If you are expressing breast milk for baby’s use later, there is nothing more important to your baby’s health that for you to ensure your milk is properly stored. Breast milk is fragile and will easily spoil if neglected. Learning how to store breast milk can help to prevent any from going to waste and will ensure that your baby is not receiving milk that could make him sick.
There are differing opinions as to the amount of time breast milk can safely be stored, so if you are in doubt consult your pediatrician or lactation consultant.
Storing Breast Milk in Bottles
For working mothers who must provide a daily supply of breast milk to their childcare provider, the use of bottles just makes good sense. They are reusable and convenient in that there is no mixing or thawing that needs to be done. Caregivers simply heat the bottle in warm water and baby is good to go.
The only time a working mother may consider not using bottles is when expressing milk the final day of the work week. In this case, she may prefer to use breast milk storage bags so that the milk can be frozen.
It is important to get bottled breast milk into a refrigerator as soon as possible. If your place of employment does not have a refrigerator or you feel skittish about placing your baby’s valuable milk in it, invest in a well insulated cooler with an ice pack. Many high quality breast pumps include such a cooler with an ice pack specially designed to hold bottles.
The minute you get home, however, get your breast milk straight to the fridge lest you forget and baby’s food for tomorrow goes to waste. Breast milk can be safely store in a refrigerator for up to 8 days according to some research, while others claim 24 hours is the longest it can be stored without being frozen. It may be best to ask your pediatrician’s recommendation on this as online information varies wildly.
If you find that your production is not keeping up with your baby’s needs you may need to look into ways to increase breast milk production. It is not uncommon for a mother’s milk supply to decrease when you goes back to work and no longer feeds on demand. Working on improving your supply and freeze an eventual surplus will help.
Storing Breast Milk in Bags
Breast milk storage bags provide the greatest convenience when breast milk is to go into long term storage. These bags are made from a safe and heavy duty plastic, are pre-sterilized, and have strong zip-type seals.
When freezing breast milk in these bags, it is helpful to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible, ensure they are tightly sealed, and then lay them flat to freeze. They are much easier to stack this way and will thaw much more quickly than they would if frozen in a big block standing up.
It is important when freezing breast milk, to bring the temperature down gradually. Never put freshly expressed milk straight into the freezer. Allow it to chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours first and then transfer it to the freezer. Frozen storage times vary from 3-12 months. Once breast milk is thawed it should be used within 24 hours or discarded; never refreeze breast milk.