pitcher method breast milk

The Pitcher Method: Breast Milk Storage Tips and Tricks

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Are you a busy mom struggling to maintain a steady breast milk supply? Look no further! In this article, I will introduce you to the revolutionary Pitcher Method breast milk storage system – a game-changing technique for maximizing your milk production. As a busy mom myself and a breastfeeding counselor, I know how challenging it can be to find the time and energy to pump and nurse, especially with a million other things on your plate.

pitcher method breast milk infographic

So, grab a cup of tea, sit back, and let me tell you everything you need to know about the Pitcher Method – your secret weapon to ensuring your little one is well-fed and thriving.

What is the Pitcher Method for breast milk?

The Pitcher Method, aka the Mason Jar Method, involves collecting and pooling milk from multiple pumping sessions into a single large container, typically a pitcher or large bottle. This simple yet highly effective technique makes storing breast milk a doddle as pumped milk collected throughout the day can be combined and stored ready for the next day’s feeding bottles.

This method allows you to maximize the amount of milk you collect and store, reducing the need for constant pumping throughout the day. By pooling your pumped milk, and storing it in larger quantities, you can also ensure that your baby receives a consistent supply of breast milk even when you are not available to nurse.

The Pitcher Method is particularly beneficial for busy breastfeeding moms who may not have the luxury of pumping multiple times a day or who struggle with low milk supply. With this method, you can make the most of each pumping session and build up a significant milk stash over time.


Not sure how much milk you need to feed your baby? No problem! Use this handy FREE Expressed Milk Calculator!

How to do the Pitcher Method

In a nutshell, after each pumping session, breast milk is allowed to cool and then is poured into a large pitcher or jug. This pitcher is stored in the refrigerator. At the end of a hard day pumping you can pour the collected milk from the pitcher into bottles ready for tomorrow’s feeds, or put them in freezer-safe storage bags for a future date.

The basics

  1. After a pumping session, store your milk in a container labeled with the date and time. Put this freshly expressed breast milk in the fridge.
  2. When you are ready to combine the milk, pour the contents of each container into a pitcher, making sure to stir gently to ensure even distribution.

  3. Once the milk is combined, you can transfer it to bottles for feeds or storage bags for freezing.

Remember to use the oldest milk first when feeding your baby, as breast milk can spoil if not used within a certain time frame.

Tips for implementing the Pitcher Method effectively

1. Establish a pumping schedule: Consistency is key when it comes to milk production. Set a pumping schedule that works for you and stick to it as closely as possible. Aim for at least 7-8 pumping sessions per day, depending on the age of your baby, spacing them out evenly throughout the day. By following a regular pumping routine, you can train your body to produce milk at specific times, optimizing milk production.

2. Invest in a high-quality breast pump: Look for a pump that offers adjustable suction and speed settings, as well as a comfortable fit. Electric pumps are generally more efficient and convenient for busy moms. Consider investing in a double electric pump, which allows you to express milk from both breasts simultaneously, saving you valuable time.

3. Practice hands-on pumping: Hands-on pumping, also known as breast massage, can significantly increase milk output. Before and during your pumping sessions, gently massage your breasts in circular motions towards the nipple. This technique helps stimulate milk flow and ensures that all areas of the breast are adequately drained. You can also try applying a warm compress to your breasts before pumping to encourage letdown.

4. Stay hydrated and well-nourished: Proper hydration and nutrition are crucial for maintaining a healthy milk supply. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and consume a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Certain foods, such as oats, fenugreek, and brewer’s yeast, are known to boost human milk production. Incorporate these lactation-friendly foods into your diet to further support your milk supply.

5. Create a relaxing pumping environment: Finding a quiet and comfortable space to pump can make a world of difference. Create a cozy corner in your home where you can relax and focus on pumping. Consider using a breastfeeding pillow or a supportive chair to ensure proper positioning. Dim the lights, play soothing music, or engage in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation to enhance your pumping experience.

Common mistakes to avoid when using the Pitcher Method

1. Not labeling your milk containers: It may seem like a small detail, but labeling your milk containers with the date and time of expression is crucial. This practice helps you keep track of the freshness of your milk and ensures that you are using the oldest milk first. Proper labeling of leftover milk can also help prevent any confusion or mix-ups when combining the milk.

2. Combining milk of different temperatures: When combining breast milk from different pumping sessions, it is essential to ensure that the milk is at a similar temperature. Mixing milk of different temperatures can result in the milk separating or spoiling faster. To avoid this, be sure to cool freshly pumped milk in the refrigerator before combining it with cold milk. If you need to combine warm milk with cooled milk, do so gradually to prevent drastic temperature changes.

