Expressing Your Milk

Work, school, or even a late-night movie can require you to be away from your baby. You can feed your baby breastmilk in a bottle. But remember, don’t give your baby bottles or pacifiers until he or she is at least 4 weeks old. This is so you both can get a good start on breastfeeding. Bottles and pacifiers can get in the way of your baby learning to breastfeed and your body making exactly enough milk to meet your baby’s needs.

Always wash your hands before removing milk from your breast to a bottle (expressing).

Woman sitting in chair expressing milk from both breasts with double breast pump.

Stimulating letdown

Gently massage your breasts to stimulate the milk flow. Start under the arm and move around the entire breast. If you’re away from your baby, looking at your baby’s picture can help your milk let down.

Expressing by hand or pump

Your lactation consultant or other healthcare provider can help you choose the best method for your needs.

  • Expressing by hand reduces pressure in swollen or leaky breasts. It may be a good way to begin a pumping session. If you need to provide expressed milk to your baby in the first few days after delivery, hand expression can often obtain more colostrum than using a pump. Ask your postpartum nurse or healthcare provider to teach you how to hand express.

  • A pump works like a baby’s suck and is the fastest way to express milk. Pumps come in manual, battery-operated, and electric styles. To protect your breasts, follow the instructions that come with your pump. For sick or premature babies who aren’t feeding at the breast, “hands-on pumping” is a special way to help be sure you make enough milk. Hands-on pumping involves a  combination of both hand expression and the use of an electrical pump. 

  • Pumps can be purchased in many locations. Pumps can also be rented from some pharmacies and medical equipment stores. Check with your hospital to determine where you can purchase or rent your pump.

Working and breastfeeding

  • Talk to your partner or child-care provider about timing bottle feedings while you are away. It’s best if your baby is ready to breastfeed when you return from work.

  • Express milk during breaks. This helps protect your milk supply. It also helps prevent engorged or leaking breasts.

  • Arrange to breastfeed at lunch if your child care is nearby.

  • Breastfeed before you leave for work and soon after you return home. Your partner may be able to make dinner while you feed the baby.

  • Breastfeed at night and on weekends. Your baby can have bottled breastmilk during the day.


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