Pumping your breast milk

If you are unable to breastfeed your baby directly, you must remove milk and keep it ready during the times your baby would normally feed. This will help you to continue making milk. Wash your hands with soap and water before expressing breastmilk. In case of unavailability of soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Ensure that the area where you are expressing milk and parts of the pump and bottles are clean. If you need help to get your milk to start flowing, you can:

  • Think about your baby. Carry a photo or a blanket or item of clothing that has your baby’s scent on it.
  • Gently apply a warm, moist compress to your breasts.
  • Massage your breasts gently.
  • Gently rub your nipples.
  • Visualise that your milk is flowing down.
  • Sit quietly and think of a relaxing setting.

Ways to express your milk by hand or pump

Hand expression: In hand expression, you use hand to massage and compress your breast to remove milk.

Manual pump: Here, you operate a hand-held device to pump the milk using your hand and wrist.

Electric breast pump: It needs a battery or plugs into an electrical outlet to operate.

Storing your breastmilk

You can store breastmilk in a clean glass or hard BPA-free plastic bottles with tightfitting lids. You can also use milk storage bags that are made for freezing human milk. Avoid using disposable bottle liners or other plastic bags for storing breastmilk.

After each pumping

  • Stick a label with the date on the storage container. Write down your child’s name if you are giving the milk to a child care provider.
  • Gently swirl the container for mixing the cream part of the breastmilk that may rise to the top back into the rest of the milk. It is not recommended to shake the milk as this can cause some of the milk’s valuable part to break down.
  • Refrigerate or chill the milk immediately after it is expressed. You can place it in the refrigerator, in a cooler or insulated cooler pack, or freeze it in small (2 to 4 ounce) batches for later feedings.

Tips for freezing milk

  • Tighten bottle caps or lids once the milk is completely frozen.
  • Try to leave an inch or so from the milk to the top of the container as the milk expands while freezing.
  • Store milk in the back of the freezer instead of on the shelf in the freezer door.

Tips for thawing and warming up milk

  • Based on the date on the label, use the oldest stored milk first.
  • It is not necessary to warm the breastmilk; however, some mothers prefer to serve milk at room temperature.
  • Thaw frozen milk that was kept in the refrigerator overnight. This can be done by holding the bottle or frozen bag of milk under warm running water or keeping it in a container of warm water.
  • Do not ever put a bottle or bag of breastmilk in the microwave as microwaving creates hot spots that could burn your baby and damage the milk.
  • Swirl the milk and check the temperature by dropping some milk on your wrist to check if it’s comfortably warm.
  • Use thawed breastmilk within 24 hours. Avoid freezing thawed breastmilk.


Your guide to breastfeeding[Internet]. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/files/documents/your-guide-to-breastfeeding.pdf. Accessed on Aug 12, 2020.