Pumping & Storing Breast Milk | UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

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Pumping and Storage

Pumping is an alternative to breastfeeding, which still allows your baby to reap the benefits. Storing your milk is tied directly to pumping.


  • There are many different kinds of pumps.  If you only plan on pumping a few times over your entire breastfeeding experience, you may purchase an inexpensive manual pump.  However, if you plan on pumping many times throughout the day, you may need a mechanical pump.
  • It may take a little practice to get the right settings.
  • Pump as frequently as you would breastfeed your child.
  • Pumping both breasts at the same time may increase the amount of milk you are able to pump.
  • Do not miss pumping times.  If you miss the time you would normally pump, it may cause engorgement and could reduce your milk supply.  Even pumping for a few minutes instead of your usual amount of time is better than not pumping.
  • Pumping more frequently for shorter amounts of time will help maintain milk supply versus fewer pumping for longer amounts of time.

Milk Storage

  • Breast milk can be expressed and stored for future use.
  • Make sure to store milk in containers that are clean.
  • Milk storage bags are available for freezing or refrigerating breast milk.
  • At room temperature, it is acceptable for breast milk to stay out for 4 to 6 hours.
  • In the refrigerator, it is acceptable for breast milk to be stored for up to eight days.
  • In a refrigerator freezer the milk may be stored up to 6 months.  In a deep freeze, you may store the milk up to a year.
  • When thawing frozen breast milk, leave container in refrigerator overnight, or run under cool water gradually increasing temperature until it is warm enough for your baby.
  • When warming refrigerated breast milk, run under warm water until it is warm enough for your baby.
  • Do not microwave breast milk since it may heat unevenly and there may be areas that are too hot.
  • Breast milk that has been thawed will keep in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  It is best to not refreeze any unused portions of breast milk.  If the baby has sipped from a bottle but not finished it, any remaining milk should be discarded after two hours.
  • Breast milk will separate as it cools.  Gently swirl the bottle while warming to mix before feeding.