3. Storing leftover breast milk for too long: Breast milk is a perishable product, and its quality can deteriorate over time. While frozen breast milk can be stored for up to 12 months, fresh breast milk should be used within a certain timeframe. As a general rule, refrigerated breast milk is safe to use for up to 4-5 days. Be mindful of the expiration dates and use your stored, cold breast milk, in a timely manner to ensure its freshness and nutritional value.

4. Not maintaining proper hygiene: Proper hygiene is crucial when handling and storing breast milk. Wash your hands thoroughly before expressing milk or handling storage containers. Clean your breast pump and accessories after each use, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Store your expressed and frozen milk only in clean containers that have been washed with hot, soapy water and thoroughly rinsed. By maintaining proper hygiene, you can minimize the risk of contamination and ensure the safety of your breast milk.

5. Mixing milk from different days: Best case scenario you should only mix breast milk pumped on the same day. This is to help keep track of dating the pumped breast milk. However, if you do combine 2 consecutive days, be sure to use the expressed milk based on the earliest pumped date.

A note about mixing warm and cold breast milk

Just had a pumping session but it’s not quite enough for your baby’s feed? No problem – you can combine it with stored pumped milk! The CDC recommends not combining freshly expressed warm milk with cold refrigerated or frozen milk so you need to bring both kinds of milk to the same temperature before combining.

  1. Take the container of cold milk out of the fridge or freezer.
  2. Place the container of cold milk in a bowl of warm water or use a bottle warmer to gently warm it. Avoid using a microwave, as it can create hot spots that may harm your baby.

  3. Once the cold milk has reached the desired temperature, pour the warm milk into the same container and gently mix the contents. Ensure that the combined milk is at the appropriate temperature for feeding.

  4. Before feeding the baby, test the temperature of the mixed milk by placing a few drops on your inner wrist. It should feel comfortably warm, but not hot.

Bear in mind though that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) changed their guidance on this around February 2021. The new guidelines state that combining milk from within 24 hours together in one container is recommended, and safe, as it ensures all milk has a mix of beneficial nutrients. So, what does this mean in reality? That the Pitcher Method is the best go-to strategy for pumping moms!

Pros and cons of the Pitcher Method for storing breast milk

Saves space in the fridge: Utilizing a pitcher instead of multiple bottles reduces fridge clutter, especially beneficial for those with limited storage bottles or preferring glass over plastic.Extra steps required: Requires cooling freshly expressed milk before mixing with already stored milk, following CDC guidelines to prevent rewarming of older milk.
Balances foremilk and hindmilk: By mixing all the day’s milk, it evenly distributes foremilk and hindmilk, potentially benefiting babies with lactose overload.Timing matters: The composition of breast milk changes throughout the day, and using the pitcher method might disrupt the balance of melatonin and cortisol in the milk.
Efficient for scraping off fat: Easier to scrape and mix the nutritious fat from the sides in a larger pitcher compared to small bottles.Risk of accidental spills: The method increases the risk of losing all stored milk in case of accidental spills or container breakage.
Ideal for oversupply: Convenient for mothers with an excess of breast milk, making it easy to freeze surplus milk efficiently.Potential risk of contamination: Mixing milk at different temperatures or improper handling can introduce contamination risks.
Cost-effective: Reduces the need for numerous storage containers, making it a budget-friendly option.Requires thorough cleaning: The pitcher needs to be cleaned meticulously to maintain hygiene and prevent contamination.
Maintains milk composition: Helps in keeping the composition of human milk more consistent.Not suitable for all situations: May not fit everyone’s lifestyle or preferences, especially for those who prefer to track milk by individual pumping sessions.
Pitcher Method Pros and Cons

Who is Pitcher Method best for?

The pitcher method can be beneficial for the following individuals or situations:

1. Exclusively pumping mothers: The pitcher method is useful for mothers who exclusively pump breast milk, even in the early days after birth. You can build up quite a stash if you pump a lot so this It allows them to efficiently collect and store large quantities of milk for future use.

2. Moms with limited storage space: If storage space is limited, using the pitcher method can help reduce the number of containers needed to store milk.

3. Babies who need multiple or separate bottles: If you feed your baby with different bottle throughout the day, using the pitch method means you can simply pour the desired amount when needed instead of storing milk in separate bottles in the fridge.

5. Moms who like to be organized: The pitcher method is a time-saving approach, especially for mothers who need to store large amounts of milk. It streamlines the process of collecting, storing, and preparing breast milk for feeding.

Is the Pitcher Method safe?

Yes! However, the safety of the pitcher method depends on proper handling, hygiene, and adherence to guidelines.

Firstly, it is important to use containers made of food-grade plastic or glass for storing breast milk. These materials help preserve the quality of the milk and reduce the risk of contamination.

Secondly, practicing proper hygiene is crucial. Thoroughly clean and sanitize the pitcher before each use to minimize the growth of bacteria. It is advisable to follow the recommended guidelines for cleaning breast milk storage containers.

