Expressing your breastmilk can be a really important part of caring for your new little baby. It means squeezing milk out of your breast so you can store it by refrigerating or freezing it and feeding it to your baby when you need to at a later time. You may want to express your milk if you have to go out and be away from your baby for a while, if your breasts feel very full and uncomfortable, if your baby is not sucking too well or perhaps if your baby is ill or premature.
How do I express my milk?
You can express your milk by hand or with a breast pump (hand or electric pump). Electric pumps are fast and easy to use. It is also possible to express from both breasts at the same time as there are dual pumping sets available, helping you to produce more milk in a quicker period of time. As different pumps suit different women, it’s best to ask for advice or see if you can try one from a friend before you buy it. Always make sure that the container or pump is clean and has been sterilised before you use it.
Here are some tips for expressing milk by hand:
- Wash your hands with warm soapy water
- Make yourself comfortable, have a warm drink beside you – it’s a good idea to have your baby close by so it will help stimulate you to produce milk
- Have a warm bath or if this isn’t possible, apply warm flannels to your breasts
- Gently massage your breasts, using your fingertips, cup your breast just behind the darker part of your breast, called the areola – this helps to stimulate your breasts to produce milk
- Hold a sterilised feeding bottle or container below your breast to catch the milk as it flows
- Squeezing gently, using your thumb and the rest of your fingers in a C shape. Try not to squeeze the nipple directly as it will make it sore and more difficult to express
- Release the pressure, then repeat, building up to a good, consistent rhythm. You will see only drops appearing but as you keep going, the milks supply will flow a little more freely
- When you don’t see anymore drops coming out in that position, move your fingers to a different part of your breast and try again.
- Change to the other breast until the milk drips are very slow and almost stop altogether
How do I store my expressed breastmilk?
You can store your breastmilk so that it is fresh when you need to feed your baby. Store small amounts at a time
- Sterilise all equipment used to store and feed expressed breasmilk
- Milk yields expressed on the same day can be combined (chill separate yields in fridge for 1 hour before combining
- As breastmilk expands during freezing, do not completely fill storage containers to allow room for expansion
- Label all milk containers using a water-proof marker with day and date
- Use oldest milk first
- Plastic bags are not recommended for storing breastmilk as they can spill, leak and risk of contamination
Storing expressed breast milk in a sterilised container at home:
- At room temperature (26oC or below) for up to 6 hours
- In the fridge (4oC or below) for up to five days (store at back of main body of fridge)
- In the ice compartment of the fridge (-18oC or below) for two weeks
- In the freezer section of a fridge with separate main door (-18oC) for up to three months
- In a chest freezer (-18oC) for six months
Defrosting and warming expressed breastmilk:
You can defrost your milk in the fridge before giving it to your baby. It needs to be thawed in the fridge for up to 24 hours before it is used. Once it’s defrosted, use it straight away.
Don’t re-freeze your milk once it had thawed.
You can feed expressed breastmilk by placing the milk is a bowl of hot water and wait for the milk to heat up or you can give it to your baby at room temperature. Microwaves are not recommended to defrost breastmilk as they can cause hot spots in the milk which can scald your baby’s mouth.
If you would like to talk to one of our advisors please call our Careline on 1800 370 370.