5 Tips for Expressing Breast Milk

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!

  1. Expressing by hand
  2. Expressing by pump
  3. Storing breast milk
  4. Freezing breast milk
  5. 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.
    • Lightweight.
    • 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.