Expressing milk from your breasts is a useful skill to learn and your midwife will show you how to do this, using either your hand or a special breast pump.
Why express milk?
There are a number of reasons for expressing milk
- you may be unable to breastfeed, however much you want to – giving your baby your own breast milk, from a bottle, cup or spoon, ensures she is getting all the natural nutrients she needs
- you may need to relieve engorgement by releasing a little milk from your breasts
- you may want to go out with your friends or family and leave your own breast milk for your babysitter to feed your baby.
How to express milk
You can express breast milk either by hand-expressing, or by using a manual or an electronic breast pump. If you wish to do this, your health visitor might help you with advice.
Storing expressed milk
You should store your expressed breast milk in the fridge, in clean containers, for up to five days. However, if you wish to store it for longer, then freeze your breast milk in ice cube trays or freezer bags. It’s best to freeze in small quantities as it’s less wasteful if your baby only needs a small amount. And it helps to label and date your milk so you can keep track of how long you’ve stored it for.
Your expressed breast milk (EBM) can be stored in the fridge for up to five days, in the freezer compartment of the fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to six months. Do make sure that your fridge and freezer are clean and maintain a reliable temperature of 4°C or lower for the fridge; -18°C or lower for the freezer.
Warming expressed milk
If you are using breast milk that you’ve previously expressed and stored in the fridge, follow these simple instructions for bringing it up to the right temperature for your baby.
- remove stored milk from the fridge just before it is needed
- re-warm by placing in a container of warm water
- shake the bottle to ensure the feed has heated evenly
- check the feeding temperature by shaking a few drops onto the inside of your wrist – it should be lukewarm, not hot
- never use a microwave for re-warming a feed – it destroys nutrients in the milk and creates hotspots.
If you express milk and use a cup or bottle to feed your baby it’s important that you clean your pump and feeding equipment properly to make sure it is free from bacteria. You’ll find all you need to know about sterlising here.