How to Express and Store Breast Milk

If you’re expecting a baby anytime soon, you’re probably thinking about how breastfeeding will go, whether or not to express your breast milk and what equipment you will need.

Why should I express breast milk?

Expressing milk involves squeezing milk out of your breast so you can store it and feed it to your baby later. You might decide to express milk if:

  • You have to be away from your baby for an amount of time
  • Your breasts are engorged and feeling full
  • Your baby is struggling to latch or suck well from the breast
  • Your partner wants to help with feeding the baby
  • You want to increase your milk supply.

Ultimately, it’s a decision for you to make based on your own circumstances. The most important thing is that your baby is getting fed and they’re happy and healthy.

How do I express breast milk?

You can express milk by hand, with a manual breast pump or with an electric breast pump.

It may take a little while for your milk to start flowing, so be patient. Try and choose a time when you feel relaxed and comfortable. Having your baby close by will help your milk to flow because of the clever hormone, Oxytocin. Even looking at a photo of them may do the trick!

You might find it easier to express if you cover your breasts with a warm towel first, or after you have a warm shower or bath.

How do I express breast milk by hand?

Get ready by first washing your hands and then holding a sterilised feeding bottle or container below your breast to catch the milk, then follow these helpful NHS tips:

  • Gently massage your breasts, this may help your milk to ‘let down’.
  • Hold your breast with one hand then, with your other hand, form a "C" shape with your forefinger and thumb.
  • Keeping your finger and thumb a few cm’s away from your nipple, squeeze gently.
  • Release the pressure, then repeat, so you build up a steady rhythm.
  • When drops start to appear, your milk should start to flow.
  • If no drops appear, try moving your finger and thumb slightly, but avoid squeezing the darker area near your nipple.
  • When the milk flow starts to slow down, move your fingers round to a different section of your breast, and repeat.
  • When the flow from that breast has slowed, move to the other breast.
  • Keep changing breasts until your milk drips very slowly or stops altogether.

How do I express breast milk using a breast pump?

Using a breast pump is a good way to express breast milk. You can choose from a manual or an electric pump.

As with using a manual pump, it’ll be helpful to have your baby or a picture of your baby near you to stimulate the flow of the breast milk.

Always make sure that the pump and container are clean and sterilized before you use them.

These days breast pump technology is very advanced. Breast pumps are often very quiet and easy to use. Many are portable meaning you can express on the go.

It’s worth doing a bit of research into pumps before you buy so that you get the best style of pump to suit you and your lifestyle.

There will be instructions with the breast pump that you buy. As a rule, make sure you build up the suction strength slowly. Using a high strength straight away on an electric pump could be painful and even damage your nipple!

You may be able to get different funnel sizes to fit your nipples too, so it’s worth seeing which is best suited to your shape.

Nuby has a range of easy-to-use single and double breast pumps. Our silicone breast pumps are discreet and portable, ideal for taking with you on the go for hassle-free expressing wherever you are. Our range also includes digital breast pumps with multiple stimulation and expression functions and digital touch-screen – so you can just kick back, relax and express!

Check out our breast pumps here.

How do I store expressed breast milk?

Your expressed breast milk can either be stored in a sterilised container or in special breast milk storage bags.

They can be kept:

  • In the fridge for up to 8 days at 4C or lower, or it is higher than 4C, use it within 3 days
  • For up to 6 months in a freezer, if it's -18C or lower

Breast milk that's been cooled or defrosted in the fridge can be carried in a cool bag with ice packs for up to 24 hours.

Top tip: Store breast milk in small quantities and make sure you label and date all your packs.

How should I defrost and warm expressed breast milk?

You can defrost frozen breast milk slowly in the fridge before feeding it to your baby, or if you need to use it right away, you can also defrost it by putting it in a jug of warm water.

Once it's defrosted and if it has separated a little, give it a gentle shake.

It’s important that you use it straight away and that anything left over should be thrown away.

You can feed expressed milk straight from the fridge if your little one is happy with a cold drink.

If not, you can warm the milk to body temperature by putting the bottle in a jug of warm water or holding it under running warm water.

Top tips:

  • Never re-freeze milk that's been defrosted.
  • Never use a microwave to heat up or defrost breast milk.

Here at Nuby, we like to encourage new parents to talk about their breastfeeding experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly! The more we talk and share, the more other new mums can feel less alone and more supported in their own breast-feeding journey.

Join the conversation on our social channels or for further information visit:

National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.