There are a variety of reasons why you may wish to express. Your partner may wish to feed baby, you may be having a deserved night out or you may be returning to work. Whatever the reason, it is important to get it right! Firstly for the health of your little one and secondly, to make sure none of that precious liquid gold goes to waste! As a midwife I am often asked the question, “What is the best way to store my breastmilk?” Here’s my guide to expressing, storing and managing breast milk!
Before expressing, there are a few things to consider such as; which pump to use, suitable containers and official breast milk storage guidelines.
Get Pumping: Hand expressing, manual expressing or electric expressing?
If you are extremely efficient hand expressing is an option. But for most women this is not a practical option beyond the first few days of your baby’s life and a breast pump is necessary. There are a wide range of pumps available in stores and online. The cheapest option is a manual hand-held pump, where you manually express one breast at a time. The most expensive and sophisticated option is a hospital grade, hands-free double electric pump. These pumps allow you to express both breasts at the same time, while reading a book! You may choose to borrow, buy, or hire a pump. Hiring can be booked through some pharmacies or online retailers.
The option you chose will depend on how frequently you will be expressing and your personal finances. If you will only be giving baby the odd bottle, a hand-held manual pump should be fine. But if you are planning on using bottles the majority of the time, then using an electric double pump makes more sense.
Do your homework and try to work out the most cost effective option for your situation. Long term hiring costs can add up quickly. If you buy a pump, you can recoup some costs later by re-selling it online. It is important to keep the original box and instructions, as used breast pumps are considered ‘used medical devices’.
How do I care for my pump?
For a healthy term baby, it is generally accepted that thoroughly cleaning expressing equipment each day is sufficient and sterilising is unnecessary. Your pump will come with it’s own instructions as to whether it can be washed in the dishwasher as well as what parts specifically you need to wash and what you don’t!
Storing breast milk – what do I store it in?
You need to use clean, airtight containers to store breastmilk. You may purchase breastmilk freezer bags, use BPA free plastic containers or glass bottles or jars. You can purchase many different variations or use containers you already have at home as long as they are sterile and airtight!
I’ve pumped – now what? Storing breast milk
The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) has clear guidelines on the correct storage of breastmilk. If it is not used straight away then breastmilk can be:
- Left at room temperature for 6-8 hours.
- Refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
- Frozen for 2 weeks in a compartment inside a refrigerator.
- Frozen for 3 months in the freezer section of a refrigerator that has a separate door.
- Frozen for 6-12 months in a deep freeze.
When a baby has begun a feed, any leftover breastmilk from that feed should be discarded. For this reason it is important to store and prepare your breastmilk in amounts your baby would typically drink during a feed. You don’t want any of that effort or precious liquid gold going to waste!
For further advice the Australian Breastfeeding Association or La Lache League websites have a wealth of information about expressing and storing your breastmilk. Your midwife is also a great resource or your family GP. Good luck and happy expressing!
About the Author: Malia Lardelli has experience working as a midwife for 9 years in both community and hospital settings and has a Masters in Midwifery. Her favourite part about being a midwife is teaching women about the medical aspects of pregnancy and birth in a way that they can understand and looking out for those who are too scared to ask questions.
Malia is also a mum of three, including her youngest who has down syndrome. In her spare time she likes to spend time with her family and friends, travel and eat yummy food.