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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Parsons, MD

⁠Our Milk System

I’ve shared the initial challenges of my breastfeeding journey. And after P and I finally got into a groove with breastfeeding at home, we were hit with a new challenge. This mama needed to go BACK TO WORK. My husband and I had lots of questions about what to do with milk, what to do with pumping at work, and what to do with pumping during COVID. Via internet searches, recommendations from friends, and a little trial and error, we came a system that works for us and after getting a TON of questions, I thought I’d share with others! This post is all about what we do with our LIQUID GOLD milk at work and at home.

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If you told me a year ago that my life would revolve around orange and blue Nalgene water bottles, I would’ve sworn you were crazy. If you told me I would panic without a Nalgene. Or cry when I missed the opening pouring into a Nalgene. I would’ve called BS so quick! But I would’ve been WRONG. My life currently revolves around MILK - producing milk, pumping milk, storing milk, freezing milk, and just being a milk mama. As I prepared to go back to work while pumping, we had to figure out a MILK STRATEGY. Our system that I’m going to share with you, was passed down from another ER doc/mama and her stay-at-home husband (ie expert milk handler).

Yes. Our system revolves around Nalgene bottles. You can use any bottles, but these 16 ounce Nalgene bottles come in different colors for easy color-coding, don’t spill and are practically indestructible. They were LIFESAVERS for us. We use different colored bottles based on location. So the HOME bottles are blue and the WORK bottles are orange.

Some Pumping Pearls:

  • One thing I (as a physician) did NOT know prior to breastfeeding - you’re not supposed to mix warm milk and cold milk.

  • You do NOT have to wash pump parts between every pump session. Just toss them in a plastic bag and clean them once a day (aka after work).

  • Milk stays good for up to 5 days refrigerated.

  • Milk can sit out at room temperature for approximately 4 hours.

  • Once you’ve warmed milk to give to your babe, you can refrigerate once more and use it within 24 hours. Don’t waste that liquid GOLD mama!

  • Milk can be frozen for 6 months to a year depending on your freezer.

These pearls of knowledge that I found while scouring the internet served to inform our milk strategy!


At home, we have four bottles that are numbered one through four. We keep track of the FIRST date of milk in each bottle on a white board on the refrigerator. With this system, we know that we are using the oldest milk first and we ensure that we don’t let milk go bad. When the bottle is 4-5 days old, it is time to be FROZEN!

At home, I often pump with my Spectra. When using my spectra, I cap the bottles after pumping and toss them in the refrigerator. Once they are cold, I add them to whichever Nalgene bottle I am currently filling.

When I get home from work with milk in my orange “work” nalgenes, I empty both of my “work” bottles (both are now cold) into whichever bottle at home is “getting filled.”

With this system, we know which milk should be consumed next.

We know when milk should be frozen to prevent milk loss (remember it is liquid GOLD). And we don’t have clutter in the refrigerator from of a ton of small bottles.


To avoid mixing warm and cold milk, I bring two 16 ounce bottles to work - one for warm milk and one for cold milk. If you’re working 24 hour shifts or will be pumping MORE than 16 ounces, you will need additional bottles to make this system work.

Pump 1: Pour both Elvie bottles into bottle 1. Refrigerate.

Pump 2: Pour both Elvie bottles into bottle 2. Refrigerate.

Pump 3: Pour bottle 2 into bottle 1 (mix all the cold milk). Once bottle 2 is empty, pour both Elvie bottles into bottle 2 (warm milk).

Pump 4 and on: Repeat the same events as Pump 3 as many times as needed to get through your shift.

Good luck pumping mamas!

With Love,


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