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Using Expressed Breastmilk (EBM) While Your Baby is in the Hospital

​​​​​Why should I breastfeed my baby?

Breastmilk is the best nutrition for your baby. We encourage you to keep breastfeeding while your baby is in the hospital. Studies show that babies who are fed their mother's breastmilk may have:
  • less gastrointestinal, respiratory, and ear infections
  • less of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
  • fewer allergies and eczema
  • less risk of obesity later in life

Why is it important that my EBM is handled safely?

When your baby is in the hospital, care must be taken to make sure the EBM is handled safely and that it’s your breastmilk that is given to your baby.

This is important because viruses such as HIV or hepatitis B can be carried in breastmilk. These viruses can be passed on to a baby by an infected mother’s milk.

EBM from an approved milk bank for feeding your baby means that the EBM has been properly collected, screened, stored, pasteurized, and cultured as per the Canadian Food Inspection Agency guidelines. This makes sure that the EBM has been screened for HIV and hepatitis B.

Pumping Your Breasts

If breastfeeding is going to be interrupted, pump your breasts to maintain your milk supply. If you don’t breastfeed or pump regularly, your milk supply can decrease, sometimes quite fast.

There are hospital-grade pumps with bottles and attachments for you to use in the hospital during your baby’s stay. Your nurse will show you where they are and how to use them. There are also instructions on the pump.

You may rent a pump to use at home. Ask your nurse if there a list of rental outlets. Check with your health benefits provider for coverage of rental costs.

Where do I pump?

Try to pump at your baby’s bedside whenever you can. Being near your baby helps your milk to “let down” or flow. For other places to pump, speak to your baby’s nurse.

How do I safely handle and label my EBM?
  • Put your EBM in the bottles you are given.
  • Ask your baby’s nurse for printed labels for the bottles.
  • Put the label with your baby’s hospital identification (ID) number, first, and last name on the bottle.
  • Put the time and date you pumped on the label.


  • The nurse will store your labelled milk in a secure fridge or freezer.
  • If you pump at home while your baby is in hospital, put EBM in your fridge right away.
  • Use ice or freezer packs to bring EBM from home to hospital.

How do I get the EBM from the fridge to feed my baby?

Ask your nurse to get your EBM from the secure fridge or freezer.

How can I work with the nurses to make sure my baby gets my milk?

Safety first! Together we will make sure it is your EBM and not someone else’s. We will also make sure that the milk hasn’t expired.
  • Double check: Before using any of your EBM, the label must be checked with your baby’s hospital ID bracelet at the bedside by 2 people, either yourself and a nurse or 2 nurses.
  • Check the date on the bottle for freshness
  • If there is any EBM left after you are done feeding your baby, throw away the bottle and the unused EBM. Also throw away EBM that was thawed more than 24 hours ago.
  • Please speak with your nurse if you have any questions or concerns.

Everyone has a role in making healthcare safe. As a family member, you can make your baby’s care safer by being an active, involved, and informed member of your baby’s healthcare team.

How do I prepare EBM to give to my baby?

  • Don’t warm ​EBM in a microwave oven. The milk can heat unevenly and burn your baby’s mouth. The heat can also destroy some immune components in the breastmilk.
  • To warm EBM, first put the bottle in the protective cover the nurse gives you. Then put the bag in warm water until the EBM reaches body temperature. If it feels warm to the touch, it may be too hot to feed to your baby.
  • When thawing EBM, add another label with the date and time it was thawed.

What do I do with my EBM when my baby goes home?

  • Please take your EBM home when your baby goes home, including any that is in the freezer.
  • It’s important to make sure that the EBM label matches your baby’s identification band to make sure that the correct EBM goes home with the correct infant.
  • The EBM must be packed on ice for the trip home. If the EBM has started to thaw by the time you get home, put it in the fridge, and use it within 24 hours. EBM can’t be refrozen.

How long can EBM be stored?

EBM can be stored safely in one of the ways below:
  • Room Temperature: for 4 hours.
  • Fresh: in a fridge for 48 hours.
  • Thawed: in a fridge for 24 hours.
  • Frozen: in a fridge/freezer with two doors for 3 to 4 months or in a chest freezer for up to 12 months.

Who can I speak with if I have questions or concerns?

In the hospital, talk to your nurse or a lactation consultant. (Note: Not all hospital have a lactation consultant)

Current as of: July 18, 2018

Author: Prenatal Public Health, Alberta Health Services