Hesperian Health Guides

Removing Milk by Hand

Another way a woman can give her baby breast milk during the day is if she can have time at work to remove the milk from her breasts. Then someone else can feed the baby for her.

If a mother removes more milk than her baby needs, she can give it to another baby whose mother is sick, or whose milk has not come in yet.

a woman using a jar on a table to catch milk from her breast a woman handing a jar of milk to a boy at the door of her workplace
You can remove your milk by hand 2 or 3 times each day... ...then send or store the milk for someone to feed your baby.

You may also need to remove your milk by hand if your breasts are too full, or if your baby cannot breastfeed for some reason, and you want to keep a good milk supply.

How to remove your milk by hand

    a hand holding a woman's breast and pressing toward the chest
  1. Wash and rinse a wide-mouth jar and lid with soap and clean water, and leave them in the sun to dry. Just before using them, pour boiling water, that has boiled for 20 minutes, into them and let the water sit for a few minutes. Then pour the water out.
  2. Wash your hands well before touching the jar or your breasts.
  3. Find a quiet place if you can. Be patient and try to relax. Thinking about the baby as you remove your milk may help it flow. Massage your breasts lightly with your finger tips or fist, moving toward the nipple.
  4. two fingers and a thumb holding a nipple as milk flows into a jar Press back,
    do not pinch.
  5. Then, put your fingers and thumb at the edge of the dark part of your breast (areola), and press in towards the chest. Gently press your fingers together and roll them towards the nipple. Do not pinch or pull your nipple. Removing milk should not hurt. Move your fingers all the way around the areola so the milk can come out of the whole breast. Do this with each breast until it is empty.
  6. At first, not much milk will come out. With practice you will remove more. Plan to remove milk as often as your baby eats, or at least 3 times each day. (The person who gives your milk to the baby can let you know if there was enough.) If you start to practice 2 weeks before you return to work, you will be able to remove enough milk by the time you must be separated from your baby.

How to store the milk

Breast milk can change color. The color comes from what you eat. No matter what color it is, your milk is good for your baby.

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The container can be stored
longer in a cool place such
as a clay pot with water in it.

Keep your milk in a clean, closed container (see steps 1 and 2 above). You can store milk in the same jar used to remove the milk. Keep the milk in a cool place away from sunlight. The milk can be used for up to 8 hours. Or you can bury the closed container in wet sand, or keep it wrapped in a cloth that is kept wet all the time, and it will keep for about 12 hours.

Milk can be kept in a glass jar in a refrigerator for 2 or 3 days. The cream (fat) in the milk will separate, so before giving it to the baby, shake the container to mix the milk. Heat it to room temperature in warm water. Test the milk to make sure it is not too hot by shaking a few drops onto your arm.

Warm bottle method

This method may work best if the breasts are too full or very painful. This may happen right after birth, or if a woman gets a cracked nipple or breast infection.

    a woman holding her breast with one hand while holding a bottle to her nipple with the other hand
  1. Clean a large glass bottle that has a 3 to 4 cm-wide mouth. Warm it by filling it with hot water. Fill it slowly so the bottle does not break. Wait a few minutes and then pour the water out.
  2. a bottle with a narrow mouth
    3 to 4 cm wide
  3. Cool the mouth and neck of the bottle with clean, cool water so that it does not burn you.
  4. Fasten the bottle mouth over your nipple so that it makes a seal. Hold it firmly in place for several minutes. As it cools, it will gently pull the milk out.
  5. When the milk flow slows down, use your finger to loosen the seal around the breast.
  6. Repeat on the other breast.

IMPORTANT! Milk that cannot be kept cold will spoil and should be thrown out. If milk smells sour or strange, throw it out. Spoiled breast milk can make a baby very sick.

This page was updated:17 Apr 2019