Handling expressed human milk

Human milk continues as the best nutrition for all newborns, it reduces the death rate of children below 5 year as it contains all its nutritional and immunity factors, thereby, reducing the chances of infections and enabling  the newborn to fight all types of infections. As per the World health organization (WHO) The newborn should have exclusive breastfeeding for six months followed by homemade complementary feeds continuing breastfeeding for two years or beyond.

It is very important to help mother to have a direct breastfeeding and in cases she will not be able to, she should be encouraged to express her milk by hand or an electrical pump.

When to express her milk?

In many cases mothers face difficulties after birth and milk supply could be reduced for many factors, such as (delay breastfeeding after birth, spacing of feeds, ineffective latch on of baby to the breast, babies with tongue tie, etc.…)

Mothers with preterm babies (baby born less than 37 weeks) will need full support and guidance to express her milk and maintain her supply.

This also applies to other cases where mothers are sick or have some complications after birth or if the mother is infected with some infectious disease, mother is on medication for any medical problem, mothers with breast problem such as engorgement.

Working mothers also need to learn about the expressing and handling breast milk

How to express human milk?

For the situations that it is temporary, a mother can learn how to express milk by using her hand, to learn more she can consult a lactation consultant to guide her.

For working mothers and mothers with preterm baby, it’s advisable to use an electrical pump to save time and energy and to be effective for longer use.


How to store expressed human milk?

  • It is recommended to store in a BPA-free glass or plastic containers
  • Label the bottles with date and time of the pumping. use refrigerated or frozen milk by the oldest date first.
  • Expressed human milk can be kept in room temperature, 77°F (25°C) for up to 4 hours or put in the refrigerator immediately.
  • It is normal for pumped milk to vary in color and thickness form mother to mother.
  • Stored milk separates into layers, Cream will rise to the top as the milk. Mix the milk before feeding.
  • (Refrigerators with two separate doors) You can store milk in the refrigerator (the cooled part,) for 3-5 days, and in the case of freezing milk (in the frozen part, ) for a period of 3-6 months.
  • (One-door refrigerators) You can keep milk in the refrigerator (the cooled part) for 3-5 days, and in the case of freezing milk (in the frozen part) for two weeks.
  • Thawed milk (inside the refrigerator) can remain refrigerated but should be used within 24 hours.
  • Thawed milk (in room temperature) can remain for up 1 or 2 hours.

Hoe to Thaw Breast Milk?

  • You can use a container of warm water or lukewarm running water (tap running water).
  • Never thaw or heat breast milk in a microwave. Microwaving can destroy nutrients in breast milk and create hot spots, which can burn a baby’s mouth.
  • If you doubt that breast milk has a sour or strange smell, throw it away

 How to clean and sanitize infant feeding items?

  • Wash all pumping and feeding equipment’s after each use with hot soapy water
  • Sterilize the parts in a sterilizer or submerge them in boiling water for 5-7 minutes, then dry them.

These are some helpful points that can help the mother handle her expressed milk and help her baby into her breastfeeding journey.

By Nisreen Nemer

Child birth educator, lactation specialist

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