Learning how to pump and store breast milk can make returning to work easier and less stressful. It does require some work and careful planning, but it can be done.
If you will be pumping your breasts when you return to work, before you go back practice for 1 or 2 weeks to get the hang of it. You can try pumping just after your baby eats or you can pump your breasts between feedings.
Practicing at home will help you learn how your pump works. During this time, you also can start to collect and store breast milk to be fed to your baby when you return to work.
You may not get much milk when you first start pumping. After a few days of regular pumping, your breasts will begin to make more milk. Also, the more milk you pump, the more milk your breasts produce. Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated (which will help your milk supply).
Pumping your breasts takes about the same time as breastfeeding, but with practice and a good pump, you can pump your breasts in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. While you are at work, try to pump as often as your baby usually feeds or for about 15 minutes every few hours. To keep up your milk supply, give your baby extra feedings when you are together. You can also pump right after your baby feeds, which will help your breasts make more milk.
Yes, your baby will probably want more milk during growth spurts. The best way to increase your milk supply for a growth spurt is to breastfeed or pump more often.
You can store breast milk in a plastic or glass bottle with a sealable top, or in a sterile, sealable bag. Store your breast milk in amounts that you use every day to avoid wasting it. For example, if your baby eats 4 ounces in a feeding, put 4 ounces of breast milk in the storage container.
Cool your pumped breast milk in a refrigerator or other cooler as soon as possible. You can also freeze the milk if you aren't going to use it right away.
The following are some general breast milk storage guidelines:
Breast milk can vary in color. It can be bluish, yellowish or brownish. It is also normal for breast milk to separate (the fatty part of the milk goes to the top). Shake the bottle or sealed bag, and the fat will go back into the milk.
Thaw the milk slowly by swirling the container of milk in warm water or by putting the container in the refrigerator the day before it is to be used. Don't use hot water to thaw breast milk. Never thaw frozen breast milk in a microwave oven. The milk could get too hot and burn your baby's mouth. Microwaving can also damage valuable proteins in breast milk.
Thawed breast milk can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours, but it should not be refrozen.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff