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.
You will need to sterilise all the equipment you use to express and store your milk, and to feed your baby (eg pump, collection container, bottles or cups) until your baby is at least six months old. After this age, sterilising is not so important as your baby’s digestive and immune systems should have developed enough to cope with everyday germs.
If you have access to a fridge at work you can store your breastmilk there. If not, a cool bag will do until you can take it home and store it in your own fridge. Breastmilk can be stored in the fridge for up to five days and frozen for up to three months. Freeze it in small quantities, for example in ice cube trays, so that there is no waste if your baby only wants a little. Make sure you label and date your breastmilk before you put it in the fridge or freezer.
Breastmilk should be defrosted overnight in the fridge or thawed by standing the container in a jug of warm 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.