As if breastfeeding wasn’t a complicated enough journey in and of itself, now - if you are returning to work, exclusively pumping, utilizing a babysitter or childcare, and many other reasons - you have to add in pumping and bottles. Suddenly there is a wealth of new information to learn. When should you pump? How do you store the milk? How much milk do you need in your “stash?” What is the best way to use the milk throughout the week, month, or year?
Relax! Yes, there is a lot to figure out - but once you get a system down, it will be a breeze! It can be overwhelming at first. But that’s where Milky Mama comes in. Read on to find out our tips and tricks for storing and rotating expressed milk.
You need to be sure that you’re using the oldest milk first, which means you really need to have your milk organized and stored in a way that you can easily reach the oldest life-giving liquid first. If you have ever worked in a food service industry, you have probably heard the term ‘FIFO.’ It stands for “First In; First Out.” Keep that in mind for your milk as well. The first storage bag that is put in your freezer should also be the first one you take out to use when needed.
In order to do this most effectively, you should implement a system to rotate your freezer stash. First and foremost, this ensures that the milk you are feeding your sweet little one is still good. No one likes expired milk! Additionally, the milk that was pumped closest to your baby’s actual age will be most appropriate for his or her little digestive and immune systems. Here’s why...
As your baby ages, your breastmilk’s properties - composition, consistency, and more - will change to best suit their current needs. We create milk that is perfectly tailored to the specific nutrients and antibodies our baby most needs at that moment. (Yeah, our bodies are AMAZING!). Of course, this can change constantly, so that’s why it is best to try to use the most age-appropriate milk. However, breastmilk is always great for baby - even if it’s from a few months before (as long as it isn’t expired).
For most parents, having more than a couple of weeks’ worth of milk on hand in the freezer is unnecessary. Obviously, if you have multiples, if you are pumping exclusively, or if you are donating your milk, then you may need a larger freezer stash. For one baby, you really only need an “emergency stash” consisting of around 7 days’ worth of milk. Feed the baby, not the freezer! Make sure that you check the dates on your milk prior to feeding baby. You want to be sure that it is within the proper date range for the type of storage you’re using.
Side note: for mamas looking to donate milk, the precise date, time, and “age” of the milk should be clearly labeled on every storage bag, so that the milk goes to the right age group of babies.
If you keep a smaller freezer supply, rotating your oldest breastmilk to the forefront of your freezer is all you need to do. Keep adding freshly pumped milk to the back and you’re good to go. A lot of my clients like to use the shoebox-sized plastic storage bins to corral the milk bags in their freezers. Most storage bags will fit in these bins nicely, and it keeps a small stash perfectly organized. For quick reference on breastmilk storage guidelines, save this cheatsheet to your phone - or print it off and post it on your fridge!
If you have a larger freezer supply, investing in some extra storage supplies will make this easier. You can use large gallon-size storage bags or more shoebox-size plastic bins, and clearly label with the month and days that the bag or bin contains. Stack these with the newest to the back (or bottom) and oldest to the front (or top) so that you can quickly grab the oldest milk first.
If you are wondering how to best utilize your pumped milk - especially if you are exclusively pumping or pumping while at work - check out the sample schedule below. This makes it super simple to rotate your milk!
Keeping a small freezer supply on hand is perfect for when you need to go back to work or want to have that elusive date night with your partner. As long as you follow proper storage guidelines and keep the age of the milk in mind when providing it to baby, you’re good to go.
If you have any questions about rotating or storing your milk, stop by our Facebook group, The Official Milky Mama Lactation Support Group. If you are in search of lactation services, like back to work planning, pumping help, or any other breastfeeding/pumping related issues, book a consultation with us here.