|Photo courtsey of Ana Philbrook|
Pumping moms can attest that pumping takes time and effort. Because your milk is precious and you work hard for it, it is important to know how to keep it stored safely. These are a few tips we wanted to share about creating a freezer supply.
Once you and baby have become comfortable with breastfeeding, start thinking about having a stored supply. Are you going back to work? You will need to have a good stash in the freezer so you ideally aren’t pumping for the next day’s feedings—especially if you are traveling or running late. It is good to have the peace of mind knowing you have extra bags in the freezer to be used. Pumping will help maintain your supply as it stimulates your body even when baby cannot be at the breast.
If you want to create an extra supply of breastmilk, you may need to add in some pumping sessions between feedings. This will help your body realize it needs to make more milk, so you’ll have enough for baby and some to store for any future outings.
It may take a few days for you to have enough milk to store, and that’s ok! Pump at the same time each day, and your body will adjust to make milk for that session. You can also add in a pumping session when baby is napping, has just fed on one side so you can stimulate the other side, or even hanging out with Dad.
Basic Storage Guidelines
After pumping, you have a few choices in where and how long to store milk. There are two options for storing expressed breastmilk – breastmilk storage bottles or breastmilk storage bags. Never store breastmilk in disposable household containers or plastic baggies. There are BPA-free Breastmilk Storage Bottles and BPA-free pre-sterilized Breastmilk Storage Bags that are specifically designed for storing milk. If you are using bottles, remember to pre-sterilize them to keep the milk free of outside bacteria. Both can be stored in either the fridge or the freezer.
When pouring milk into the container, do not fill it up to the top – leave at least an inch of space so the milk can expand as it freezes. Do not go above the top ounce marker in breastmilk storage bags though they seem like they can hold more than that amount. A key tip to reduce the risk of any spilled or lost milk is to avoid over-filling bags or containers beyond capacity. Label the bottle or bag with the date and amount of milk, and place in the back of the refrigerator for short-term storage or the back of the freezer for long-term storage. Never store your milk in the doors as this can cause temperature fluctuations, partial thawing and potential for spoiling.
La Leche League International Guidelines
Guidelines for storing milk vary depending on length of time and temperature. Below are some go-to instructions from La Leche League International:
- At Room Temperature: 4 hours (ideal), up to 6 hours
- In a Refrigerator: 72 hours (ideal), up to 8 days
- In a Freezer: 6 months (ideal), up to 12 months
Using Stored Milk
Because human milk has live and active antibodies, it is important not to overheat. If your milk is frozen, you can thaw it under running warm water or by placing the bottle or bag in warm water until the milk reaches the desired temperature. Some babies like their milk warm, some like it hotter and some even like it cold. Never boil or microwave the milk as this can create hotspots that can burn the baby’s mouth, throat or esophagus and it can compromise the live and active antibodies.
In addition, it’s important to remember that if a bag is knocked around in the freezer with other frozen items, it can get pinholes that can cause leaking. We recommend you thaw in a BPA-free container or glass bowl just in case so you can maintain every last drop of your milk. I hope this brief guide helps you build your supply of breastmilk in your own personal Fort Knox. After all, breastmilk really is “liquid gold!”
Have a great week!
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