You can release milk by hand (manually) or with a breast pump. This is called expressing.
There may be times when you need to express your breast milk.
This can happen when you miss a feeding, your baby takes a bottle, or your breasts are engorged.
You can save the milk for a later feeding. Read on for how to store breast milk.
Always wash your hands before expressing or pumping breastmilk.
To express your breastmilk:
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A: Position for massage.
B: How to place your hand
C: Gently push straight back.
D: Gently compress then collect the breastmilk.
Not every woman needs a breast pump. It depends on your situation and lifestyle. Wait to buy one until you determine if you need one.
Not all pumps are created equal. Breast pumps vary a lot in quality and effectiveness. Choose a high-quality pump. Your lactation resource will help you find a pump that's right for you.
Remember: Using a breast pump should never cause you pain. If you do have pain, stop using the pump and call your lactation resource right away.
Before you start pumping, wash your hands well. Sit comfortably and take a few slow relaxing breaths. Massage your breasts to help your milk let down.
Pump your breasts according to the pump's directions. It is important that any part of the pump that comes in contact with the breast, milk, or collection containers be very clean. Wash them in hot, soapy water. Rinse and air dry them on a clean towel. You can also wash them in a dishwasher.
The Federal Drug Administration cautions that no one should ever "… buy a used breast pump or share a breast pump. The money you may save by buying a used pump is not worth the health risks to you or your baby. Breast pumps that are reused by different mothers can carry infectious diseases …"
Breastmilk can be safely kept in the refrigerator or freezer. There are different styles of containers for storing breastmilk: special plastic bags, bottles and glass containers.
Be sure to wash the milk containers in hot, soapy water. Rinse them and let them air dry. Wash your hand well before you touch your breasts and clean milk containers.
How to store fresh breastmilk
Freeze milk in 2- to 4-ounce portions. This is about what a newborn takes during a feeding. This portion also thaws quickly in warm water.
Pumped milk can have a soapy or metallic odor when it is refrigerated or thawed. This does not mean the milk has gone bad. Call your lactation consultant if your milk has an odor.
You may thaw frozen breastmilk one of two ways. For either way, be sure to use the oldest milk first.
If you pump in small quantities, you can add fresh milk to frozen milk. Just chill the fresh milk before adding it. The amount of added cold milk must be less than the amount of the frozen milk.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8
Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts