Expressed Breast Milk

Mother with babyThere are some times when it may not be possible for a breastfed baby to feed from the breast - for example, if a mother and baby can't be in the same place at the same time. In situations like this breastfed babies can be fed expressed breast milk.

Breast milk can be expressed by hand, or with either a manual or electric breast pump. Expressing breast milk involves stimulating the nipple to start the "let down" reflex, which in turn triggers the flow of breast milk from the sacs in which the breast milk is stored in the breast to the nipple. The flow of breast milk can then be sustained by breast massage until the breast is emptied or completely expressed of milk.

It is important that regardless of which method of expressing milk is used, that the breast milk is collected, stored and used hygienically so as to prevent the risk of it becoming contaminated with bacteria.

Important hygiene tips for the safe collection, storage and use of expressed breast milk include:

  • Ensure hands are clean.
  • Ensure breast pump and accessories are clean.
  • Use clean and sterilised containers for the collection and storage of expressed breast milk.
  • Ensure that containers of expressed breast milk are clearly labelled with the date on which the breast milk was expressed.
  • Refrigerate expressed breast milk within an hour of expressing.
  • Store expressed breast milk in the coldest part of the fridge (i.e., towards the back of the fridge) and use within 3-5 days.
  • Freeze expressed breast milk if it is not going to be used within a few days of being expressed - i.e., freeze as soon as it has been expressed.
  • Thaw frozen breast milk by moving it from the freezer to the fridge, and allow 24 hours for it to thaw out slowly.
  • Do not re-freeze thawed breast milk.
  • Re-heat expressed breast milk by standing the container of expressed breast milk in hot (not boiling) water until it reaches body temperature.
  • Do not thaw or heat expressed breast milk in a microwave.
  • Do not re-heat expressed breast milk which has already been heated.
  • Feeding a breastfed baby expressed milk via a clean bottle, cup or spoon as appropriate.

Breastfeeding - good for baby, good for mum