I was one of those very fortunate Moms who did not have to go back to work while I was breastfeeding my son. And so I never had to learn to how to express or store breast milk. That’s why I’m so grateful for this detailed, well-researched post on Breast Milk Storage Guidelines by our friends at Breastfeedo.com complete with 4 awesome infographics.
Source: breast milk storage guidelines
To make this information easily accessible, you can print out this infographic and stick it on the door of your refrigerator.
Another easy way to remember these storage guidelines, some moms call it The Rule of Four:
- 4 hours at room temperature
- 4 days in the refrigerator
- 4 months in the freezer
Let’s discuss in details the optimum guidelines for breast milk handling according to The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee for full-term healthy babies.
Wash your hands using tap water and soap before handling your pumped breast milk. You may use a 70% alcohol sensitizer to do that job. This is a vital step to avoid the bacterial transfer to your precious milk and then to your baby.
- Sterilize the pump neither the bottles before pumping if your baby is a healthy/full term one.
- Also, no need to wash your nipple/breasts.
Breast milk containers
You can use one of the following breast milk containers:
- Hard plastic bottles
- Glass bottles
- Stainless containers
- Plastic bags which designed specifically for breast milk
According to the used pump, it may be accompanied by plastic bottles or bags.
Use ordinary plastic bag as it is not previously sterilized and not well sealed. Also, it can’t withstand the low temperature during breast milk freezing.
Add on that; breast milk bags shouldn’t be reused again. They are for one use only.
Date each container and write your baby’s name on it in the case of:
- You have twins
- Your baby is in the intensive care unit “ICU.”
Use the newest pumped milk first. Instead, consume the oldest first to avoid loss of the nutrients due to the long time freezing.
Keep your breast milk at room temperature up to 6 to 8 hours if the room temperature is 25 C°.
In hot countries, the room temperature may reach 30 C° or above. So, you shouldn’t keep the pumped breast milk more than 4 hours at room temperature.
Note: A room thermometer would be beneficial for you if you are not sure about the exact room temperature or if you are traveling to different countries.
The lesser the amount, the lesser the time needed to melt the milk. Usually, it is recommended to store breast milk in no more 4 oz. Per container.
Fill the bottle or the bag with breast milk to the full capacity. The breast milk acquires extra volume during freezing.
Fast breast milk thawing
If you are reading that post, you most probably are a busy/working mom. As a result, the time saving is something crucial to you. Follow the next tips to melt your breast milk quickly:
Whatever the breast milk container you use, store breast milk in small quantities would save you tons of thawing time.
- Store 2 oz per breast milk plastic bag
- Keep the bags in flat position rather than standing one to get a thinner layer of milk “easy thawing.”
- Or you may use a smart trick which is the ice tray to get small cubes
Keep the breast milk containers deeply in your refrigerator or freezer#
Keep the milk in the door if you tend to store for a long time to avoid temperature loss.
When you decide to freeze breast milk, take into your consideration that there are 3 types of freezers:
- The old freezer “one door refrigerator” in which you can freeze your breast milk for 2 weeks. As it is frequently opened and the temperature may reach -5 F° = -15 C°.
- The freezer with separate door ” 3-6 months.”
- The deep freezer ” 6-12 months.”
Thawing breast milk in the right way
1- The usual way to unfreeze your breast milk is by thawing in the refrigerator during night time. It takes around 12 hours, and after that, you have one full day to consume the melted milk.
You left the milk to be thawed at 9 pm. After 12 hours in the refrigerator, it should be completely melted “at 9 am.”
So, you have 24 hours starting from 9 am to consume the milk. After that, it is recommended to discard it.
2- There are faster ways to thaw the milk like:
- Using a bottle warmer to save time and effort
- Let the milk container in a warm water bath or under tap water for several minutes
As we said before, the less the amount, the less the time.
2- After thawing the breast milk, it is very popular:
- To see 2 layers of the milk are separated from each other
- Or to notice that there are some flakes and undissolved particle within the thawed milk
Don’t panic as breast milk is not homogenous like the cow one. Your breast milk is composed of water-fats-protein-sugars where water and fat are detached after thawing process.
Swirl the separated milk to reconstitute its components again.
- Shake the breast milk vigorously as it may ruin some delicate components.
- Breast milk should be behaved like a living substance and shouldn’t be exposed to direct heat or microwaving as both affect its vital components negatively.
- It is not favorable to add fresh milk to the previously frozen one.
Source How to unfreeze breast milk
There we go… everything you need to know about storing, freezing and thawing breast milk in one neat package. Thanks again to our friends at Breastfeedo.com.
Moms, I would love to hear your experiences with storing breast milk. Any funny stories to relay? Feel free to comment below.