Breastfeeding is a natural way to nourish and protect your baby by providing nutrients and antibodies that fight disease which can only be found in mother’s milk. This article discusses some basic guidelines for breast milk storage and thawing.
If you are considering the use of a breast pump, it is very important that expressed (pumped) milk is stored and heated properly to maintain its nutritional and disease fighting properties.
There can be many questions about storing and re-heating breast milk, first you need to decide how soon you plan to use your expressed milk, if you plan to use it within a few days or months. Here are some simple steps to help you decide what works best for you.
Storage containers for breast milk
Before expressing or handling breast milk, wash your hands with soap and water.
- Glass or hard-sided plastic containers with well-fitting tops
- Containers that are BPA free
- Freezer milk storage bags that are designed for storing human milk
- Do not use disposable bottle liners or general household plastic bags
Breast milk Freezer storage bags are generally not recommended for long-term storage of 6 months or more because they might spill, leak and can become contaminated more easily than hard-sided containers. To provide extra protection if you plan to store your breast milk for long periods of time, you can place the bags in a hard plastic food storage container with a tightly sealed lid.
Breast milk storage
All storage containers should be labeled with waterproof ink the date and time of pumping and note if it is morning expressed milk by marking the bag with ‘AM’. Breast milk that is expressed in the morning is like espresso for adults and if you give your baby ‘Morning milk” at night, they may have a hard time sleeping.
If you plan to take your expressed milk to your baby’s child care facility, be sure to also add their name to the storage bags or containers
Store in 2 to 4 ounces to reduce waste, or in amounts you know your baby will consume. You may also want to store some 1 ounce bags of breast milk to use in unexpected situations or when a regular feeding has been delayed.
Do not fill the storage containers full so that the breast milk has room to expand when it freezes and place the containers in the back of the refrigerator or freezer where the temperature is the coolest.
If you have no access to a refrigerator or freezer at the time, store the milk in a cooler with ice or an insulated bag until you can transfer it to the refrigerator or freezer. Breast milk can be stored in this manner for up to 24 hours.
Be sure to dispose of all plastic breast milk storage bags after use, they are designed to only be used once and if you are storing your breast milk in plastic food containers, be sure to wash them in hot soapy water before the next use.
Expressed milk and already frozen milk
Yes, you can add freshly expressed breast milk to refrigerated or frozen milk you expressed earlier in the same day. However, be sure to thoroughly cool the freshly expressed breast milk in the refrigerator or a cooler with ice packs before adding it to previously chilled or frozen milk. Don’t add warm breast milk to frozen breast milk because it will cause the frozen milk to partially thaw. Keep milk expressed on different days in separate containers.
There are different guidelines when it comes to storing breast milk and depends upon the factors listed below.
- Room temperature. Freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to six hours. If you won’t use the milk that quickly or the room is warm, transfer the milk to an insulated cooler, refrigerator or freezer.
- Insulated cooler. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours, so be sure to use the milk or transfer the containers to the refrigerator or freezer.
- Refrigerator. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator — not the door — for up to five to eight days.
- Freezer. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in a standard refrigerator freezer for up to three to six months and in a chest freezer for up to six to 12 months. Place the milk in the back of the freezer — not the door.
Thawing and heating frozen milk
It is best to thaw the oldest milk first. Simply place the frozen container in the refrigerator the night before you intend to use it. You can also gently warm the milk by placing it under warm running water or in a bowl of warm water. Before feeding your baby gently swirl the warmed milk to evenly distribute the creamy portion of the milk that rises to the top of the container during storage.
Never thaw frozen breast milk at room temperature because bacteria can multiply in the milk as it thaws. Also, don’t heat frozen breast milk in the microwave or too quickly on the stove because some parts of the milk might be too hot, and others too cold. Some research suggests that rapid heating can affect the milk’s antibodies as well.
Use thawed breast milk within 24 hours. Discard any remaining milk. Don’t refreeze thawed or partially thawed breast milk.
Thawed breast milk may look and smell different than fresh breast milk.
The color and smell of breast milk may vary depending on mother’s diet and thawed breast milk may also have a different odor or consistency than freshly expressed milk. It’s still safe to feed to your baby, however, if your baby refuses the thawed milk, it might help to shorten the storage time.
If you or your baby has had a yeast (thrush) infection, you can continue to breastfeed and freeze your milk, but when the infection has ended, you should get rid of any extra breast milk, as the yeast in the milk is not destroyed via freezing and might infect you and your baby again.
Expressed breast milk is an ideal way to feed your baby when you’re apart. Still, some research suggests that the longer you store breast milk — whether in the refrigerator or in the freezer — the greater the loss of vitamin C in the milk. Other studies have shown that refrigeration beyond two days might reduce the bacteria-killing properties of breast milk and long-term freezer storage might lower the quality of fat in the breast milk. It’s also important to note that breast milk expressed when a baby is a newborn won’t as completely meet the same baby’s needs when he or she is older.
Over all, breast milk storage and thawing is rather simple, just confirm with your child’s Physician that you are doing things correctly.
Enclosed are additional resources and links on the topic of breast milk storage and thawing:
Did you enjoy this article? [link_popup id=’1569′ link_text=’Click here to receive updates via email!’ name=’May 2014 pop-up’] [author image=”http://sittercycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Sheri-head-shot-1-11.30.2013.jpg” ]Nanny Sheri Lopez is a Professional, Certified and Credentialed Nanny and Newborn Care Specialist with 33 years of experience. She has cared for children of all ages during her career. Sheri specializes as a Birth to Age 1 – Growth, Development and Milestone Nanny, combining exceptional care and education. She has a B.A. in Early Childhood Education, B.A. in Business, and holds 52 children, infant and family related educational certifications. She is the 2014 International Nanny Association Nanny of the Year, sits on the Board of Directors of the International Nanny Association, the Arizona Foster Care Review Board, and an is an Arizona Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care.[/author]