How to Properly Store Breast Milk
A nursing mother should always be educated on how to properly store her pumped breast milk; acquiring this knowledge will help in many aspects of her life as a nursing mother. A mother may need to store her breast milk for events like traveling, or when her child is in the care of others, or if she is going back to work, and any other time when she may need to be away from her child. There are a few essential ingredients to storing breast milk. Read on to find out what they are!
The first ingredient is cleanliness. It is very important that the mother’s hands are washed and dried well, before handling her breast milk. Everything else that comes into contact with the breast and the breast milk needs to be very clean as well.
The second ingredient is choosing what to store the breast milk in. A general rule of thumb to follow, when selecting a container to store breast milk in, is to use a size that is equivalent to how much your baby will eat at one feeding. This greatly reduces the risk of wasting breast milk.
Plastic bags made especially for storing breast milk are one option. Many breast pumps come with plastic bags to store the pumped breast milk. If additional bags are needed, or you don’t have any, many manufacturers make them. These bags are easy to freeze, and take up less space in a freezer or refrigerator. The disadvantage is that they can easily tear, or leak, and may be very hard to handle. The plastic bags are also more prone than other storage methods to becoming contaminated.
Reusable, hard plastic and glass bottles, or containers with a tight fitting and secure cap, are a great choice for moms to use as well. Most breast pumps come with attached containers, which are suitable to remove from the pump and then place in the refrigerator or freezer. These types of containers are easier to use, as well as sterilize. All containers should be sterilized before use, even if they are new.
How to sterilize a bottle/container properly
- Place bottles/containers in the dishwasher- the hot water, liquid, and heated drying will effectively sterilize the chosen container.
- Placing bottles/containers in boiling, hot water for five minutes, then set to dry on a dish rack.
The stored breast milk should be labeled and dated, to help avoid any confusion as to when it was stored, and if it is still okay to use. If a mother is sending stored milk to the hospital, the milk container should be labeled with the date, baby's name, parent's name, and room number. This will minimize the risk for any mix up. If you are sending the baby to childcare, or anywhere else, make sure the milk is labeled, dated, and named, along with any storage instructions.
The third essential ingredient is the temperature at which breast milk should be stored. It is okay to store breast milk in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. If you want to freeze the breast milk, it is best advised to do so immediately. Milk may be kept for 3 to 6 months in your standard freezer. In a deep freezer, your breast milk can be stored for up to 12 months, though 6 is preferable. Place the stored breast milk in the coldest part of your refrigerator or freezer (anywhere, besides the door, should be fine).
When the mother, or whoever, is ready to use the frozen milk and feed it to the baby, there are some do's and don'ts to follow.
- Thaw it in the container in which the breast milk was stored.
- Thaw it in the refrigerator, or thaw it by running the container under warm tap water.
- Thaw the breast milk in the microwave; this can cause pockets of heat to form, which can burn the baby. Microwaving it also causes nutrients to be destroyed.
Thawed breast milk must be kept cold until fed to the baby. The milk must be used within 24 hours, and cannot be placed back in the freezer. The proper storage of breast milk is essential in keeping your baby healthy. Follow these tips, and you’ll be ready to go!