Storing Breastmilk

If you breastfeed your baby, chances are there will come a time when you need to store breast milk. This can be when you return to work or even if you are only planning a few hours out.

Storing breastmilk can be one of the most confusing things for new mother’s and it is good to know how long it lasts, and how to properly store it. I have heard countless mother’s ask how to do this and at one time I was in this position, although for not very long obviously.

Even though my time breastfeeding was short, I can still offer some advice on storing breast milk. Most of my knowledge on breastfeeding and everything to do with it comes from organizations such as the La Leche League and the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Lactation Committee. The rest of my knowledge came from my experience as a mother and an Early Childhood Educator, especially the parts about using stored breast milk in centers and also the public health nurse and the lactation consultants who worked with me when I had my children.

So now that I have highlighted a little bibliography, I thought I would give you some tips on storing breast milk.

How to store breast milk:

After you pump, there are several things that you should do if you are planning on storing your breast milk and these are standard practices regardless of the type of breast pump that you are using.

  • Containers: All containers should be sturdy, and clean. They should also be single used containers and are usually glass and plastic, although with the warnings regarding hard plastics, it may be safer to only use glass containers. Never store breast milk in plastic bags or bottle liners.
  • Labelling: Make sure you label each container with the date and time that the milk was expressed. This will make it much easier when you are using it and will ensure that you do not use the breast milk after the expiration.
  • Mixing: It is important to never mix breast milk. Each time you express, the milk should be placed in a new bottle or container. You should also never mixed any breast milk left in a bottle after feeding with a fresher bottle. Simply dispose of the breast milk since bacteria is pulled back into the bottle with each suck from the baby. Also, you should never mix breast milk and formula. Everything baby needs is in the breast milk and there should be no need to use formula. If you are concerned about supplementing, speak with your pediatrician first.
  • Storage Length: Breast milk can usually last for 24 to 48 hours in a refrigerator. After that time, you should dispose of it. If you freeze the breast milk in a freezer that is attached to the fridge, it can last for about 2 weeks to about 3 months with a good freezer, although I would stick with the lower numbers for safety reasons. If you store the breast milk in a deep freezer that is not attached to any fridge, you will find that the breast milk can last for 6 months.
  • Heating Stored Breast milk: When it comes to heating, the best method and really the only method you should use, is to heat it up in cup of warm (not hot) water. If the breast milk is frozen, place it in the fridge for about 24 hours before you use it. Never heat the breast milk in a microwave since it can create hot spots and nutrients will be lost in the heating process.

And there is a run down of storing and using stored breast milk. If you have any other questions, please email me at [email protected] or post a comment here.

One last thing before I sign off for today, when breast milk is left in a fridge, you will find that it separates with the thinner milk on the bottom and the thicker fatter milk on top. You may also find white flecks in the milk after you heat it but don’t worry, that is completely normal.

All the best,

Sirena Van Schaik

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