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Expression, Collection and Storage of Breast Milk

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What do I need to know about 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. You will need to use proper containers to collect the breast milk. You can store breast milk until your baby is ready to use it if you keep it cold properly.

Why may I need to express and store breast milk?

When should I express my breast milk?

Expression of breast milk is done when you cannot breastfeed your baby directly or you need to completely empty your breasts. Start to express within 6 hours after you give birth if your baby cannot breastfeed right away. Express your milk as often as he or she would breastfeed, which is 8 to 12 times a day. It is important to remove milk at the same times you would normally breastfeed. This helps your breasts continue to make milk. Express your milk for about 15 to 20 minutes or until your milk stops coming out.

How do I express my 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.

How do I collect my breast milk?

Use BPA-free plastic bottles 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. If you plan to freeze the breast milk, do not fill the container all the way to the top. Breast milk expands when it freezes.

How do I store my breast milk?

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

How do I use stored breast milk safely?

Where can I find support and more information?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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