners or other plastic bags to store breastmilk. Storage bottles or bags to refrigerate or freeze your breastmilk also qualify as tax-deductible breastfeeding gear.

After each pumping:

Label the date on the storage container. Include your child’s name if you are giving the milk to a child-care provider.
Gently swirl the container to mix the cream part of the breastmilk that may rise to the top back into the rest of the milk. Do not shake the milk. This can cause some of the milk’s valuable parts to break down.
Refrigerate or chill milk right after it is expressed. You can put it in the refrigerator, place it in a cooler or insulated cooler pack, or freeze it in small (2 to 4 ounce) batches for later feedings.
Tips for freezing milk
Wait to tighten bottle caps or lids until the milk is completely frozen.
Try to leave an inch or so from the milk to the top of the container because it will expand when freezing.
Store milk in the back of the freezer, not on the shelf of the freezer door.
Tips for thawing and warming up milk:

Clearly label milk containers with the date the milk was expressed. Use the oldest stored milk first.
Breastmilk does not need to be warmed. Some moms prefer to take the chill off and serve at room temperature. Some moms serve it cold.
Thaw the bottle or bag of frozen milk (1) by putting it in the refrigerator overnight, (2) by holding it under warm running water, or (3) by setting it in a container of warm water.
Never put a bottle or bag of breastmilk in the microwave. Microwaving creates hot spots that could burn your baby and damage the milk.
Swirl the milk, and test the temperature by dropping some on your wrist. The milk should be comfortably warm, not hot.
Use thawed breastmilk within 24 hours. Do not refreeze thawed breastmilk.
Under the Affordable Care Act, your health insurance plan must cover the cost of a breast pump. You may be offered a rental or a new one for you to keep. Your plan may provide guidance on whether the covered pump is manual or electric, how long the coverage of a rented pump lasts, and when they’ll provide the pump (before or after you have the baby). Learn more about your breastfeeding benefits at and talk to your insurance company to learn their specific policies on breast pumps.


Roslyn Daniels