Breastfeeding Tips for Mothers on How to Pump and Store Their Breast Milk

Pumping and storing breast milk can be challenging, especially for first time mothers. Whether you recently gave birth to your first child or have multiple children, the lactation consultants at University Hospitals are here to guide you through the process. We encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns related to pumping or milk storage.

How to Make Pumping Easier

Here are a few hints to make pumping easier:

  • Find a private, warm, & comfortable place to pump.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water & have clean pumping supplies handy.
  • Place a warm, moist cloth on each breast before you pump.
  • Lean forward and gently shake your breasts.
  • Use your hand to gently massage the breast.
  • Moisten your pump flange/shield before placing on your breast to create a better seal.
  • Breast shields come in various sizes and need to comfortably fit your nipple to properly drain the breast. Larger or smaller breast shields may be included with your breast pump or may be purchased as needed.
  • Follow the pumping instructions included with your pump.
  • Pumping should always be comfortable. Do NOT turn pump settings too high to try to obtain milk more quickly.
  • While pumping: listen to relaxing music or look at a picture of your baby.

How Long to Pump

Try to pump when your baby would normally nurse. Going long periods without pumping may decrease your milk supply.

If pumping is not: comfortable, productive, or you are not certain which breast flange size is correct for your nipples, call a lactation consultant for help.

Tips on Human Milk Storage

Storage Containers

  • Glass or hard plastic containers are ideal for freezing breast milk, but freezer bags designed for milk storage may also be used.
  • Containers should be clean. Clean in hot, soapy water, rinsed and dry.
  • Leave room at the top of the container for milk to expand.
  • Label all containers with your baby’s name and date milk was pumped.
  • Store milk in portions your baby normally drinks to minimize waste.
  • Store milk in smaller size portions for unexpected delays.

General Guidelines

  • Wash hands prior to expressing milk.
  • Do not add warm breast milk to frozen milk.
  • Keep milk from one day separate from other days.
  • Several expressions within 24 hours can be combined if, you chill newly expressed milk for at least 1 hour before adding to previously stored milk.
  • Expect milk to separate during storage with cream on top. Gently swirl milk before serving.
  • The color of your milk may vary from day to day and change depending on your diet.

Milk Storage Guidelines

  • Milk can be kept at room temperature for 6 – 8 hours.
  • Milk can be stored in insulated cooler bag with ice for 24 hours.
  • Milk can be refrigerated for up to 5 – 8 days.
  • Milk may be kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours after being thawed.
  • Store milk at the back of the refrigerator.
  • Milk in a freezer located inside the refrigerator can be stored for 2 weeks.
  • Milk in a freezer with separate doors can be stored for 3 – 6 months.
  • Milk in a chest or upright freezer which is seldom opened, can be stored for 6-12 months.
  • 5-5-5- Rule is easy to remember. Five hours at room temperature. Five days in a refrigerator. Five months in the freezer.

Thawing and Warming Milk

  • Use oldest milk first.
  • Breast milk may be given when cool, room temperature or warm.
  • Thaw milk by placing in refrigerator overnight or place container under warm running water or in a bowl of warm water.
  • Never microwave breast milk or use stove top to heat milk.
  • Milk left in a container after a feeding should be discarded.
  • Do not re-freeze breast milk once it is thawed.


Lawrence, Ruth A. & Lawrence, Robert M. “Breastfeeding, A Guide for the Medical Professional”, Eighth edition, ELSEVIER, 2016.

Spangler, Amy “Keep It Simple”: 3rd edition, 2011

Wambach, Karen and Riordan, Jan “Breastfeeding and Human Lactation”, Fifth edition, Jones & Bartlett, 2016.

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