Pumping and Breast Milk Storage
Amie Brunner, RN - May 09, 2017

When do I start pumping? How often do I need to pump? How do I store my expressed breast milk?

These are all very common questions that mothers have, especially when their maternity leave is coming to an end. There are several different things that you can do to prepare for pumping and storing your expressed breast milk.

Breast pumps have many uses and are an effective way to keep up your supply and allow for your baby to be fed breast milk while you are away. Another benefit of using a breast pump is that it allows for your partner or another caregiver to be able to feed your baby while you take some time for yourself. Many times there is discomfort when you are not with your baby or unable to nurse your baby. Using a breast pump alleviates the pressure and may help prevent infection due to not nursing your baby on-demand. 

There are several different brands of breast pumps on the market. No one particular pump is better than another; it just depends on what works best for you. There are two different kinds of pumps available: manual and electric. A manual pump is one that is worked by hand and can be used anywhere. No electric outlet is required. There is also an electric pump, which uses a motor to create suction and pump out breast milk.

It is important to not start pumping, unless directed to by your provider, until about four weeks postpartum, or after birth. This allows for a good milk production and breastfeeding to be established with you and your baby. Once you are ready to start pumping, good times to pump are: after the baby has nursed and is done eating, early in the morning, later in the evening, and during the night (if your baby is not waking up to eat).

You should start pumping about two weeks before your maternity leave is over so that you can build up a supply of breast milk. Breast milk should be stored in small amounts and labeled with the date. Breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator if it is going to be used within five days. Breast milk can also be frozen for up to six months in a regular freezer and up to twelve months in a deep freezer. It is important to thaw milk either by setting it in the refrigerator or by warming it up in hot water. Never microwave milk as this can lead to hot spots and burns. Frozen breast milk may separate, which is very common, and can be swirled around gently to be mixed together again prior to feeding.

If you have questions about breastfeeding, pumping, or milk storage you can always call the Schneck Family Life Center nurse desk at (812) 522-0435. Schneck also has a breastfeeding support group that meets each Wednesday at 9 a.m. Find the next date by going to the Breastfeeding Support Group page.