5 August, 2021
Feeding with Expressed Breast Milk
Breastfeeding is difficult! There's times when it feels impossible and other times that it feels like the most magical experience.
The benefits of breastfeeding are countless: from reduced cancer rates in mum & bub to improved bonding and faster recovery from birth. Yet sometimes you need a break or you are going back to work. You might be trying to up your milk supply. There are many reasons why mums start to pump to continue providing the golden magic of breastmilk.
How to Express
Expressing can be done either manually with your hand or with a machine to extract the milk.
Hand expressing can be really helpful to relieve some pressure and engorgement, particularly in a warm shower. If you feel engorged, you don't want to pump too much as your brain will pick up that there's an increase need for milk and will in fact produce more milk. Instead, express just enough that you are comfortable, rather than draining the breast.
Expressing with a pump can be done in two ways:
- Electric pumps like the Spectra (a personal favourite!)
- Manual pumps such as silicon hand pumps like the Haakaa
Depending on your reasons and frequency of pumping might help you decide which is best option for you.
- Wash your hands with soap & water before handling breastmilk or expressing
- Make sure pump and all its parts are clean and mould-free
To keep the goodness and freshness of breastmilk, you do need to be careful how you handle and store the milk.
Store in an airtight container labeled with the date. Avoid bottles and bags containing recycling symbol 7 as these contain a chemical called BPA which can leech into the milk.
If you want to get a bit fancy, you can add the time, in addition to the date, on the container. Milk pumped in the night will contain more sleep-inducing chemicals than what's pumped during the day.
Depending on where you store your breastmilk will dictate how long you can store it for without loosing the potent power of the milk and risking germs.
- Room temperature (below 25 degrees): 4 hours
- Refrigerator: 4 days
- Freezer: 6 months is best but 12 months is acceptable
When storing milk in the fridge or freezer, put it at the back where there's the least amount of temperature fluctuations. If freezing, leave 2cm clearance at the top as frozen milk will expand.
To get the most out of your breastmilk, it's best to store in the freezer as soon as you can but it can last up to 4 days in the fridge before you put it into the fridge.
How to Store Small Amounts
When breastfeeding bubs, you can pop on a suction pump on the other breast to collect the letdown. The Haakaa is an ideal pump for this.
When doing this, you'll be collecting smaller amounts. You can combine the milk from each side but you need to wait until the milk is the same temperature before combining with previously collected milk. So how do you coordinate that? Use two bottles. The first bottle you'll use for your cold fridge milk. The second bottle is for the fresh milk just collected to cool down in the fridge. Once they are the same temperature, you can combine into the one bottle. Continue doing this until you have enough for one feed or up to 4 days prior to popping into the freezer.
Thawing Expressed Milk
To avoid damaging the goodies within the milk, such as the immune factors and nutrients, as well as keeping it safe from bubs, you'll need to pay attention to how you thaw the milk.
You can thaw breastmilk in three ways:
- In the fridge - once it's defrosted it can be kept in the fridge for 24 hours. You don't need to start the timer from the time the milk was placed into the fridge but rather when it was thawed out.
- In a bowl of lukewarm water
- Under running warm water
Pay attention to avoid:
- Boiling water
- Immersing the water for longer than 15 minutes
- Refreezing thawed out milk
Heating Expressed Breastmilk
Breastmilk can be served cold, at room temperature or warmed up. Your bubs preference will likely dictate how you serve the milk.
Ways to warm up the milk are the same as how you can express the milk either in a bowl of warm, not boiling, water or running it under the warm water.
Swirl the milk to make sure there are no hot spots within the milk and that all the nutrients are combined in the milk. It's normal for the fat to settle and separate when it's been stored so swirling will mix it together again.
Test the temperature of the milk on your wrist prior to serving to bubs.
If you bubs doesn't finish their milk, it'll need to be used within two hours or thrown out.
You've got enough on your plate so we've made things simple for you with some print outs to use.
You can either use our sample to add or cross out what works for your feeding routine. Otherwise we have a blank sheet for you to use.
These printouts are handy to give to babysitting grandparents so that you can rest assure everything is looked after. You deserve, and need, time for yourself so enjoy your time out and about.
About the Author
Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Chiropractor, Doula, Women's Health Yoga & Pilates Instructor, Spinning Babies Lover
As a Chiropractor, Doula and perinatal Pilates & Yoga instructor, Dr Cassie loves to help pregnant women keep fit, healthy and comfortable. Knowing how empowering it felt to be fit and energetic during the pregnancy of her son inspires Cassie to want this for her patients. Cassie incorporates Spinning Babies, Yoga and Pilates exercises into her prenatal and postpartum Chiropractic sessions. She's currently studying her Graduate Certificate in Women's Health Medicine through the University of New South Wales.
Similar articles you'll enjoy:
- "Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk" (2021). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed via: https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm on 05 August 2021