Thirdly, store breast milk at the correct temperature promptly after collection. Refrigerating or freezing the milk helps maintain its freshness and quality.

Handling the milk carefully is another important aspect. Take precautions to avoid spills and contamination during the pouring and mixing process.

The science behind the Pitcher Method

By combining human breastmilk from multiple pumping sessions, you are effectively telling your body that there is a greater demand prompting it to increase production.

The human body operates on a supply and demand system, meaning that the more your body is stimulated to produce milk, the more milk it will produce.

When you pump or nurse, your body receives signals to produce more milk. The hormone responsible for milk production, known as prolactin, is released in response to nipple stimulation. By pumping frequently you are providing your body with the necessary stimulation to produce more milk. Additionally, the emptying of the breasts signals your body to produce more milk to meet the perceived demand. The Pitcher Method takes advantage of these natural biological responses, allowing you to optimize your milk production.

In addition to increasing milk supply, the Pitcher Method has other benefits. It can help regulate milk composition, ensuring that your baby receives a balanced blend of nutrients with each feeding. The combined milk from multiple pumping sessions also tends to have a higher fat content, which is crucial for your baby’s growth and development.

How to store breast milk safely

Storing breast milk properly is essential to maintain its quality and ensure its safety for your baby. Consider the following guidelines:

  1. Use suitable containers: Choose containers specifically designed for storing breast milk, such as food-grade plastic bottles or glass containers. Mason jars can also be used, provided they are made of glass and have an airtight seal.

  2. Label and date the containers: Always label each container with the date the milk was expressed. This practice helps ensure that the oldest milk is used first and prevents waste.

  3. Store in appropriate portions: If you aren’t using the Pitcher Method then you need to store breast milk in smaller portions, such as 2-4 ounces (60-120 mL), to minimize waste. This allows you to thaw only the amount needed for each feeding if freezing.

  4. Follow storage guidelines: Refrigerated breast milk can be stored for up to 4 days, depending on the temperature of the refrigerator. Frozen breast milk can be stored for up to 6-12 months, depending on the temperature of the freezer.

  5. Avoid storing milk in the door of the refrigerator: Store breast milk in the coldest part of the refrigerator, such as the back or the bottom shelf, to maintain its freshness and quality.

Can you donate your extra milk?

If you have extra breast milk that exceeds your baby’s needs, consider donating it to help other infants in need. Be aware that there are strict guidelines about this though! Here are some important points to consider:

  1. Find a Milk Bank or Donor Program

  2. Follow the Milk Bank’s guidelines – this can include screening for certain health conditions, completing paperwork, and undergoing blood tests.

  3. Properly store milk to be donated – this includes using sterile containers, labeling and dating the milk, and storing it at the appropriate temperature.

  4. Educate yourself about the benefits of donating your breast milk – donating breast milk can provide vital nutrients and immune-boosting properties to premature infants or those with specific medical conditions. It can be a valuable contribution to the health and development of these babies.


As a busy mom, maintaining a steady milk supply can feel like an uphill battle! I remember that feeling well when I was breastfeeding my 2 children! But with the revolutionary Pitcher Method, you can streamline your pumping sessions and maximize your milk production effortlessly. By combining milk from multiple pumping sessions, you are sending a clear message to your body that there is a greater demand for milk, prompting it to produce more.

Remember, every mom’s breastfeeding journey is unique, and it may take time to find the routine and techniques that work best for you. Be patient, celebrate every drop of milk you produce, and prioritize self-care throughout your breastfeeding journey. With the Pitcher Method Breast Milk strategy and a strong support system, you can successfully breastfeed and maintain a bountiful milk supply even in the midst of a busy schedule.

Pitcher Method Breast Milk FAQ’s

What is the pitcher method for formula?

The pitcher method for formula involves preparing a larger batch of formula in a pitcher and then storing it in the refrigerator. This method allows for easy, ready-to-use feedings throughout the day.

How long is breast milk good for pitcher method?

When using the pitcher method, breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. However, it’s often recommended to use or freeze it within 48 hours for optimal quality.

How do you start pitcher method breastfeeding?

To start the pitcher method for breastfeeding:

  • Pump breast milk as usual.
  • Cool freshly expressed milk before adding it to a pitcher containing already refrigerated breast milk.
  • Store the pitcher in the refrigerator and mix well before each use.
  • Use within 4 days, and ensure thorough cleaning of the pitcher between batches.

What is the pitcher method combo feeding?

The pitcher method for combo feeding involves using a pitcher for storing and mixing either expressed breast milk, formula, or a combination of both. This method is used by parents who feed their baby both breast milk and formula, providing a convenient way to prepare and store mixed feedings.

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