How do I express and store breast milk?
Why express milk?
Expressing milk is perfect for situations where you can’t breastfeed, need a break, want to use it for weaning or can’t be with your baby but want them to have the benefits that breastmilk provides. Another great reason to express is that helping with feeding is one of the ways your partner can bond with your baby.
Expressing milk by hand
Before expressing milk, warm your breasts with a flannel, or by taking a shower or massaging them. Then, once you’ve cleaned your hands and sterilised a wide rimmed container to collect your milk, you can start expressing.
- Support your breast with one hand then massage down from the top of your breast to the nipple. Work all round it including the underside.
- Now put gentle pressure on the area behind the areola (the dark skin around your nipples) with your thumb and forefinger.
- Squeeze them together and press backwards to release your milk. Be warned though, it can spray in lots of directions!
Expressing milk by electric pump
Using a pump can be quicker and less tiring than using your hands. Remember to warm your breasts with a flannel or massage beforehand and make sure the pump is thoroughly sterilised before expressing. Depending on the pump you use, it should take 15 - 45 minutes and shouldn’t cause any pain.
Storing expressed milk
You can store milk in a bottle in your fridge or freezer. But once heated, any unused milk must be thrown away. Remember to date the milk you store - it’ll keep for around:
- 5 days in the fridge at 4*c or lower
- Two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge
- Up to six months in a freezer (although this can reduce the amount of antibodies in the milk)
Defrost milk in the fridge or at room temperature, check it is fully defrosted before feeding your baby and then use it as soon as possible. Never thaw or warm the milk in a microwave as it can create hot spots.
Practical info about feeding your baby with expressed milk
If you are expressing and storing your milk, we’ve got lots of information in our bottle-feeding section which should help you. You can read about: