How To Store Breast Milk

How to store breast milk

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Whether you’re a new mum or you are on your second child, you may have questions about how to store breast milk. Storing breast milk will depend on two things – when you are planning to use it and how long you want to store it. In this article we hope to answer all your questions about why and how to store breast milk.

Why do I need to pump and store breast milk?

Obviously the priority for most new mums and their newborn baby is to exclusively breast feed. However there may be certain times or situations where this is just not possible and you will need to pump and store your breast milk. These times may include, but are not limited to the following situations:

  • Your baby is pre-mature or not sucking well.
  • You or your baby are in hospital and you can’t be there for every feed.
  • Perhaps you have to go back to work, and your baby is in daycare or with a babysitter.
  • Your breasts feel too full and uncomfortable, which could sometimes lead to engorgement.
  • You need to express to produce more breast milk.
  • You want a night off from feeding, and it’s dad’s turn to take the night shift.

There may not be a specific reason at all. Some mums choose to have some stored breast milk on hand, just in case of an emergency. How much you need or want to store is another question, which you can read all about here.

How long can you store breast milk in the fridge?

It is possible to keep freshly pumped breast milk at room temperature for up to 4 hours. But if you are not planning to use it during this time period, it is best to store it in the fridge as soon as you have finished pumping.

You can store your freshly expressed breast milk in the fridge for up to 4 days. Make sure you monitor your fridge temperature; the temperature should not exceed a temperature of 4°C. Try to store your breast milk at the back of the fridge where it is the coolest and not in the fridge door where it will be exposed to changing temperatures.

How long can you store breast milk in the freezer?

Depending on the type of freezer, you can store your breastmilk for the following amount of time:

  • for up to 2 weeks in the freezer compartment inside your fridge (-15ºC or lower),
  • up to 3 months in a freezer compartment with a separate door (-18ºC or lower),
  • or up to 12 months in a deep freeze with a constant temperature of -20ºC.

Please note that breast milk expands as it freezes, so never overfill the storage container that you are using.

What should I use to store my breast milk?

You should only use clean and sterilised good quality food containers or breast milk storage bags to store your precious breast milk. Make sure the lids don’t leak as you don’t want a drop to go to waste. Breast milk storage bags come pre-sterlised and are very easy to store in your fridge or freezer. As an added bonus the Cherub Baby brand of storage bags are also reusable.

Never use plastic containers with a recycle symbol number 7. This usually indicates that the plastic contains the chemical BPA which can leach into your stored breast milk or baby food. In addition, never use other food quality bags, even ziplock bags, as these may break down when frozen. If you want to use bags then only breast milk quality storage bags should be used, which are highly recommended.

How should I defrost and warm the milk?

It is best to defrost breast milk overnight in the fridge. But don’t worry if you have forgotten to do this, you can also defrost breast milk in a bowl of warm, not hot, water. Remember you want to serve your breast milk to baby at room temperature and not piping hot. You can also defrost the container under a running tap of warm water.

While some parents like to use a microwave to defrost or heat baby’s milk it is not recommended. From heating your own food you will know that a microwave does not heat evenly and may cause hot spots that can burn your baby’s mouth. You might want to consider portable bottle warmers for use at home or in the car instead.

How to store breast milk

Other storage tips:

  • Always remember to label your breast milk with date it was expressed.
  • Freeze your breast milk in small amounts or what you think your baby will take in one feed to avoid waste.
  • If freezing your breast milk always leave a space as breast milk expands when it freezes.
  • Once breast milk is defrosted it can be stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
  • Never re-freeze defrosted breast milk.

Final word

There are plenty of breastfeeding myths and facts out there. And it may take a little practice to get into the rhythm of breastfeeding. pumping, and storing your breast milk, but you will get there.

In this article we have covered most questions that we get asked about breast milk storage, but if you can think of any others don’t be afraid to ask!

References:

Expressing and storing breast milk – HealthyWA

Tips for Freezing & Refrigerating Breast Milk – HealthyChildren.org

Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk – CDC

Storing Your Breastmilk – University of Rochester Medical Centre

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