Our best tips on storing breast milk.
Breast milk is truly miraculous stuff, packed with a biodynamic balance of nutrition, complex immunoglobulins (antibodies) to boost the immune system, and oligosaccharides (carbohydrate) to prime a sensitive digestive tract. It is the perfect food for baby, and it is no wonder that it is called “liquid gold”.
Did you know that the milk you express at night is different in composition from the milk you express during the day? Night milk has natural melatonin that may actually help your baby sleep better! Take advantage of nature’s wisdom and label the milk you pump when the sun goes down as night milk to give to baby during night time feedings.
Photographed Above: Cora Organic Nipple Balm, $15.00 at Amazon.com; Franjos Kitchen Lacatation Cookies, $20.00 at Franjoskitchen.com; Medela Symphony Breast Pump and Pumping Kit at Thetot.com; Tommee Tippee Storage Bags, $15.00 at Amazon.com
Milk can be pumped directly into BPA free bottles, and can be stored in the same bottles with lids or consolidated into larger glass bottles. Tommy Tippee makes a handy storage bag that you can pump into directly and then put into the freezer for storage or pop into a bottle attachment for feeding. These bags are especially useful for travel because they eliminate the need to wash bottles on the go and they pack flat.
When you are not traveling, washing bottles is part of the pumping package. Pump parts (flanges and bottles) should be cleaned with warm soapy water after each use, although mothers who are short on time can refrigerate used flanges in a ziplock bag and use one more time before washing. Another tip is that the sterilization recommended by pump manufacturers is not necessary if you have a healthy, full-term baby. Sterility is important for at-risk, premature babies. Every little tip that saves time can add up when you are a busy new mother!
It takes time and devotion to build up a breast milk stash, but having extra milk on hand is incredibly liberating, allowing mothers to have the flexibility to return to work or other adventures! Mothers can be more spontaneous and productive knowing that their babies will be well fed by the milk they have carefully stocked.
Photographed Above: The Honest Company Organic Nipple Balm, $13.95 at Honest.com; Miloo Home Alcohol Breast Milk Test Strips Kit, $10.50 at Breastfeedingtest.com; Nuroo Baby Nursing Scarf, $29.99 at Nuroobaby.com; Milk Makers Lactation Tea, $15.00 at Munchkin.com; Milk Makers Lactation Bars, $18.00 at Munchkin.com; Booby boons Lactation Cookies, $10.00 at Storkanddove.com
In order to make sure that your precious milk doesn’t go bad, it is important to refer to storage guidelines outlined in detail on the CDC website. The basics are worth memorizing. Breast milk is good for 6-8 hours at room temperature, good for 24 hours in an insulated cooler pack, good for 5 days in a refrigerator, and good for 6-12 months in a chest freezer. Frozen milk that has been thawed is good for another 24 hours, and it should not be re-frozen. Milk is easily heated or thawed in a warm water bath. Avoid microwaving because it can scald the milk and destroy nutrient composition.
If you want to experiment with an advanced way to store milk, it is also possible to freeze dry it to increase it’s shelf life and to make it more convenient to store as a low volume powder that you rehydrate before using. Although the CDC does not have specific guidelines on exact shelf life of freeze dried milk, there is research that shows it preserves important immunoglobulins better than standard freezing. Also, the expiration on freeze dried cow’s milk is much longer than a year, ranging from 2 years to 25 years depending on the type of storage bag you use. You can extrapolate that freeze dried breast milk stored in mylar bags with moisture absorbers will last much longer than one year.
Lastly, if you are blessed to have an abundance of breast milk in storage, take pride in the time and commitment it has taken to give your baby the very best food. If you truly have an oversupply, consider donating to breastmilk banks at your local hospital to help other babies that need the benefits of human milk. It is a gift to be able to feed your own baby, and your cup truly runneth over if you can feed other babies as well!