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Pumping and Storing Human Milk

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  4. Pumping and Storing Human Milk
Nursing Your BEST

The Basics of Pumping

Wash your hands first

Wash your hands before pumping human milk, and then massage both breasts.

Start with a low suction

Pump both breasts at the same time, starting with low suction. Then increase to a comfortable pressure. If you can free up one of your hands, try compressing your breasts (squeeze softly and then let go, over and over) to get more milk out. Continue until your milk flow slows to a trickle.


Massage your breasts again, especially in areas that feel full.

Express into the pump’s bottle

Finish by hand expressing your milk into the pump’s bottle shield or pumping one breast at a time. Do whichever way you are able to express the most milk.

Pump regularly

Your breasts make more milk than you will be able to pump, but it is important to pump regularly while you are away from your baby. It will keep up your milk supply.

Pumping shouldn’t hurt.

If you have pain or difficulty with pumping, ask the WIC office or a lactation professional for help.

If you have experienced an injury or infection from a breast pump, please report your breast pump issue to the FDA. This can help them to better understand the risks of breast pumps and potentially prevent problems from happening to others.

Just in Case: How to Hand-Express Your Milk

Sometimes the unexpected happens. Your electric pump fails or you leave a part of the pump at home. On days like this, you’ll be glad to know how to hand-express your milk.

Hand Expression Resources

Get more information on the benefits of hand expression
Check out an illustrated demonstration of hand expression


Check out an illustrated demonstration of hand expression


How to Store Human milk

Wash your hands before handling human milk.

You can store human milk in a plastic or glass bottle with a screw-on lid or in sterile zip-seal human milk storage bags. You can find these in the baby section of most grocery stores.

Label the containers with the date the milk was pumped and your baby's name. This is helpful if your baby goes to child care where there is more than one infant or if more than one nursing parent is pumping at work.

Cool down the human milk you pump as soon as possible. You can store it in a refrigerator or in a cooler with ice packs. The milk can also be frozen if you aren't going to use it right away.

Store human milk in amounts that you use for a normal feeding. Since you can't re-freeze human milk, you may want to start by storing about 2 to 4 ounces per bottle or bag. You want to use every drop of your BEST!

Storing Human Milk

Remember this rule: 5-5-5

Human milk is safe:

  • At room temperature for 5 hours
  • In a refrigerator for 5 days
  • In a separated freezer for 5 months

Human milk can be defrosted at room temperature or in a refrigerator. Once thawed, it is safe to use within 24 hours.

Keeping Your Pump Parts Clean and Safe

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control

can help you keep your pumps safe and clean

Guidelines PDF - English
Guidelines PDF - Español