Expressing milk for your baby

Expressing milkYou can express your milk by hand or with a pump – whichever works best for you. Pumps can be operated by hand or electricity but most mums tell us an electric pump is by far the easiest way to express!

The important thing is to sterilise all the equipment you use, which will help prevent infection and keep bacteria at bay. No upset tummy or sickness for your baby!

How to express breastmilk

The method for expressing milk is very similar, even if you have a pump. So we’ve put together this little step-by-step guide to help you:

  1. Wash your hands. If you are using a pump make sure you assemble it properly using the manufacturer's instructions. Make sure that any bottles, containers and pump pieces have been washed and sterilised.
  2. Find a comfortable position and relax. Begin by massaging your breast, including the nipple area, to stimulate your hormones and encourage milk to flow. You may also find a picture of your baby helps this process.
  3. If you are expressing your milk by hand, cup your breast with the palm of your hand then place your thumb just above your nipple, compress and release the nipple until milk begins to flow. If you are using a pump, follow the manufacturer's instructions for expressing.
  4. Express for 5 minutes or until the milk flow stops, and then repeat on the other breast.
  5. Collect your milk in a sterile container, making sure that you label it with the date and time.
  6. Refrigerate or freeze the expressed milk straight away. Milk can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days at 4°C or for two weeks in the freezer compartment in a fridge, and in the freezer for up to 6 months. If freezing the milk, defrost this in the fridge (use within 24 hours) or by standing the bottle in lukewarm water.
  7. When you’re ready to use your expressed milk, warm it in a bowl of hot water and test the temperature on the inside of your wrist. Use within 2 hours and discard any milk left over at the end of the feed.

Top tips for expressing

  • Express at the same time every day so that you increase your milk supply and can still feed your baby at the same time
  • The amount you can express varies from one mother to another, so don't be worried if you can only express a tiny bit and someone you know can express much more
  • Milk can be stored in individual feed quantities, or for greater flexibility, can be stored in a large, sterilised ice cube tray. If you intend to freeze your milk, remember to allow a small space for expansion at the top of the container
  • Electric pumps can be hired from the National Childbirth Trust and other breastfeeding organisations, and are particularly good if you need to express milk for long periods of time
  • Expressing milk shouldn’t be painful. If you’re experiencing any discomfort, ask a health professional for advice
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