How to express and store breast milk


Sioned Hilton answers your breastfeeding questions

While it’s often best to aim for breast, there are times when you might want or need to express your milk. Firstly, you will need to establish what kind of breast pump will be most beneficial to your needs. If you are going to be expressing now and again to allow your partner to feed or give yourself a break, a single electric breast pump is ideal. If you only need a breast pump for occasional use, a manual breast pump should be sufficient.

However, if you plan to express frequently or for a long period of time, you will need a double electric breast pump. Breastfeeding brand Medela recently found that mothers who use a double breast pump express an average of 18% more milk than with a single pump, and that the milk produced has a higher energy content. If a double pump seems like a big investment, remember that rental plans are also available.


When it comes to the best time and how frequently you need to express, this is personal to you. Some mothers find mid-morning is best, others before they go to bed. It’s best to wait until you have passed the three- to four-week growth spurt before expressing, if possible, as during this time your baby will want to feed frequently. As a general rule, mimic your baby’s feeding pattern every two to four hours, and if exclusively expressing, six to eight sessions in 24 hours is recommended to help maintain milk supply.


Expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for a maximum of six hours. If you are keeping breast milk in the fridge, you will need to use this within five days. However, if you choose to freeze your breast milk, it will last for six months and, once thawed to fridge temperature, will need to be used within a 24-hour period. Ensure you store and use your breast milk in chronological order and remember, no refreezing!


• It may take your body some time to get used to your breast pump, so don’t worry if your first expressing session isn’t as fruitful as you hoped.

• Try expressing from the left while you feed from the right, or vice versa. The skin to skin contact and act of baby feeding will stimulate more milk to flow.

• If you are expressing away from baby, have a photo or an item of their worn clothing to hand to make it easier.

• Find a time to express when you know baby will be settled in between feeds.

• Expect your breasts to refill approximately 45 minutes following a nursing session.

• Plan ahead, and think about when baby will need milk so as not to waste any.

Sioned Hilton is the in-house lactation consultant for Medela