How to express and store your breast milk
Have breast milk? Will you hand express or use a breast pump? Will you freeze or refrigerate it? Whichever way you choose to express and store your breast milk. The ultimate goal is provide your baby with mommy’s milk.
This is my 2nd time around with expressing and storing breast milk. With my first daughter, I hand expressed, used a breast pump and froze the milk. This time, I am using the breast pump and freezing & refrigerating the milk. In order to express and store milk, whether hand expressing/using a breast pump, you will need 3 key items: clean hands, a stress free environment and a storage container.
If you are going to hand express, you first need to find a comfortable position (Kneeling on a cushy step stool has worked for me)where you can express your milk directly into a container. The container should be wide enough, so you will not lose any milk during the process. You can transfer into a bottle or breast milk bag later. You can heat a warm washcloth or think about your baby in order to assist with your milk letdown. First, you start at the armpit and massage your breasts with both hands inward towards your nipple. This should get your milk flow to start. You will see several milk ducts open and spray streams. This should look similar to the streams you see when you take a shower. Repeat until the milk stops flowing and slows down to a drip. Hint: the sprays will stop. If your hands are a little sticky and they might be, then wash and dry them to express the next breast. The whole process should be an average of 20-30 minutes including clean-up.
If you are going to use a breast pump, purchase a quality pump so you will not get any damage to your breasts/nipple. Cheap is not always best. Get a referral from a lactation specialist, family, close friend, or local breastfeeding support group. When you have identified a pump that works best for your situation, you will be ready to get started.
If you have not already done so, sterilize your pump parts. Basically, the parts that will come in contact with your milk; valve, flange and bottles. Once you have your breast pump, assembled,position the flange directly over your nipples. If the flanges rub too tight against your nipple, the you will need to buy a larger size. Pumping should not hurt. Turn on your pump and select your suction preference; slow to high. Some pumps have a speed preference and others do not. The speed preference is the rate at which your baby would normally nurse at the breast. If you have one, choose a speed. You can massage the breasts at the same time while pumping. The milk will flow faster. You will see several milk ducts open and spray streams. This should look similar to the streams you see when you take a shower. Repeat until the milk stops flowing and slows down to a drip. Hint: the sprays will stop. You do have the option of pumping for an additional 5 minutes once the milk has stopped. Some women get a 2nd let down and can get an additional 1-2 oz of milk after this. The whole process including clean-up should be 25 minutes
When you are ready to store your milk, you have two options;refrigerate or freeze it. If you are going to refrigerate it, use a baby bottle or breast milk bag. Use the baby bottle for the refrigerator and breast milk bags can be used for both. You will need to date the milk because the shelf life depends on how you store it. Refrigerator-8 days, side-by-side freezer-3 months, top-and-bottom freezer-2 to 4 weeks, and a deep freezer keeps it fresh from 6 months to 1 year.
As repetitive and sometimes frustrating this can be, your true reward is seeing milk dribble from your baby’s chin.
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