Expressing breast milk is a great way to let your partner, or other caregiver, enjoy the feeding experience. Plus, it gets your baby used to the idea of a bottle—and of getting nutrition from someone other than you.
This will be especially handy if you're planning to go back to work…or want to plan a girls’ night out. The process isn't difficult, as long as you have the equipment that suits you. Our tips can help!
- Expressing by hand
- Expressing by pump
- Storing breast milk
- Freezing breast milk
- Thawing breast milk
Expressing by hand:
Hold your breast in one hand and press down toward your chest wall with the other. Have a sterile container ready in which to collect the milk.
Expressing by pump:
Find a good-quality breast milk pump (many hospitals rent them at reasonable rates). Try pumping one breast for 5 to 8 minutes, then switch to the other side and repeat. Finally, go back to the first breast for 3 to 5 minutes, and repeat on the other side. Repeat the sequence a third time, for 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- Electric pump
- Best if you pump often, or for a long time.
- Bonus: You can pump both breasts at the same time.
- More expensive, but you can rent (from hospitals, lactation consultants, etc.).
- Some insurance plans pay for pump rentals.
- Battery-operated pump
- Best once your milk supply is established.
- Can use with one hand.
- Batteries need to be replaced often.
- Hand-operated pump
- Best for occasional use, once your milk supply is established.
- Can use with one hand or two, depending on the type of hand pump.
- Easy to carry.
Storing breast milk:
- Ensure the breast milk is clean.
- Store milk in food-grade plastic containers.
- Aim for 4 fluid ounces per container.
- Date containers (use the oldest first).
- If pumping and storing breast milk is difficult, consider supplementing.
Freezing breast milk:
- Store breast milk in the refrigerator for 48 hours.
- Freeze breast milk in a refrigerator, with a separate freezer door, for three to four months.
Thawing breast milk:
- Set the container in a bowl of warm water, or hold it under warm running water.
- Never microwave breast milk. High heat can burn your baby and kill the protective cells in breast milk.