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Birthing Services

Breast Milk Pumping and Storing

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Milk expression is done for many reasons, including:

  • Mom and baby are separated because of illness.
  • Premature infant is unable to nurse normally.
  • Mother's breasts are uncomfortably full.
  • Baby is an ineffective nurser because of latching difficulty.
  • Mom has a low milk supply and is attempting to increase production.
  • Mom is away from her baby for more than a few hours at a time.
  • Mom is returning to work.
  • Mom is on medication that is not compatible with breastfeeding.

There are different ways to express breast milk, including:

  • Manual expression.
  • Single pumping with a battery-powered or electric breast pump.
  • Double pumping with an electric breast pump.

If you have questions about which method is right for you, ask a lactation support person for advice.

How long can you store breast milk?

Freshly Expressed Breast Milk

  • Room temperature—4 hours at 66 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (19 to 22 degrees Celsius).
  • Refrigerator—5 to 7 days at 32 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 4 degrees Celsius).
  • Self-contained refrigerator freezer unit—3 to 4 months.
  • Deep freezer—6 to 12 months at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-19 degrees Celsius).

Thawed Breast Milk

  • Room temperature—do not store.
  • Refrigerator—24 hours.
  • Note: You should never refreeze thawed milk. Throw away any thawed milk within 24 hours.
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