Expressing and Storing Breast Milk

Parenting in the Early Years

Expressing and Storing Breast Milk

Having frozen breast milk available is very convenient when you are separated from your baby, when you return to work or for use with a premature infant.


You may choose to hand express your milk or rent or purchase a breast pump. There are many varieties available, so you may want to discuss your options with your doctor or the Lactation Consultant at Meriter Hospital before choosing.

Baby bottle and bottle from pump 

Preparing to Pump

  • Wash your hands and then wash all parts of the breast pump that touch the breast. Use hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. The containers to store the milk should also be washed unless you are using disposable plastic sacks.
  • Read the instructions carefully. Choose the size of breast shield that is most comfortable for your nipples. Center the shield over the nipple so the nipple can move in and out without rubbing against the sides.
  • Get comfortable and relaxed. Have everything you need within easy reach. You need to achieve milk "let down" before pumping. (Not all mothers feel the let down sensation). This can be done by thinking about your baby or looking at a picture of her. Listen to some relaxing music. Use childbirth breathing exercises to help you relax. You can use warm compresses on the breast. Try stimulating the nipple. When ready, moisten the breast before attaching the shield to create a seal.
  • Start the pump and check the suction before placing it on the breast. Start pumping with the suction regulator on minimum.
  • Double pumping (pumping both breasts at the same time) is an option for mothers and may improve milk let-down.


  • When using an electric pump, keep at breast level to reduce the possibility of milk moving back into the pump
  • Pump 15 to 20 minutes at a time, switching breasts when the milk flow decreases (or about every five minutes). If double pumping, expect to pump for about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Good times to pump are when the baby has not completely emptied the breasts, has missed a feeding or after a feeding
  • Air dry nipples after pumping
  • If nipples are sore, pump more frequently for shorter lengths of time. Use some breast milk on the sore nipples
  • Breast milk can vary in color, consistency and smell depending on what time of day it was pumped and the age of the baby at the time of pumping.
  • Pumping is a skill. The volume pumped is usually less that a baby will extract by nursing.

Storing Breast Milk

  • Store the pumped milk in clean bottles or bags made specifically for breast milk
  • Chill the milk in the refrigerator as soon as it is pumped. You can add more milk for a 24-hour period.
  • Label with the date of pumping and place in the freezer. It can be stored for 3 months in a regular freezer and 6 months in a deep freezer that maintains zero degree Fahrenheit temperatures.

Frozen breast milk should be thawed by placing it in refrigerator or a pan of warm water. Do not use the microwave to thaw or heat the milk. This destroys some of the protective substances in the milk and has resulted in mouth burns.