Frequently Asked Questions - Pumping

Information about expressing and storing milk

This information is covered in the LLLC Information Sheet Storing Human Milk, which can be requested from your local Leader, and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding tear-sheet toolkit: “Storing Milk for Your Healthy Full Term Baby”

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question as there is no research about whether it is safe or not. Until recently, the standard answer was to discard any breastmilk left in the bottle after a feed. However, recently it has been suggested that it might be okay to store breastmilk in the fridge for a short time. The current thinking is that bacteria growth is possible, but not likely, because fresh breastmilk has anti-bacterial properties, and a breastfed baby has a strong immune system to deal with any bacteria that do grow. If the breastmilk has been frozen and thawed some of these properties are lost. The final choice is yours; let common sense be your guide. If the baby's next feeding of pumped breastmilk ends up being 7 or more hours later (because he slept through the night, for example) or the breastmilk was stored in the fridge for several days before being fed to the baby, you may choose to err on the side of caution. To avoid wasting precious breastmilk, mothers usually prepare bottles with a small amount, 1 to 2 oz (30 to 60 ml), to start a feeding.  More breastmilk can be added to the bottle if needed.

You can thaw your frozen breastmilk by holding it under cool running water. Gradually increase the water temperature to heat it to a comfortable feeding temperature. This is a temperature that feels warm, not hot, on your wrist. Periodically mix the milk in the bag or bottle by swirling gently, as it defrosts.  Milk can also be thawed in a refrigerator overnight.  Do not thaw or heat your milk in a microwave or directly on the stove.

Thawed milk should be kept refrigerated and used within 24 hours.  If it hasn’t been used by that time, it should be discarded or refrozen. However, repeated freezing and thawing will affect milk quality.

Yes. Expressed human milk can be kept in a common refrigerator at the workplace or at a daycare centre. Check that the refrigerator temperature is 4C (39F) or less. Both the US Centers for Disease Control and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration agree that human milk is not among the body fluids that require special handling or storage in a separate refrigerator.

Colostrum is the 'first milk' produced by your breasts, starting during pregnancy. It is a concentrated form of "mature milk", which is very high in protein, antibodies and other protective components that are important for your newborn. It is thicker than mature milk and often has a yellowish colour to it. It is produced in small amounts (10-100 mL/24 hours), which is perfect for your newborn's tiny tummy. The smaller volumes also give your baby a chance to learn to nurse without being overwhelmed by a large flow of milk in the first few days. These smaller feedings encourage your baby to go back to the breast often in the first few days. This frequent stimulation is what increases your milk production - a lovely and effective feedback loop!

To encourage, promote and provide breastfeeding, chest feeding and human milk feeding support and educational opportunities as an important contribution to the health of children, families and society