Storing Breast Milk

storing breast milk

Getting back to work, going out for a few hours, or grabbing a few hours of sleep, are a few reasons why you would want to store breast milk. Pumping your breast milk can be done manually or using breast pumps. The key is to store them to ensure the quality of the breast milk is good, and there is no safety issue. The motto of all mothers when they choose to store breast milk is to ensure their babies do not miss their nutrition supply. Proper storing is hence mandatory to keep the babies safe. Get tips here to store and feed extracted breast milk inappropriate ways.

How to store breast milk?

Before you start expressing breast milk, clean your hands with soap and water. After expressing milk –

  • Store only in food-grade glass containers. You can also use food-grade high-quality BPA-free plastic containers.
  • Also, plastic bags designed specifically for storing breast milk can be used.
  • Ensure these containers are cleanly washed and dried, and capped.
  • Storing 2 to 4 ounces in a bottle helps avoid wastage of breast milk.

Pro tip: Use waterproof labels or ink to label the bottles. Mention the time the breast milk is expressed and the hour till it can be used. Informing the caregiver about this ensures that your child gets good quality milk.

Chilling or refrigerating breast milk – Which method to choose?

Immediately after expressing breast milk and stored in the containers, refrigerate it. Though fresh breast milk can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 hours, the best thing to do is to chill them. Refrigerated milk can be used for a maximum of 4 days.

  • In the refrigerator, store the containers with breast milk in the coolest space.
  • Insulated coolers can be used if you do not have access to refrigerators. Use ice packs to keep the milk safe inside the coolers.
  • Do not fill the container to the brim. This is because breast milk expands when frozen.
  • Leftover milk after every feed can be stored for 2 hours in the refrigerator. After this duration, discard it. If you think, you need more per feeding than the stored breast milk, the best thing is to store small amounts in a few additional bottles. This comes in handy, especially during travel.

Storage duration of breast milk:

  • As mentioned, it is best to store breast milk at room temperature for 4 hours. If expressed in very clean conditions, then it can be stored for 6 hours. But if the room is warm, or during hot temperatures, using it within 4 hours is mandatory.
  • Refrigerating breast milk for 4 days is the maximum. Again, freeze it if you are going to use it after 2 days.
  • Insulated coolers come in handy during travel or when there is no access to a refrigerator, but can be used to store milk for 24 hours.
  • In a deep freezer, breast milk can be stored for 12 months, if it is freshly expressed. However, experts recommend using frozen breast milk within 6 months.

How to thaw chilled and frozen breast milk?

Knowing how to thaw breast milk you have stored is mandatory to ensure the process serves the purpose –

  • Run the breast milk container under warm water, if you have refrigerated it. Alternatively, you can place it in a bowl of warm water.
  • If you have frozen the breast milk, remove it from the freezer and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Then thaw as aforementioned.
  • Do not heat breast milk in the oven or stove. This can lead to scalding. Also, doctors say rapid heating can damage the antibodies in breast milk.

Remember: Storing breast milk can be done in multiple ways. The apt method depends on how soon you would like it to be used. Clean containers and following the right duration to store in different temperatures is the key to staying safe.