New Mom's Guide to Breast Milk Pumping and Storage

    New Mom's Guide to Breast Milk Pumping and Storage

    When you are exclusively breastfeeding, but needs to go back to work or other circumstances hinders you from feeding your baby directly to your breasts, then pumping is for you. Breast milk pumping is a way for mothers to continue feeding their babies with breast milk in times when they cannot direct-feed. There are a lot of breast milk pumping and storage tips available, which can be very helpful, especially for new mothers.

    The Basics of Breast Milk Pumping

    Breast milk pumping is ideal for mothers who, in certain situations, cannot directly breastfeed their babies. When direct breastfeeding is not doable, then pumping your milk at the exact time when your baby usually feeds is the best way you can maintain your milk production.

    Before you start pumping, make sure to follow these steps:

    • Wash your hands with water and soap.
    • If water and soap are inaccessible, use 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer, instead.
    • Make sure that your pumping space is clean. If you’re outdoors, there are breastfeeding stations in malls, and other establishments, where you can pump your milk.
    • Clean and sterilize your pumping equipment and prepare new storage bags for the next pumping session.
    • There is no need for you to clean your breasts before pumping so pump away.

    When you’re having difficulties expressing milk without your baby, then these tips might help:

    • Browsing your phone for baby photos, bringing baby clothing with your baby’s scent on it.
    • Place a warm cloth on your breast to open your milk ducts and stimulate milk flow.
    • Use your fingertips to gently massage the top of your breasts down and over your nipples to encourage letdown.
    • Relax your mind, don’t stress yourself, and take your time when pumping.

    breast milk pumping and storage tips

    How to express breast milk

    Breast milk pumping and storage tips include different ways on how to pump breast milk. Here’s how you can express breast milk using three different methods:

    Method 1. Hand expression

    Hand expression is the easiest way to express milk. Mothers can easily stimulate a letdown since hand expressions mimic skin-to-skin contact. Hand expression is usually done to carefully expel every drop of colostrum in the first few days after delivery. To do this method, you just need your hands and a couple of containers for storage.

    Hand expression requires lots of practice, skills, and some getting used to. When you master hand expression, then it will become easier for you to gather milk without using a pump. Mothers, especially new moms, must know how to hand express their breast milk in case of emergencies.

    How to do it

    • Wash your hands with soap and water.
    • Keep a clean and sterilized container by your side for letdown storage.
    • Massage your breasts gently using your fingertips to open up milk ducts and stimulate milk flow.
    • Hold your breast with one hand by placing your thumb on top of the breast and the rest of your fingers under it.
    • Use your other hand to hold the container and catch the expressed milk.
    • Gently squeeze your breast and release to put pressure on your milk ducts. Repeat this process until milk flow slows down.
    • Avoid squeezing your nipple as it can cause soreness.
    • It is best if you alternate hand expressing both breasts until milk flow from the breasts slows down.
    • You can give your baby the bottle with expressed milk right away, or you can store it for future use.

    Method 2. Manual breast pump

    If you only need to occasionally pump your milk, then you can make use of a manual breast pump. A manual breast pump is operated by manually squeezing the lever, it comes with, to collect milk. It also comes with a breast shield and a container.

    Manual breast pumps are perfect for occasional breast milk expression since its suction capability isn’t as strong as an electric pump. However, the good side of a manual breast pump is that it is more handy and has fewer parts than an electric pump.

    How to do it

    • Start by washing your hands.
    • Clean all the pump parts and sterilize them.
    • Put the breast shield on your nipple. Breast shields support milk flow and provide a more comfortable pumping experience.
    • Start squeezing the lever until the first drop of milk comes out.
    • Change the position of the pump, as much as you need, to express more milk.
    • Continue pumping until milk flow slows down and then repeat the process on the other breast. The pumping process will last for about 10 to 15 minutes per breast depending on your milk production and the suction power of your pump.
    • To remove the breast shield, gently insert your finger in between the shield and the breast to loosen the vacuum.
    • Do not forget to clean and sterilize each part of the pump every after use.

