Tips On Expressing Or Pumping Breastmilk And Safely Storing When You Are Away From Baby

Breastfeeding provides many benefits to both mother and baby, however many new moms are unsure how to express and store their milk when they can not be with baby. Whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home, find out tips on how to safely and effectively provide breast milk to your baby.
Elisheba Haqq-Stevens

The benefits of breastfeeding are many.  Breast milk provides complete nutrition fortified with hormones and antibodies.  Mother and baby form a strong bond and since breastfed babies are healthier babies, mothers who work outside the home, are less likely to miss workdays.  Mothers who breastfeed reduce their chances of developing ovarian, breast, cervical and endometrial cancers, not to mention often have an easier time returning to their pre-pregnant weight.
Today, when there is a great concern to “go green”, breastfeeding offers a greener option to using formulas.  Breastfeeding is free.  It eliminates global pollution by decreasing the use of resources and energy required to produce, process, package, distribute and dispose of materials created by the manufacture and use of baby formulas.  Even though the benefits of breastfeeding are many, it can be a challenge for a working mother or even for a mother who wants to leave her baby for a short time.

By expressing and saving breast milk, mothers can still provide their own milk even when they are not with their baby.  By planning ahead, there is no reason for a baby to ever drink formula.  In order to safely and effectively save breast milk, there are three basic factors to consider.

Expressing breast milk
Breast milk is best expressed when the breast is at its fullest and when the mother feels the let down reflex.  Often the let down reflex is strongest when the baby is feeding.  While the baby feeds on one side, milk can easily be expressed from the other breast.  Make a habit to express every day, even if not planning to miss a feeding.  By creating a “bank” of frozen breast milk, time away from baby does not always have to be scheduled.  Use waterproof tape and label the containers with the date in order to keep track of when the milk was expressed.  Breast milk is created on a supply and demand basis.  The more breast milk that is used, the more the body will produce.

Breast pumps
Breast pumps come in a large variety and almost all provide the proper amount of suction to effectively express breast milk.  Experiment with different breast pumps.  Some are battery powered and others are manual.  If financially feasible, working mothers should buy two pumps and store one at the workplace.  Breast milk that is expressed at work can be carried back and forth in a small cooler.

Storing breast milk safely
When breast milk is frozen it can be safely used for three months.  When stored in the refrigerator, it can be used for 3-8 days.  Breast milk should only be stored in glass or hard plastic containers that have been washed with hot water and soap, with tight fitting tops or in freezer bags made for human milk storage.  Only store two to four ounces of milk in each container, so there is less waste when the milk is thawed for use. 

Breast milk should never be thawed or warmed in the microwave because the proteins in the milk are destroyed.   The microwave also creates hotspots which can burn a baby’s mouth.  The best way to thaw frozen milk is to put the milk in the refrigerator and then bring it to temperature by placing the milk in warm—not hot water.  Sometimes breast milk will separate into two layers when frozen or cold, with the fat rising to the top, but this does not effect the safety or nutrition of the milk.  Breast milk that is thawed can be stored for 24 hours in the refrigerator, but should not be refrozen.

The choice to breastfeed is a rewarding and provides many advantages to both mother and baby.  With careful planning, mothers can provide breast milk for their babies even when they are not available to breastfeed.

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