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 Collecting and Storing Breastmilk

Note: For Normal Newborns Only, except where noted otherwise. If your baby is premature or ill and hospitalized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit a different set of guidelines will apply. Check with the hospital staff for specific directions
Topics in this Article
  • Preparing the Breastpump
  • Pumping Breastmilk
  • Introducing the Bottle
  • Freezing/Thawing Breastmilk
  • Storage Times
Preparing the Breastpump
Wash Hands. Wash your hands with hot water and regular soap. Antibacterial soaps are not necessary.
Sterilize New Breastpump. Before using your breastpump for the first time, your pump should be sterilized according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Many pump parts are dishwasher safe or can be sterilized in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes. Other products are available for sterilizing using a microwave such as the Avent microwave sterilizer and Medela micro-steam bags. Usually, it is recommended to sterilize once a day, especially if pumping several times a day.
Wash Parts before Pumping. Wash breastpump parts that come into contact with your breasts or milk. Also wash the collection containers. You may use regular dishwashing soap. Rinse with cold water and then you may air dry on a paper towel or on drying rack.

Pumping Breastmilk

Milk Supply. Remember that expressing your milk does not mean there will be less milk for your baby. Actually, expressing milk creates more demand for milk and therefore may increase your milk supply.
Morning Pumping. Most women find their milk supply is greater in the morning. Therefore, you may collect more milk if you express at that time than at other times of the day. I suggest pumping anytime up to 1 hour after feeding your baby. If your baby only takes one breast, you may want to pump the other breast. Some women become adept at pumping one breast while feeding the baby one the other side. Many women make a habit of pumping every morning about one hour after the first morning feeding to store milk. Most women like to have stored milk in the freezer or refrigerator at all times in case it is needed.
Get Comfortable. Before starting to pump try to get comfortable. Listen to some relaxing music if you can. Be sure your pump fits you properly. If using a Medela pump please be aware that Medela make different sizes of breastshields. There are four sizes to choose from. Ask your Lactation Consultant to assist you in getting the correct fit when purchasing the pump.
Special Pumping Situations. In fact, there may be times when you may need to pump milk in the first few days after the birth of your baby. For example. If your baby is in the NICU, your baby will need your milk as soon as possible, The hospital will want you to begin expressing milk every 3 hours starting within the first 4 to 6 hours after the birth. Also, if your baby in jaundiced, or has low blood sugar or looses too much weight in the first days your lactation consultant or doctor may suggest expressing milk.
Trouble? If you are having any trouble expressing your milk, refer to the manufacturer’s manual for tips, or  contact your lactation consultant for assistance.
Painful Pumping? If pumping is painful, try applying olive oil to the areolae and around the nipple for extra lubrication just prior to starting the pump. This will not hurt the baby or spoil your milk.

Breast volume different? You may find that you are able to express more milk from one breast than the other. This is very  common and should not be of concern unless overall your milk volume is not sufficient.
How Long to Pump. Normally, the pumping time is 10 to 20 minutes for most double electric breastpumps.
Milk characteristics. You may notice differences in the color and consistency of your milk when pumping. This is also normal. This will depend on your diet in large part. The so-called “hindmilk’ contains more fat and calories and will look more yellow in color. The hindmilk will actually rise to the top of the storage container like cream does in cow’s milk. When preparing stored milk, you may gently swirl the container to mix the hindmilk layer with the milk.
Adding Milk. You can add small amounts of cooled breastmilk to the same refrigerated container throughout the same day. Do not add warm milk to already cooled milk. Also, do not add freshly expressed milk to frozen milk.
Introducing the Bottle
Introducing the Bottle. I suggest that you introduce your infant to the bottle once nursing is well established, at about 2 to 4 weeks of age. Give your baby a bottle of expressed milk 2 to 3 times a week to keep him acquainted with the bottle especially if you are returning to work. Even if not returning to work, your baby’s father will probably want to participate in feedings, too. There will be times when you will want to be away from your baby or have to be away from your baby at feeding times and it will help if the baby is used to taking a bottle. If you wait too long to introduce the bottle, your baby may be reluctant to take a bottle even if it contains breastmilk.
Returning to Work. If returning to work, try to pump 3 times in an 8 hours workday. If away from your baby, pump every 3 hours or at times when the baby would normally feed if you were not separated.

Freezing/Thawing Breastmilk

Type of Containers. Glass or hard plastic containers are safe to use. You may also use plastic storage bags made especially for freezing breastmilk. Place these in another container for protection against puncture.
Avoid disposable plastic bags, or liners which are strictly used for feeding. Check labels when purchasing.
Freezing Milk.  Freeze milk in small amounts to avoid wasting milk and because it will thaw more quickly. Usually, it is a good idea to store enough for one feeding in one container. If you will be taking milk to daycare, then you may want to store more milk in a container-perhaps enough for 3 feedings, if your container is large enough.
Liquids expand when frozen, so be sure to leave some extra room at the top of the container so the bottle or bag won’t burst.
Be sure to label all containers of milk with the date and time stored. Use the oldest milk first.
Avoid placing containers in the door of the freezer where the temperature can be warmer.
Thawing Your Breastmilk. Never microwave breastmilk.  Microwaving your milk can burn your baby due to the hot spots that can occur in the milk due to the microwaving process. Also, microwaving your milk can destroy the antibodies in your milk which are very sensitive to heat.
Thawing milk in the refrigerator is suggested. You may also hold the container under the faucet of warm, not hot, water to thaw more quickly. If desired, you can place a container in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes to thaw.
You may store thawed milk in the refrigerator for 24 hours and no longer. Do not refreeze breastmilk.
Breastmilk does not have to be warmed to body temperature for your baby. Just take the chill off of it to offer it to the baby.

Storage Times