What you need to know about expressing breast milk

Breast milk is the most nutritious choice for feeding a newborn, but breastfeeding is a huge obligation. Expressing breast milk is an excellent option when work, school, or other responsibilities mean that the nursing mother is not home during feeding time.

However, like most convenience aids, using a pump has some drawbacks and requires certain equipment and techniques.


Expressing breast milk with a pump has advantages over breastfeeding, manual pumping and bottle feeding. Natural breast milk is much easier for infants to digest and offers taller health benefitseven after weaning.

Pumps offer more freedom than breastfeeding, making it easier to return to work or perform other activities. It also allows your partner to share the feeding duties.

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The suction of the breast pump can be too strong and painful for people with breast tenderness. In addition, frequent breast pumps can irritate the breasts and nipples, causing dryness or skin rashes. While There to be solutions for these issues — using a different type of pump or applying breast milk to the dry area — some parents may find it easier to pump off completely.

Belly of woman touching breast Ponchai Soda/EyeEm/Getty Images


A lot barriers continue to limit the use of breast milk pumps. Expressing milk can take a lot of time, which many people – especially those with a newborn baby – don’t have. In addition, a lack of storage options such as bottles and refrigerators often prevents pumping outdoors.

Workplaces may not support pumping by either failing to provide a safe, hygienic location or prohibiting the practice altogether.

Close-up of hand holding bottle of breast milk in stock Sutthiwat Srikhrueadam / Getty Images

When to start pumping?

Expressing can start any time after birth. People who know not to be with the baby for a long time should plan ahead and start pumping a A few weeks in advance† This provides a lot of practice and gives the newborn more options to adapt to feeding from the bottle.

woman with baby bottle and breast pump pumping milk for her baby Miljan Zivkovi / Getty Images

Pump frequency:

The more a person pumps, the more milk he produces. Every time the baby would feed normally, you start pumping. In front of most people, which means pumping for about 15 minutes every few hours. This keeps milk production at a level that can support the baby. If possible, use a double breast pump to reduce expression time.

Close-up of milk bottles against baby girl on bed at home Panithan Pholpanichrassamee/EyeEm/Getty Images

stress levels

It is important to keep stress levels low while breastfeeding, as stress affects the body’s ability to release chest milk† People who are new to pumping may find the feeling uncomfortable, meaning they have to get used to pumping before they can deliver enough milk.

If it is difficult to express enough milk, it may help to massage the breasts, use a warm compress or look at a picture of the child.

woman with little son near breast milk bottles JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Stay hydrated

While breastfeeding and expressing, limit coffee, soda, and other caffeinated beverages. Excessive caffeine can disrupt a baby’s sleep and cause irritability. Dehydration can interfere with breast milk production and let goalso, so stick to hydrating fluids like water, juice, and milk, and make sure to drink regularly throughout the day.

woman drinking pure glass of water seb_ra / Getty Images


Many people think they should express and pour a small amount of breast milk before expressing a full bottle. This “pump and dump” stems from the idea that bacteria from the breast and pump infect the milk and can make the baby sick. In reality, as long as the pump is cleaned regularly, bacteria from the breast will only boost the babies immune system

In addition, some people believe that they have to pump and dump after drinking alcohol. This is not true, although experts recommend waiting at least two hours after drinking alcohol before pumping or breastfeeding.

Mother pours milk into bag isayildiz / Getty Images

breast congestion

Even if the parent will be home with the baby, expressing can help those experiencing it chest stowage† During breastfeeding – but especially during weaning – breast milk can build up in the tissue around the milk-producing ducts and cells. Engorgement can be very painful and can lead to a blocked duct.

A small amount of pumping can relieve pressure and discomfort. During weaning, this can also train the breasts to gradually produce less milk.

mother pumping breast milk Asawin_Klabma / Getty Images

Store expressed breast milk safely

To avoid possible contamination, follow the correct preparation and storage techniques for expressed breast milk. Use breast milk storage bags or clean, food-safe glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids.

Freshly expressed milk is safe at room temperature for about four hours and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. Frozen milk is safe for up to 12 months, but declines in quality after six months. Never refreeze breast milk after it has thawed.

breast milk storage bags for new baby in fridge Monthira Yodtiwong / Getty Images
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