Breast milk is complete nutrition for babies till 6 months of age & can be continued even till 2 years of age. If you're a working mother and breastfeeding, then you need to express your breast milk and store it safely for the baby to be fed when you are not around. Here are a few frequently asked questions by working mothers on how to store and utilize the expressed breast milk for their baby
How to express breast milk?
Expressing breastmilk can be done by hand or by hand-held pump or by an electrical pump
We have listed the procedure on how to express breast milk. You can follow these procedures.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Gently massage your breast. The massage should begin from the upper side of the breast and it should stroke at the end of the nipple. Also, massage the underside of your breast in the same manner and end the stroke at your nipple.
- Place a clean plastic dish or a wide bowl under your breast, either between your legs or on a low table, leaving both your hands-free. Keep a clean towel near you to catch any spoilage or to wipe your palms and fingers once they become slippery. You can provide support to your breast by holding it in one hand and expressing the milk in another hand in case you have large and heavy breasts.
- Place your thumb and finger directly opposite on both sides of and well back from your nipple. Press your breast inwards gently towards the center until you feel the bulk.
- Start pressing your thumb and pointing your finger gently in a rhythmic rolling movement on the nipple. This action will help the ducts to compress which in return will help the milk to flow from your nipple. Initially, there may be only drops of milk till the completion of the let-down reflex. You should get sprays of milk from the nipple with each squeeze until it is done. Shift your fingertips to a new location around the nipple until the milk flow stops, and repeat the process again. This will help in emptying milk from all areas of the breast. If your finger gets sore during the process, give it a break and repeat the process with another hand.
Expressing breastmilk with a hand-held pump
- Place the suction cup of the pump directly over your breast with your nipple centered.
- Squeeze the pump handle gently and rhythmically – you might see only drops of milk until your let-down happens, and then it’ll spray.
- Pump until your milk flow stops.
What type of container should be used to store expressed breast milk?
Clean your hands with soap and water before expressing or manipulating breast milk. Remember; always store the expressed milk in a hygienic, capped food-grade glass bottle or hard plastic container that is not manufactured with the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Special plastic bags designed for milk collection and storage can be used. Don't keep breast milk in disposable bottle liners or plastic bags designed for general household use.
What's the safe way to store expressed breast milk?
Once you have collected the milk in the desired container as mentioned above, store it in the back of the refrigerator or freezer where it is cold. Place the milk temporarily in an enclosed refrigerator or ice packs if you don't have access to a fridge or freezer. Fill each container with the milk your baby will need for one feeding session. You might start with 60 to 120 ml, and then adjust as needed. It is advised not to fill milk up to the brim of the container as breast milk expands during the process of freezing.
Label each container with the date using waterproof labels and ink. Add your baby's name to the label if you are storing it at a child care facility
For how long we can store expressed breast milk?
Breast milk remains in proper condition if storage is good. How long breast milk should be stored depends on the storage process. Follow the below guidelines:
- Room temperature. Freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to 6 hours. However, it's best to use breast milk within 4hours especially in summer.
- Insulated cooler. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hrs.
- Refrigerator. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Deep freezer. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of a deep freezer for up to 12 months, but using the frozen milk within 6 months is optimal. Studies show that the longer you store breast milk, the greater the loss of vitamin C in the milk.
How do I thaw frozen breast milk?
Thaw the oldest milk first. Place the frozen container in the refrigerator the night before you intend to use it. You can also gently warm the milk by placing it under warm running water or in a bowl of warm water.
Don't heat a frozen bottle in the microwave or very quickly on the stove, as it denatures the milk protein. Experts recommend discarding thawed milk that isn't used within 24 hours.