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Storing and Expressing Breastmilk

There may be a number of times that you might need to express and store your breast milk. The reasons could include:

  • If your baby is premature or cannot suck well.
  • If your baby is in the hospital and you can’t be there for each feed
  • If you’re hospitalised and your baby can’t be with you for each feed.
  • If you’re returning back to work, studying, or other commitments.
  • If your breasts feel full and a bit uncomfortable.

As a mother, you should make it a point to store breastmilk in your freezer in case of emergencies. Keep in mind that babies who rely on breastmilk alone are less likely to get allergies or other infectious diseases.

Below are some tips to encourage your milk to flow while you are expressing.

  • It’s important that you are relaxed when expressing your milk. Ensure that you are in a quiet, relaxing area, away from any distractions. You may want to breathe slowly and deeply and perhaps listen to soft music.
  • Some mothers express easily after a warm shower.
  • Massaging your breasts also helps. Start by stroking down towards your nipple and rolling your nipples between your fingers.
  • Having someone who can support you can also help you express your milk better. Try to seek the help of one of your friends or relatives. You may also want to consult an ABA counsellor for more ideas on learning how to express.

How much to express?

This depends on the reason why you are expressing. If it’s just to reduce the engorgement of your breast, then just express enough until you feel comfortable again. If however, you have mastitis, then ensure that you feed your baby as often as possible to get rid of blocked ducts causing mastitis.

Storing your breastmilk

  • Ensure that you store your breastmilk in a closed container
  • For 6-8 hours it can be kept at room temperature, however if there is a fridge available best to keep it there.
  • Milk can also be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days on 4ºC or lower.
  • If your freezer compartment is in the fridge it can be kept in there for up to 2 weeks. If you have a freezer with a separate door, up to 3 months, and in a deep freezer 6 – 12 months. You need to make sure your freezer is at -18ºC or lower.

When you decide to use your breastmilk it is probably best to thaw it in the fridge.

Once this has been done you can either keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours, or at room temperature for 4 hours or less. Never re-freeze breastmilk once you have thawed it out.