Pumping breast milk and safe storage

Published by Baby Bunting on Sunday, January 27, 2019

There are many reasons that you might pump breast milk and store it to bottle-feed your baby. Some of these might be returning to work, travelling, having your partner help with feeding, experiencing swollen breasts or just needing a break. Whatever the reason for pumping and storing breast milk, be sure to consider a few steps to keep your baby safe.

Methods for expressing

  • Hand expressing– some women express their milk into container by massaging it from their breasts.
  • Hand pumps– these hand-powered devices operate with a pumping mechanism that fixes to your nipple.
  • Electrical pumps– these simulate the pump action of a hand pump through mechanical action but are battery or electrically powered.

Hygiene and preparation

Whichever method you choose, it’s important to practice basic hygiene. Always wash your hands with warm water and soap beforehand.

Keep in mind that your baby’s immune system is developing, so you must be diligent with cleaning and sanitising any pump parts that come into contact with your milk. Milk residue that remains can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Storing milk

Milk can be stored in a variety of ways depending on your needs and availability of appliances. There are several things to keep in mind when storing your breast milk for later feeding:

  • Fresh– you can leave breast milk out at room temperature for up to four hours.
  • Chilled– by storing milk in the fridge (choose the coldest part) your breast milk can be stored for up to four days.
  • Frozen and thawed– freeze immediately after pumping (not after being in the fridge) and thaw in cool or warm water for use. You can store frozen milk for two weeks in a freezer compartment within a fridge, up to three months in a freezer within a separate door/compartment, and up to six months in a deep freezer.

Never refreeze thawed milk, and always discard milk your baby has fed from.

Warming milk

Don’t microwave breast milk as this can destroy some of its proteins and nutrients. It can also create hot zones within the milk that can burn your baby’s mouth.

You can warm milk by placing it within its container in a bowl or pot of warmed water. Test the milk before giving it to your baby – it should be lukewarm.

Things to remember

  • It’s a good idea to write or label the date that the milk was expressed on each container.
  • Swirl (don’t shake) stored milk to mix the fat and protein with the water content.
  • You don’t have to use a bottle to feed your baby – a cup or spoon will also do.
  • Air drying of pump parts is preferable to drying with a tea towel – these can impart food residue and bacteria.
  • You don’t have to buy a pump – you can also hire them. The Australian Breastfeeding Association hires out pumps, as do some pharmacies and hospitals.
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