Pumping and Storage of Breast Milk

Your baby is being admitted to the Hospital for special care. If you are planning to breastfeed, you may not be able to for a period of time. This will depend on your child's healthcare needs. This page provides information on how to pump and store your milk until your baby can be fed by tube, breast or bottle.

Getting started

After your baby is admitted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, tell your baby's nurse that you are interested in breastfeeding and you would like to pump and save your milk. Your child's nurse will give you a pump kit and individual storage bins in which to store your breast milk in designated refrigerators and freezers in the hospital. Your nurse will also show you the storage bottles, labels to use, and how to properly label your breast milk.

Electric breast pumps stimulate your breasts in much the same way a baby sucks, which will help to produce and maintain your milk supply. Your nurse can show you how to use the electric breast pump and can arrange for you to meet with a lactation specialist.

Breast pumps at CHOP

Medela Symphony® electric breast pumps are available at a variety of locations throughout the hospital.

All the rooms have a comfortable chair, a Symphony electric pump, and sanitary wipes for cleaning the pump. They also have breast milk storage bottles, labels, and a sink with soap to clean your pumping kit.

Additional information:

  • Pump rooms are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on a first-come, first-served basis
  • No keys or sign-up required
  • Each room is a little different, so feel free to try them all
  • Please keep the rooms clean for others who will use them after you

See pump rooms for specific locations and directions within the hospital.

In addition, every inpatient unit also has a portable Symphony pump that you can use at your baby’s bedside. You may need to share the pump with other pumping mothers on the floor, but sanitary covers are individualized.

Pump rentals

It is also helpful to have a pump at home, since you will need to pump throughout the day and night. Electric breast pumps can be rented for use while you are at home and away from the Hospital.

If you are interested in this, CHOP has a rental station where both electric breast pumps and Baby Weigh™ scales can be rented.

Pumping: step-by-step guide at the Hospital

  1. While pumping your milk, you must keep the milk free from germs. Clean the pump with the sanitary wipes (available in each pump room) before each use. Wash your hands before you begin to pump your milk.
  2. Before connecting to the breast pump, massage both breasts by pressing firmly with the flat of the fingers into the chest wall. Work your way around the entire breast in sections down toward the nipple. Warm compresses also help the milk flow.
  3. Apply flanges to nipples.
  4. Turn pump on. Use the “Initiate” mode while you are pumping colostrum, and the “Maintain” mode after you are making at least 20 ml each pump for 3 pumps in a row. Instructions are attached to every pump.
  5. Turn the pump suction setting up until it feels uncomfortable and then turn it back a notch. You should pump at the maximum pressure that is comfortable, but not painful. .
  6. You may need to readjust the suction pressure. You should feel pressure, not pain when pumping.
  7. It is important to relax in order to get your milk to let down. Many women find their milk lets down when they think about their baby or look at a picture of their baby. Others find it helpful to listen to relaxing music.
  8. Double pump kits are available at the hospital. These kits allow you to pump both breasts at the same time. Using a double pump kit stimulates milk production more effectively.
  9. Set a pumping schedule for yourself. Pump every 2-3 hours (for eight or more sessions in 24-hour period) to establish and maintain your milk supply. It’s all right to sleep for 5-6 hours at night without pumping as long as you are pumping at least eight times a day. The more often you pump, the sooner your milk will come in.
  10. Pump until the milk flow stops to completely empty both breasts, but not more than 30 minutes.
  11. Air dry your nipples after pumping. If nipples become sore, pump on minimum for the duration of your pumping session. Start on the least sore side and switch after your milk lets down. Apply some expressed breast milk to sore nipples and then allow to air dry. A lanolin cream made for breastfeeding mothers can also be applied to the nipples. Soaking your nipples in warm salt water can help soothe sore nipples.
  12. When finished pumping, wash all parts of the breast pump that touched the breast or the expressed milk with dish soap and water and rinse. Allow to air dry and store in the plastic bag provided in the kit.
  13. The parts of the breast pump that touch the breast should be sterilized in boiling water for about 15 minutes once a day or run through the dishwasher. You can also ask your nurse for a Medela microwave bag for sterilizing your pumping equipment.
  14. Microwaves for sterilizing pumping equipment are available in the Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit, 5 West, 6 South Tower, and 4 West Seashore House pump rooms at the Hospital.
  15. Place all pumping equipment except for the tubing in the microwave bag and add 2 ounces of water. (You can use a collection bottle to measure 2 ounces.)
  16. Microwave for 3 minutes on high.
  17. Be careful when removing the equipment from the microwave. Drain water off through side steam vent and dry equipment with paper towel.

Collecting, storing and transporting breast milk

After collecting the milk, divide the pumped milk into amounts equal to the feedings your baby is taking. This avoids waste. Ask your baby's nurse to give you breast milk storage containers, labels and individual storage bins for the refrigerator and freezer to store your breast milk in.

Fill out the breast milk label completely.

Ask your baby's nurse to show you the breast milk refrigerator or freezer on your baby's unit. Place your pumped milk in your refrigerator bin if it is to be used within 96 hours. All milk fed to your baby in the hospital must be checked by two healthcare providers. If it is not to be used within 96 hours, place the milk in your freezer bin.

There is limited space in our freezers so only bring in a few days’ worth of milk at a time. Frozen breast milk at CHOP can be used for about one year when stored in a zero-degree freezer.

Never store breast milk on the door of the freezer because the temperature is not constant and the breast milk can begin to thaw.

Fresh vs. frozen breast milk

Once your baby begins to be fed with your pumped breast milk, it is better to give your baby fresh milk rather than frozen. The first feeds should always be the colostrum that you pumped in the first four days after your baby was born.

Your baby should receive your colostrum in the order that it was pumped. When the colostrum is gone, you can pump your milk and give it to your baby’s nurse to be used for the next feeding without freezing it first. Any extra pumped breast milk that is not used to feed your baby should be frozen within 96 hours of pumping.

If you are transporting fresh breast milk from home to the hospital, place it either in a bag of ice or in a cooler filled with ice. Frozen breast milk should be packed tightly into an insulated cooler without ice. You need to be careful not to allow the breast milk to begin to defrost. If it begins to thaw, and is less than 50 percent thawed, it can be refrozen.

If it thaws more than 50 percent, it cannot be refrozen. It needs to be placed in the refrigerator and used within 24 hours. If your baby is still not eating, this milk may need to be thrown away before your baby gets a chance to have it.