How to Express and Store Breastmilk

Updated December 28th, 2023

Feeding your baby early and often at the breast is helpful to establish your milk supply and breastfeeding relationship with your baby. Expressing your milk stimulates your body to make more milk. There may be times when you want to give your baby expressed breastmilk.

Do I need to pump to breastfeed?

If your baby is growing well and you do not have to be away from them, don’t feel like you have to pump. If you are pumping because you are worried about your breast milk supply, check out our breastfeeding resources and reach out for help.

What do I need to know about exclusive pumping?

Exclusive pumping is another way to provide breastmilk to your baby. If you decide to exclusively pump, express milk at a frequency that mimics how often your baby feeds. Initially, this could mean pumping every 1-3 hours for a newborn. As your baby gets older, they would go longer intervals without feeding.

Use the most comfortable pressure setting and pump for 10-15 minutes. It would also be important to check if the flange size of your breast pump is a good fit for you.

Ways to Express your Breastmilk

Expressing by hand

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Expressing by breast pump
  • You can rent or buy different types of breast pumps. Ask your midwife, Public Health Nurse, lactation consultant or pharmacy for more information.
  • When you are choosing your breast pump, try and find one that meets your needs and you feel comfortable using.

Hot parent tip:

  • If you have health care benefits, you may have coverage for a breast pump. It may be listed under special medical devices and you might need a doctor’s prescription.
  • Click here to find out where you can rent or buy a breast pump.

Types of Breast Pumps:

Manual breast pump (hand held)


single electric breast pump

Single electric breast pump


double electric pump

Double electric breast pump

How should I store my expressed breast milk?

  • Freshly expressed breast milk is safe to use at room temperature for up to four hours.
  • Breast milk must be stored in a sterilized bag or container.
    • You can buy sterile milk storage bags designed for freezing and storing breast milk.
    • If you are using a container you must sterilize it. See below for information on how to sterilize.

Hot parent tips:

  • You can freeze your milk in two to four ounce (60-120ml) quantities so you can thaw and warm it quickly.
  • Label the stored milk with the day, month and year.

In a refrigerator for 3-5 days. In a fridge freezer for 3-6 months.


In a deep freezer for 6-12 months

How to clean and sterilize your equipment:

Reproduced with permission from Healthy Child Manitoba

How to use frozen breastmilk?

  • Place frozen milk under cold running water until thawed, or thaw frozen milk in the fridge for several hours before it is needed.
  • To warm breastmilk, place container in a bowl of warm water. Never heat breastmilk in the microwave because it can cause hot spots that can burn the baby’s mouth and affect the quality of the milk.
  • Thawed breastmilk should be refrigerated and used within 24 hours. Do not refreeze.
  • Frozen milk can separate when thawed, so shake the container gently.

Safety tips:

  • When purchasing bottles look for ones that are BPA free.
  • It is recommended to sterilize all your equipment for the entire time your child is bottle feeding.


Healthy Child Manitoba Resource: Breastfeeding Your Baby