Whether you’re going back to work after maternity leave, enjoying a vacation, or just heading out for a couple of hours, having extra breast milk to feed your baby is necessary if you’re a breastfeeding mom. Like other types of milk, breast milk can be spoiled easily. So, it needs to be preserved properly. Here is everything you need about how to store breast milk correctly.
Newly pumped breast milk can be stored at room temperature (no warmer than 77°F or 25°C). Ideally, it can last for up to 4 hours, as long as it’s not exposed to direct sunlight or close to other heat sources. In some cases, breast milk might be able to keep for a bit longer (around 6 hours). But, we still recommend using it within 4 hours.
In the Fridge
Breast milk can be preserved in your fridge for up to 4 days. However, remember to check the temperature of the refrigerator to make sure it’s around 40°F. Also, you should stockpile your breast milk in the back of the refrigerator where it’s coolest. Avoid keeping breast milk on the fridge door because the temperature in that area changes quickly when it’s opened. On top of that, you should label or mark the date to make sure the preserved breast milk is still good to use. And, be sure to put it in the fridge right after pumping.
In the Freezer
If you need to freeze your pumped milk, we recommend using plastic bags designed especially for storing breast milk instead of bottle liners. Because most bottle liners are too thin and cracked easily at low temperatures so it could spring a leak. On top of that, the temperature of your freezer should be around 0°F or cooler. Again, store your milk in the back of the freezer and label if possible.
Your milk can stay in the freezer for up to 12 months. Despite that, breast milk is best to use within 6 months in the freezer. And, keep in mind that your milk changes over time as your baby grows to provide them with proper nutrients and vitamins. Therefore, you might want to use your stock a bit quicker.
In a Cooler or Insulated Bag
If you need to store breast milk when you’re away from home, an insulated bag with frozen ice packs will keep it fresh for 24 hours. This method is a good option for working moms, especially if there isn’t any fridge in your workplace.
In addition, with leftover breast milk from feeding, you can only use it within 2 hours after your baby is finished feeding no matter what preservation method.
How to thaw Breast Milk
If you’re not in a rush, you can take out a bag from the freezer and simply store it in the fridge for 24 hours. Then all that you need to do is warm the milk up by running warm water over the bag or bottle. The milk will still be good for up to 24 hours from when it’s completely thawed. However, if you are in a bit of a hurry, unfortunately, it will still take a bit of time. Take the milk out from the freezer and run warm water over it until it’s at room temperature. Remember, never refreeze your breast milk after it’s thawed. We also don’t recommend heating it up by microwave as it’s very easy to overheat the milk, which not only is a risk for your baby. But, it also breaks down the milk’s enzymes and immune properties.
Storage Solutions for Breast Milk
If you’re using storage bags, you should fill them three-quarters full to allow for expansion as they freeze. Also, to avoid any leak or mess, you may want to put your bags inside a sealed container.
A lot of breast pumps come with a couple of bottles that you can use for storing milk. On top of that, you can also use your regular baby bottles or even cups with lids that can be closed tightly to store milk. Remember only fill three-quarters full to allow for expansion as your bottles freeze.
On top of that, remember to label each container with the exact time it was pumped. And, try to follow the first-in-first-out method when taking preserved breast milk to feed your baby.
No matter what you choose, always use sterilized containers and bags which are specifically for breast milk storage. Breast milk storage bags might be more convenient than bottles because they don’t require a lot of space and can be stacked easily. Moreover, you shouldn’t use containers with the recycle symbol number 7 because it contains BPA which can be harmful to your baby. Though not quite as common, you can still find milk storage bags or bottles that are BPA-free.
We know that for the safety of your baby, there are many rules and guides you should follow. And, sometimes, it can be overwhelming for you to memorize all. But, we know you can make it. Keep calm, you’re a great mom! Let us know more about your experience with storing milk in the comments!