Breastmilk Storage: This Is Where Everyone Goes Wrong

breast milk freezer

As a mother, you will quickly learn the value of breast milk. This can be first hand or through the experiences of other mothers.

Once you understand the benefits of breastmilk, you will want to keep feeding it to your child.

In a busy and ever-demanding world, this means pumping and storing the milk for future use.

Storage and preparation Breast milk

But, you need to do it right. Since your milk supply will fluctuate over time, you need to store any excess breast milk.

Everything You Need to Know Before You Start Storing Milk

Freshly expressed breast milk

In general, your milk production normalizes in the second week after birth. This is the best time for you to start pumping.

Before you get started, you need to get your equipment in order. You will need a few things to help you with the pumping and storage of breast milk.

Kitchen Supplies You Can Use While Pumping and Storing Milk

Before you go out and max out your credit card, you need to go through your kitchen. There are some things you can sterilize to help you store the milk.

You will need:

A Dedicated Pumping Supplies Container

Most pumping systems come with smaller parts. You need to disassemble and clean them at the end of every pumping session. Instead of throwing your parts into the sink, have a dedicated storage container.

This gives you easy access to all your pumping and milk storage supplies. You can clean and sterilize them together once or twice a day.

Tupperware Containers

Your Tupperware can help you store breast milk storage bags in the freezer.

Most bags freeze flat, meaning you have to pile up several bags on top of each other to save space.

You can instead store them standing in your Tupperware and cover the container for extra safety. For better organization, you can create weekly batches in each container. This way, you know what to use first and what to store longer.

You can also use the containers to store different parts of the pumping and storage system, such as:

  • Caps
  • Valves
  • Nipples
  • Tubings
  • Flanges
  • Connectors
  • Bottles

What Do You Need to Buy to Help With Breast Milk Storage?

Breast milk storage starts with pumping. Your shopping will start with a breast pump and end with the bottles you’ll use to feed the baby.

You will need:

An Electric Breast Pump

An electric breast pump will often run on its own. You can connect it to your breast and sit back as it does all the work.

Find a pump created to mimic the baby’s ‘sucking’ motion. It will make the process more comfortable and stimulate milk production.

Breast Pump Accessories

Most breast pumps come attached with a bottle to hold the milk as you pump. If you’re storing the milk, this means transferring the milk to a storage bag. This can take time and risk the hygiene of the milk.

You can streamline the process by getting some accessories. They will help you express the milk into the storage bag. Often, this will include:

  • An adapter connecting the breast pump to the storage bag. This reduces the risk of contamination.
  • Milk storage bags for storing breast milk. You should get BPA-free, FDA approved and, food-friendly storage bags. These bags stack up nicely and are easier to store, especially if you have limited freezer space.
  • Lactation massager. This can help massage clogged ducts and help improve the milk letdown reflex. This will speed up the process especially if you are pumping from work.

Apart from the milk storage bags, you can reuse most of your pumping equipment. The CDC recommends cleaning and sterilizing equipment after use. If you plan to use it with another child or after a while, store it dry. Leave the equipment to air dry and store it in an airtight space.

Make sure you sterilize it again after removing it from storage.

How to Store and Transport Breast Milk

safely storing breast milk

The safe storage of breast milk begins with safe expressing.

While pumping, pump directly into a storage container. Find a storage container with an airtight and tamper-proof seal.

After expressing the milk, label the storage container. Include the date and time you expressed it. If there is a risk of confusion, add ‘breast milk’ and the name of the child to the label.

Thereafter, put it immediately in the freezer or fridge.

Guidelines for Storing Breast Milk

Type of Milk Ideal Storage Temperature Storage Time Considerations
Freshly expressed milk 78.8F 6-8 Hours Room temperature
Freshly expressed milk 41F or lower 72 hours Back of the fridge
Freshly expressed milk 5F 2 Weeks Freezer compartment in the fridge
Freshly expressed milk -0.4F 3 months Freezer with separate door
Freshly expressed milk -4F 6-12 months Chest freezer opened rarely
Thawed milk (Previously frozen) 41F 24 Hours Back of the fridge
Thawed milk (Previously frozen) 78.8F 4 Hours Room temperature

If you have thawed milk, you cannot refreeze it. You will need to throw it away. 

How to Transport Breast Milk

There are two major scenarios for transporting breast milk:

  • If you pump away from home and need to move it to the freezer. This also applies to donors who pump from home and need to transport it to the donation unit.
  • If you’re traveling with your baby and will need to feed them on the go.

If you’re pumping away from home, store it in a freezer close to you. You might need an extra container to hold the storage bags for easier handling.

While moving it from home to the office, store it in an insulated container designed for food. If you have a long commute, you can use freezer blocks to keep it cold.

Transfer it to the freezer immediately after you get home.

If you are taking milk to daycare or traveling with the baby, you will need the same insulated container.

If you transport frozen milk and it begins to thaw, you should store it in the fridge and use it within 24-hours. If there is no fridge nearby, store it at room temperature and use it within 4-hours.

How to Use Stored Milk and Maintain Hygiene Standards

Breastmilk to Formula Milk

Stop microwaving breast milk. Putting breast milk in the microwave destroys all its immunological and nutritional value.

If you enjoy a hot cup of tea or coffee, your idea of ‘hot’ might be a little off. What you consider hot might be higher than the ideal temperature for breast milk.

The goal is to get the milk ‘luke-warm’ for your child. But, this process should not destroy all the nutrients in the milk.

While reheating refrigerated breast milk, you should:

  • Use a bowl of warm water. Avoid using tap water at its hottest setting. The water should stay below 104F. At this temperature, you can change the warm water twice. This helps the milk get to the right drinking temperature for your baby.
  • Use a bottle warmer. Bottle warmers have a mechanism created to avoid overheating.
  • Share your system with other caregivers. Anyone responsible for feeding the baby should know how to protect the milk. This includes reheating it at the right temperature.

You should observe the utmost hygiene when handling breast milk. This should include:

  • Washing your hands with soap and water before handling any baby-feeding equipment. If you do not have water, you can use a sanitizer solution and cleansing wipes.
  • Using sterilized baby feeding equipment.
  • Keeping the bottle nipples covered until you’re ready to feed the baby.

Healthy Breastfeeding and Bottle-Feeding Practices

mother breastfeeding
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Succesful bottle-feeding begins with healthy breasts.

Even after observing all the health precautions above, you need to take care of your breasts.

This helps you keep your milk supply consistent. It also makes pumping easier.

As milk production changes over time, you will notice your breasts fluctuate in size. The change can happen over time or on the same day.

This change can affect cup size making your bra uncomfortable.

You can prepare for these fluctuations by investing in an everyday maternity bra.

This bra accommodates fluctuations in breast size for nursing mothers with:

  • Its adjustable UGrow technology. This fabric expands and shrinks to give you the perfect fit at all times.
  • Adjustable straps for you to loosen or tighten.
  • Extra hooks at the back for you to adjust as needed over time.

This is a bra you can wear pre-birth and continue wearing after birth. Get one for yourself today from New Bloom Maternity.

Feature Image: Hamish Darby

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