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Expression, Collection And Storage Of Breast Milk


Expression of breast milk is when you remove milk from your breast with your hands or a breast pump.


Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You feel that you are not making enough breast milk for your baby.
  • You have nipple pain while you express your milk.
  • Your nipples look red, dry, or cracked, or they are bleeding and have scabs on them.
  • One or both of your breasts is very swollen or painful and keeps you from expressing.
  • You feel a tender lump in your breast.
  • One or both of your breasts is red, swollen or hard, painful, and feels warm or hot.
  • You have questions or concerns about how to express, collect, and store breast milk.

When to express breast milk:

Start to express within 6 hours after you give birth if your baby cannot breastfeed right away. Express your milk as often as he would breastfeed, which is 8 to 12 times a day. Express your milk for about 15 to 20 minutes or until your milk stops coming out. During the first few days after delivery, you will produce colostrum. Colostrum is a special type of milk that has many nutrients in it. It may take about 2 to 4 days for your mature milk to come in to replace the colostrum.

How to express breast milk:

A breast pump works well if you need to express your milk often or completely empty your breasts. Hand expression works well if you only need to express milk once in a while. Wash your hands with soap and water before you pump or hand express your milk. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Breast pump: Choose a breast pump that is comfortable and easy to use. There are many types of breast pumps to choose from. They can be manual (hand pump), battery-powered, or electric. A manual pump may work well if you only plan to express breast milk once in a while. A double electric breast pump can express milk from both of your breasts at the same time. Double electric breast pumps work well if you have a lot of milk. They are also helpful if you are at work and need to pump quickly. Ask your healthcare provider to help you choose the best breast pump for you.
  • Hand expression: Use a container such as a clean bowl to collect your milk. Place your fingers on each side of your areola. Press back toward your chest. Press your fingers toward each other and push slightly toward your nipple. Release the pressure and relax your hand. Repeat this motion several times and change the position of your hand. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how to express your milk by hand.

How to collect breast milk:

Use plastic or glass bottles to collect and store your breast milk. Plastic bags made for storing breast milk may also be used. Collect your breast milk in small portions so you can use only what you need. This will help prevent wasting breast milk. Do not use disposable bottle liners or other plastic bags to store breast milk.

How to store breast milk:

Store your breast milk right after you express it. Write the date and time on the storage container.

  • Room temperature: You can store fresh breast milk for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature. You can store thawed breast milk for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature. Keep the container covered and as cool as possible.
  • Insulated cooler with ice packs: You can store fresh breast milk in a cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours.
  • Refrigerator: You can store fresh breast milk in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Keep the milk in the back of the refrigerator. If you thaw frozen breast milk in the refrigerator, you can store the thawed milk for up to 24 hours.
  • Freezer: You can store breast milk in a regular freezer for 3 to 6 months. Store the breast milk in the back of the freezer, not on a shelf or the door of the freezer.

How to use stored breast milk safely:

  • Place frozen breast milk in the refrigerator overnight to thaw it. You can also thaw breast milk in warm water. Breast milk does not need to be warmed. You can give it to your child at room temperature or cold. Do not heat breast milk in the microwave. Microwaving creates hot spots that can damage the milk or burn your baby.
  • Use the oldest stored milk first. Use thawed breast milk within 24 hours. Do not refreeze thawed breast milk. Throw away any thawed milk that is left over after your baby's feeding.

For support and more information:

  • La Leche League International
    957 North Plum Grove Road
    Schaumburg , IL 60173
    Phone: 1- 847 - 519-7730
    Phone: 1- 800 - 525-3243
    Web Address:

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Expression, Collection And Storage Of Breast Milk (Discharge Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes