A Complete Guide to Storing Breast Milk
January 18, 2016
There are some breastfeeding mothers that find themselves with an overabundance of breast milk as well as a large number who are also working mothers who need to pump and store breast milk to feed their babies if they’re not at home. This concept allows mothers to breastfeed their infants and continue the choice they’ve made to nourish in the healthiest way possible. Storing breast milk properly retains the benefits offered by breast milk so the mother may go about her day and be assured that her baby is getting the sustenance she desires without having to wean the baby off of breast milk before the mother is ready to do so. Provided below is a complete guide to storing breast milk that will help mothers enjoy all the benefits of successful breastfeeding [interlink to article ‘How do I give myself the best chance to breastfeed successfully].
Leftover Breast Milk from a Feeding
When you make bottles for feeding times, it’s not always easy to regulate how much your baby will eat, especially in the beginning. He might be eating every two hours, but that doesn’t mean he will always eat the same amount every time. At room temperature, breast milk that has been freshly expressed can be stored for up to 4-10 hours but if you use it in a bottle, bacteria can get into that bottle and have time to cultivate, especially at room temperature. Experts recommend using leftover milk for one more feeding for this reason and after that, discard anything that is still leftover.
Storing and Reheating Freshly Expressed Milk
You can store breast milk right after it is pumped in the refrigerator for up to about a week. However, it is best to only use it for 3 days. The benefits of breastfeeding are diminished if the milk being used does not contain the full nutritional properties that it has when first expressed from the breast. After 3 days, these nutrients begin to diminish so while the milk is still good for up to 8 days, it’s best to use it quicker than that or freeze it if you think you won’t be able to do so.
No matter the method you use to store breast milk, the most important of all breastfeeding tips [interlink to article ‘Top 10 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms’] is to never ever microwave milk to reheat it. Use a bottle warmer or submerse the prepared bottle in a pot of hot water to heat the milk to room temperature before feeding. Microwaving not only destroys important nutrients but it also creates uneven hot spots that could burn the baby’s mouth as well as give an inconsistent temperature that may even discourage them from taking the bottle at all.
Freezing and Reheating Breast Milk
You can freeze breast milk for up to 3-4 months but in order to thaw and use it properly, certain measures must be observed. Some women actually encounter the issue of an oversupply of milk and in this case freezing can be very beneficial.
- There are all kinds of milk storage bags on the market and they’re great for storing breast milk in the freezer but you’ll want to be sure to store the milk flat in the bags so it can be stacked in the freezer, and you’ll have more room to store more milk.
- Store in single servings and you’ll be able to thaw each one in the fridge and then reheat and use without messy portioning or thawing too much at once.
- It is best to thaw frozen milk first and then reheat it to get the best consistency and even temperature. If the milk separates during the thawing process and there are fatty deposits, stir gently to incorporate instead of shaking because shaking too vigorously can destroy some of the nutrient properties of the milk.
- After thawing frozen milk, keep it in the fridge and use within 24 hours. It is not advisable to store thawed milk at room temperature like you would fresh milk or to use for more than one freezing.
Pro tip: if your baby isn’t eating the full single serving that you freeze, start freezing in half portions. You can use one and if the baby is still hungry reheat the next one or use it for the next feeding.
Consult a Specialist
Breastfeeding support is important for all types of milk storage and feeding, especially if your baby has any health concerns or his immune system is compromised. If you are at all uncertain about risks that might be problematic when it comes to storing and using breast milk, consult your doctor and/or a lactation specialist for expert advice.