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Breast Pumps 101

10 tips for expressing and storing breast milk quickly and easily.

Storing Your Milk

Use clean screw-top bottles or special milk storage bags that are BPA free (never ordinary ziptop bags) to hold the milk that you pump at work. Label the containers by date so you use the oldest ones first. You may want to store milk in single-serving sizes of 2-4 ounces. Be sure to keep your pumped milk chilled until you're able to bring it home.

"A refrigerator or an insulated Thermos or cooler with ice packs will keep milk consistently cold at work," West says.

If you store your milk in the office refrigerator during the day, have some ice packs on hand to transport your milk home, Newman says.

Fresh versus Frozen

Whether you should freeze or simply chill your pumped milk depends on how soon you'll be serving it to your baby.

Freshly pumped breast milk can last at room temperature for up to 8 hours. In an insulated cooler bag, it's good for 24 hours. In the refrigerator, it can stay for 5 days. (Place it in the back of the fridge to keep it coolest.) In the regular refrigerator freezer, breast milk will last up to 2 weeks, or in a self-contained freezer, for 3 to 6 months. And if you have a deep freezer with a constant 0 degrees Fahrenheit temperature, the milk will last for 6 to 12 months.

Whenever possible, give your baby fresh breast milk.

"Fresh milk is far superior to frozen," Newman says. "Freezing milk kills all the living cells, and some other immune factors are diminished by freezing."

The best ways to thaw frozen milk are moving the container to the refrigerator overnight or placing the container in a bowl of warm water for immediate use. Never microwave breast milk; not only will it degrade the nutritional quality of the milk, it's dangerous for your baby: Microwaves don't heat things evenly, so they can create hot spots in the milk that could burn your baby's mouth.

Reviewed on October 20, 2011

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