Whenever you aren’t with your baby, your baby can have expressed breast milk. How do you safely store and use breast milk?
You can express your breast milk so your baby can have some when you aren’t there, whether you are returning to work, heading to the gym, or simply wanting to catch up on some sleep while your partner feeds your child. Even if your baby has to miss a feed, you can give him or she expressed milk if you can’t. It’s important to store breast milk properly to guarantee its safety for your baby. Keep reading this article to learn how to store, thaw, and freeze your breast milk. Let’s start!
What is the most trustworthy way to store your breast milk?
Freshly expressed breast milk is preferable to refrigerate or frozen breast milk, and frozen breast milk is preferable to refrigerate. Milk that has been refrigerated or frozen does not have the best bacteria-fighting properties, and the antioxidants, vitamins, and fat in milk that has been freshly expressed are higher.
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The following tips are for storing freshly expressed breast milk (for term babies in good health)
To store breast milk at room temperature, in the fridge, or the freezer, depending on how soon you plan to use it, you need to express your breast milk cleanly and safely. Freshly expressed breast milk should be stored in the following locations and temperatures (for healthy term babies):
- Highly clean means following the guidelines in our article about cleaning and sanitizing your breast
- pump. These recommendations for freezing and storing breast milk are just suggestions – you can contact your lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist for more details.
A hospital may have stricter cleaning and storage instructions if your baby is in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care ward.
It is important to label chilled or frozen bottles with the date and amount of expressed milk, so you can track and manage your milk when it’s stored.
Instructions for using expressed breast milk
Generally, breast milk stored in the freezer separates into layers, with the fat (cream) rising to the top. Make sure the layers are mixed before you feed your baby. When milk is vigorously stirred or shaken, it can destroy some of its nutritional and protective properties.
A cup or bottle of expressed breast milk will naturally contain bacteria from your baby’s mouth. Because of this, it’s best to dispose of leftover, partially drunk milk within one or two hours of the first feed. If you don’t need a lot of expressed milk, you should store it in small quantities and consume it as needed.
The best way to store breast milk in the refrigerator
For safe storage of expressed milk in the refrigerator, follow these tips:
- After expressing breast milk, you should refrigerate it as soon as possible.
- Clean breast milk bottles or BPA-free storage bags should be used to store your milk. There has been concern about the long-term effects of BPA, a chemical that was previously widely used in plastic containers and coatings.
- If you want to add expressed milk to the same container, make sure it has been chilled in the fridge before adding it. If milk has already cooled, do not add body-temperature milk.
- The back of the refrigerator, above the vegetable section, is the coldest place to keep breast milk. The temperature is less consistent inside the refrigerator door, so don’t leave it there.
The most reliable way to store your breast milk in the freezer
Find out how to freeze breast milk safely by reading on:
- As soon as you have expressed breast milk, you should freeze it.
- You can add frozen breast milk to already-cold expressed milk as long as the milk is first cooled in the refrigerator. Milk that has just been thawed shouldn’t be added to frozen milk.
- The easiest way to thaw milk is to store it in smaller portions (less than 60ml) to prevent wastage. After defrosting, you can combine them.
- Make sure the containers you use to store breast milk can be frozen – some products may break at very low temperatures (such as glass bottles). They’re freezer-proof, ready for use, and easy to label, making them the perfect product for storing frozen breast milk.
- Breast milk expands during freezing, so do not fill bottles and bags more than three-quarters full.
- Keep frozen breast milk on the back of the freezer to maintain a consistent temperature. You should keep it away from the walls of a self-defrosting freezer.
Here’s what you need to know about defrosting breast milk
Make sure your breast milk is safe for your baby when it is defrosted:
- Defrosting breast milk usually takes around 12 hours in the refrigerator. For frozen milk, hold the bottle or bag under running water (at a maximum temperature of 37 degrees Celsius or 99 degrees Fahrenheit). Defrosting frozen breast milk at room temperature is not recommended.
- When previously frozen breast milk is thawed, it should be kept no longer than two hours at room temperature or 24 hours in the refrigerator.
- In a microwave or boiling water, do not thaw or warm-up frozen breast milk. You may also see hot spots that may burn your baby if these are damaged.
- You should give your baby thawed breast milk within two hours or throw it away if left at room temperature for longer than that.
- Once breast milk is thawed, never refreeze it.
Storing breast milk: How to heat it
Breast milk can be consumed at room temperature or when warmed to body temperature by healthy, full-term babies. It seems that some people prefer one over the other, while others are unconcerned about either.
- Breast milk bottles or bags can be gently warmed by placing them into a cup, jug, or bowl of warm water for a few minutes to bring them to body temperature (37°C or 99°F). If a bottle warmer is not available, use a water heater. Make sure the milk does not exceed 40 °C (104 °F) and do not overheat it by using a microwave.
- Using a bottle or bag, gently swirl the fat to blend it (see below).
Is it normal for breast milk to smell weird after being stored?
Some people have reported that their defrosted or refrigerated breast milk smells different. Fats are broken down by an enzyme called lipase, and fatty acids are released, which inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Mothers report smelling soapy or rancid milk when they store it. However, if you follow these safe-storage guidelines, you will be able to use them just fine.
A portable way to store breast milk
Using a cooler bag with ice packs will keep your milk cool while you are traveling between work and home. In mean times if you have extra frozen breast milk you can donate it as well.