Breastfeeding: How to Pump and Store Your Breast Milk

Breastfeeding: How to Pump and Store Your Breast Milk Family Doctor Logo

Breastfeeding: How to Pump and Store Your Breast Milk

Learning how to pump and store breast milk can make returning to work easier and less stressful.

When should I start to pump my breasts?

If you will be pumping your breasts when you return to work, before you go back practice for 1 or 2 weeks to get the hang of it. You can try pumping just after your baby eats or you can pump your breasts between feedings.

Practicing at home will help you learn how your pump works. During this time, you also can start to collect and store breast milk to be fed to your baby when you return to work.

How much milk will I get when I pump?

You may not get much milk when you first start pumping. After a few days of regular pumping, your breasts will begin to make more milk. Also, the more milk you pump, the more milk your breasts produce. Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated (which will help your milk supply).

How long should I pump each time?

Pumping your breasts takes about the same time as breastfeeding, but with practice and a good pump, you can pump your breasts in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. While you are at work, try to pump as often as your baby usually feeds or for about 15 minutes every few hours. To keep up your milk supply, give your baby extra feedings when you are together. You can also pump right after your baby feeds, which will help your breasts make more milk.

Will there be times that my baby needs more milk than I have ready?

Yes, your baby will probably want more milk during growth spurts. The best way to increase your milk supply for a growth spurt is to breastfeed or pump more often.

How should I store my breast milk?

You can store breast milk in a plastic or glass bottle with a sealable top, or in a sterile, sealable bag. Store your breast milk in amounts that you use every day to avoid wasting it. For example, if your baby eats 4 ounces in a feeding, put 4 ounces of breast milk in the storage container.

Where should I store my breast milk?

Cool your pumped breast milk in a refrigerator or other cooler as soon as possible. You can also freeze the milk if you aren’t going to use it right away.

How long can I store my breast milk?

The following are some general breast milk storage guidelines:

  • At room temperature (less than 77°F) for up to 6 hours
  • Cooler bags with ice packs for up to 24 hours
  • At the back of a refrigerator for 3 to 8 days
  • At the back of a freezer for up to 6 months

The breast milk I have in my refrigerator looks funny. Is something wrong?

Breast milk can vary in color. It can be bluish, yellowish or brownish. It is also normal for breast milk to separate (the fatty part of the milk goes to the top). Shake the bottle or sealed bag, and the fat will go back into the milk.

How should I thaw frozen breast milk?

Thaw the milk slowly by swirling the container of milk in warm water or by putting the container in the refrigerator the day before it is to be used. Don’t use hot water to thaw breast milk. Never thaw frozen breast milk in a microwave oven. The milk could get too hot and burn your baby’s mouth. Microwaving can also damage valuable proteins in breast milk.

Thawed breast milk can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours, but it should not be refrozen.