    Method 3. Electric breast pump

    Compared to the first two, the electric breast pump gets the job done more quickly and has the best suction that stimulates more letdown. Some electric breast pumps run on battery, that you can just recharge when not used, while others are plugged directly into the outlet.

    Electric breast pumps are best for moms who are always on the go since it only takes about 2 minutes for it to stimulate milk flow. One of the most useful breast milk pumping and storage tips is to express milk both breasts at the same time (double pumping) using an electric breast pump.

    Double pumping will reduce your pumping time and will also generate twice the amount of milk you can produce when single pumping, using a manual breast pump, or when hand expressing.

    How to do it?

    • To start the process, wash your hands with soap and water.
    • Wash and sterilize the parts of the electric pump.
    • Place the breast shield on your breast/s. Hold the breast shield, and adjust them if necessary.
    • Turn the pump on and wait until letdown begins.
    • It is better if you have a self-adjusting pump, but if not, adjust the speed of the pump manually to mimic how a baby sucks on the nipples.
    • Sit back, relax, and wait until milk flow slows down.
    • Turn off the machine and remove the breast shield. After which, carefully unscrew the bottles where the breast milk is stored and keep it until your baby’s next feeding.
    • After every use, wash and sterilize all the parts of the pump and recharge it if needed.

    How to store breast milk?

    After pumping or expressing breast milk, store it properly when it is not yet needed. Store your breast milk in BPA-free and freezer friendly milk bottles or milk storage bags. Make sure that your bottles have tight-fitting lids and only use milk bags with double zipper seals.

    Here are some breast milk pumping and storage tips you need to know to keep your liquid gold last as long as it can.

    Right after pumping, you can keep your breast milk

    • At room temperature (77℉ or colder) for about 4 hours.
    • In the refrigerator (40℉) for up to 4 days.
    • Inside the freezer (0℉ or colder) for 6 months or up to 12 months. Keeping your milk stash in the freezer is the most important way to preserve the quality of your milk.
    • By using an insulated cooler for 24 hours. If the milk is left unused in the cooler after 24 hours, immediately keep it in the refrigerator or freezer.

    Thawed breast milk can be kept

    • At room temperature for 4 hours.
    • In the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
    • Never refreeze thawed breast milk as it can damage the nutritional properties of the milk. It can also cause your milk to go bad and can cause food poisoning when ingested by a baby.

    Leftover breast milk

    • Empty the bottle within 2 hours after the baby is done feeding.

    Other breast milk pumping and storage tips

    • Label the bottle or the milk bag with the date when the milk is expressed. You can also put your child’s name as well as instruction when someone else is taking care of your baby.
    • Place the breast milk at the back or the deeper part of the freezer. Doing this will prevent the milk from thawing when someone is using the freezer.
    • Freeze the amount of breast milk that your baby can finish in one feeding. Do not put so much breast milk in a container since it expands when frozen.
    • Thaw the oldest breast milk you have in your stash. The quality of breast milk decreases as it stays longer in the freezer.
    • To properly thaw frozen breast milk, put the breastmilk in the refrigerator, in a bowl with lukewarm water, or use a breast milk bottle heater.
    • Never boil or thaw your breast milk in a microwave as it can burn your baby’s mouth. A room temperature breast milk is good for feeding a baby.
    • Before feeding, drop some milk on your wrist to test if the milk is too hot or just right.

    Key Takeaways

    Breast milk pumping is a great way for mothers to still continue giving their babies the best nutrition even if they’re busy or far away. The three methods of expressing milk will be more successful if mothers receive words of encouragement from their partners and other family members. Additionally, if you want to increase your milk production, try improving your diet and always stay hydrated.

    Learn more about breastfeeding, here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Nov 19, 2022