Breastfeeding offers a wealth of healthy benefits to your baby, but it can be quite the inconvenience at times, and most mothers who breastfeed typically find that they need to store some of their milk. Though this is a very convenient way to handle excess breast milk, there are specific steps that should be followed in order to ensure that the milk remains safe for the baby. Here is a quick guide for storing breast milk for your baby.
Tips for Pumping
Women often start pumping their breasts for a number of reasons. Some need to do so in order to return to work, while others simply have excess milk that makes them uncomfortable. Regardless of the reason, women should know that pumping takes about the same time that it does to breastfeed. A great way to get the milk that you want to have stored is to pump right after feeding your baby. According to FamilyDoctor.org, you may not get as much milk at first, but if you continue pumping, you will not only get more milk each time, you will also start to produce more milk in general. Make you sure stay hydrated as this helps you to produce milk as well.
What Containers to Use
In general there are two options for storing breast milk: soft containers or hard containers. Soft containers are plastic bags that come in a variety of sizes. They are typically quite sturdy and are easy to seal and label. Some of these are bags that are made to connect directly to a breast pump. They can be laid flat in a freezer, which makes them easier to thaw out and to store in many cases. Plus, they are disposable so there is no washing involved.
Hard containers are also quite handy because they can be easily slipped into a bag or purse. And though they do need to be washed, hard containers have been proven to provide the best protection for the immunities and nutrients found in breast milk. This is not as big of a concern if a baby is rarely given stored milk; however, for babies whose diet contains a significant portion of stored milk, this should be taken into consideration.
There are also two options when it comes to hard containers: glass or hard plastic. For plastic, doctors recommend buying varieties that are completely clear instead of cloudy. Parents should also make sure they only purchase non-polycarbonate plastics which are BPA-free, according to WebMD.
Storing Milk in the Fridge
Breast milk can be stored in the fridge when it is expected to be used within two to three days. Make sure that your fridge is set at a temperature of 32-to-39 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. It's also a good idea to place your milk containers towards the back of the fridge rather than in the front or in the door. This ensures that the milk stays at a more consistently cold temperature. Once refrigerated milk is more than three days old it should be disposed of.
Freezing Breast Milk
According to KidsHealth.org, milk can be kept for three to four months in a freezer that is self-contained (meaning that it's a separate unit on the top, side or below the refrigerator). Always leave about one inch of space at the top of the container to leave room for the milk to expand as it freezes. Make sure that the freezer is kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit and that the milk is stored towards the back of the freezer.
Other types of freezers can also be used. A freezer compartment inside a refrigerator can hold milk for up to two weeks. If you have a deep freezer that is kept at 4 degrees Fahrenheit, you may store milk there for 6-to-12 months.
Tips for Using Stored Breast Milk
There are a few handy tips to keep in mind when you are ready to use the breast milk that you've stored:
- After thawing frozen milk, you can put it in the fridge as long as you use it within 24 hours. This milk should not be refrozen.
- Milk can be kept at room temperature for no more than 8 hours. If it is unused after that, it should be disposed of.
- Breast milk may separate, meaning that the fatty parts rise to the top of the liquid. Always shake the milk container well before giving it to your baby.
- Do not microwave your containers in order to warm up the milk. Microwaves can create "hot spots" in the milk. Instead, use warm water or a special bottle warmer to get the milk to the right temperature. Squirt a drop or two on the inside of your wrist to make sure it's not too hot before giving it to the baby.
- Sterilize your milk containers before using them. Then, wash them with hot, soapy water after each use.