Expressing Breastmilk

• After each pumping: either place the pumping kit (not the tubes or motor) in the refrigerator until the next pumping, or if not pumping the same day, hot-water wash and hot-water rinse well, then air dry.

• Remember to take apart all pieces of the pump for cleaning -- including the smallest pieces, and to ensure that no milk has clumped in the flange shaft.

Hand expression

Many women find that hand expression is an efficient way to pump when only occasional expression is required. In fact, when colostrum is present and the milk production is not abundant (as normal in the first few days), it is often easier to get milk with hand expression than with a pump and many women find this the easiest way to express mature milk as well.

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Place thumb and index finger on either side of the nipple, about 3 to 5 cm (1-2 inches) back from the nipple
  3. Press gently inward toward the rib cage.
  4. Roll fingers together in a slight downward motion.
  5. Repeat all around the nipple if desired.

Breastmilk storage

Unlike formula, breast milk is anti-infective, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral.

Breastmilk will stay good:

  1. At room temperature for up to 8-12 hours.
  2. In the fridge for up to 8-11 days.
  3. In the freezer, at the back, for many months.
  4. In a deep freeze for much longer

Get used to the taste and smell of breast milk so you'll always know if it is good.

• Due to the high fat content of breastmilk, storage of any kind will produce a separation in the liquid. This is normal; a gentle mixing will give it a homogeneous look once more. There is nothing wrong, however, in the baby drinking separated milk.

• Breastmilk may taste different after freezing; this is normal. Sometimes, however, mothers have a large amount of lipase (the enzyme that breaks down fat) in their milk and the fat in their milk is broken down even if the milk was immediately refrigerated or frozen without any problem with the milk being accidentally defrosted. This milk is still good for the baby, if he'll drink it. Its flavor can be hidden by mixing it with food if he's old enough to take food. See the information sheet Starting Solids.

• Never heat breastmilk in the microwave.

• Babies will often take cold milk, but if heating is desired, or if milk needs to be defrosted, place container or bag of milk in a cup of warm water for a minute or two.

Encouraging the milk ejection reflex (MER) or "let down" reflex

The milk ejection reflex or "let down" reflex is the sudden rushing down of the milk. Milk will flow quickly even if the baby is not breastfeeding at the time. Some women may feel thirsty, sweaty, sleepy, or dizzy during a milk ejection reflex.

However, many women do not feel this milk ejection response ever in their whole breastfeeding experience even though everything is going beautifully with breastfeeding. You do not need to feel or be aware of the milk ejection reflex in order for the baby to be getting milk (see the video clips to see if the baby is getting milk well or not). Some women only become aware of it after the first few weeks while others feel it only at the beginning and no longer do after the first few weeks. This has absolutely no bearing on milk supply.

If your baby is not present, you can encourage the milk ejection reflex artificially by thinking about having your baby in your arms or at your breast or having a picture of your baby to look at or keeping a piece of his clothing next to you.

1. Wash your hands
2. Apply a warm wet cloth to your breasts.
3. Massage the breasts in small circular motions around the perimeter of the breast.
4. Gently stroke your breasts with your fingernails in a downward motion toward the nipple
5. Lean forward and gently shake the breasts.
6. Gently roll the nipple between your finger and thumb.