Expressing milk at work | breastfedbabies

If you are going to need to express milk while at work, it is important that you practice expressing before you need to do it at work. For step-by-step instructions on how to express milk, please see our section on expressing. By the time you go back to work your milk supply will probably be well established, so using a pump (hand or electric) is probably the quickest and most convenient way to express at work. You might find it useful to have a picture of your baby to look at when you are expressing – this may help the milk to flow. It’s also a good idea to keep an extra top and some breast pads at work in case of any leakage.

How much time will you need to express?

Extra breaks or at least an extended lunch break will need to be agreed. The number of expressing breaks you’ll need will depend on your baby’s age and how often he or she usually feeds. As a rough guide, if your baby is between two and six months old you might need to express two to four times during an eight hour working day. If your baby is six months or older you may only need to express once or twice during a full day. While some mothers can express milk quickly and may only need 10 minutes to express, for most women it takes an average of 20 minutes.

How should I clean breast pump equipment?

  • when at home disinfect your breastpump equipment in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions
  • when at work after each expression rinse each piece that comes into contact with breast milk in cool water as soon as possible after pumping
  • wash each piece separately using a good brand of washing up liquid and plenty of warm water
  • rinse each piece thoroughly with cooled boiled water for 10–15 seconds
  • place the pieces neatly on a clean paper towel or in a clean drying rack and allow them to air dry (we suggest drying on kitchen roll)
  • avoid using cloth towels to dry your pump parts because they can carry germs and bacteria that are harmful to your breast milk and your baby
  • once the pump parts are dry, assemble the pump (before you store it or use it) and store in a clean plastic box or zip-lock bag
  • try not to touch the inside of any parts that will come in contact with your breast milk

Storing breastmilk

Ideally, breastmilk should be placed in a refrigerator after expressing and then it will keep in the fridge for three to five days providing the temperature is kept at between 2° and 4°C. If there isn’t a fridge available at work, you can keep your milk in a cool bag with ice blocks until you get home.

Breastmilk that isn’t going to be used within five days should be frozen. It is important to label the milk with the date when it was expressed. Milk will keep in a freezer for six months. Milk frozen and stored in the small top shelf freezer compartment of a refrigerator will only keep for three weeks. 

Breastmilk should be defrosted overnight in the fridge or thawed by standing the container in a jug of cool water. Do not use the microwave – it may heat the milk unevenly and scald your baby. There is also some evidence that microwaving destroys some of the beneficial anti-immune factors in breastmilk.