So, we have talked about using a breast pump, but now what do we do with the expressed (pumped) milk?
You have a few options when it comes to storing your breast milk. You have worked hard to create and express this milk! You want to ensure you are properly storing your breastmilk in order to get the full benefit of its nutritional value.
You will want to give your baby the freshest expressed milk in order to ensure you are giving your baby the best quality (richest in nutrients and antioxidant qualities) of breastmilk available. If you have ever worked with food, you will know the First In-First Out (FIFO) method. The First In-First Out method applies for expressed breastmilk as well. For example, if you express on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then need an extra bottle for Saturday, you will want to give your baby the milk from Tuesday because it was the first in the storage, so it should be the first out of storage.
Milky Mama Tips:
- It’s important to label your milk storage bag before putting it into the freezer or refrigerator, as this will help you determine the First In, First Out method to follow.
- Depending on age and how often baby nurses, storing milk in 2-4 oz amounts at a time may reduce waste.
- When combining milk expressed from different pumping sessions, you want the milk to all be at the same temperature before mixing. So, make sure your fresh milk is chilled in the refrigerator before adding it to previously expressed milk (that has been in the fridge or thawed from the freezer).
Did You Know…
Expressed milk put in the refrigerator has less fat loss than the freezer, and it saves more antibacterial properties than frozen milk. This means, if you KNOW you will need a bottle the next day, you should store it in the fridge. If you are stockpiling milk for extra storage or for a trip in a month (for example), then store it in the freezer.
(https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm#Guidelines you can go to this website to download this as a PDF and print it to have on your refrigerator!)
You will want bottle containers that have tight fitting tops. Bottles are better for storage in the refrigerator as opposed to the freezer, as sometimes the plastic might crack.
It is so important that your containers are clean and sanitized by washing them in hot, unscented, soapy water, rinsed and dried before use, or washed and dried in a dishwasher. Do not fill bottles to the top – leave at least an inch at the top, as your milk will expand as it freezes, and the fat will freeze at the top.
Only use milk bags that are designed for storing human milk. First, make sure to label the bag. You will want your baby’s name, the amount, and the date and time on the bag.
The reason the time is important to label is because your body makes milk with more nutrients/fat content in the morning, and with more melatonin in the night to help baby sleep – by labeling the time you will help yourself or your daycare provider know which time to give baby the right timing of milk.
Make sure not to fill to the top, breastmilk storage bags will have a final line to fill to, about an inch from the top. Once again, it might be best for you to pour 2-4 oz in a bag at a time to reduce waste. Squeeze out any air before sealing, this will ensure the bag will be able to freeze flat, which allows more compact storage.
Stand or lay your storage bags at the top level and back of the refrigerator or freezer. This is recommended because this will be the most consistently cold temperature in your fridge/freezer.
If you are not going to use your freshly expressed milk within four days, freeze it! This way you have milk for a later date, and your milk is protected from losing it’s nutritious qualities.
Lay the bag(s) flat so they can freeze at a more even level, you can go back later and stand them up against each other. This helps you save room in your freezer.
According to the CDC, “Breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours when you are traveling.” They then suggest when you arrive to “use the milk right away, store it in the refrigerator, or freeze it.”
If you've found breastmilk in your freezer and it's over a year old, don't throw it out! You can give breastmilk baths to help your little one's skin, especially beneficial for the winter time!
Thawing and Heating Your Breast Milk
Remember to follow the first in, first out method and to take out your oldest breast milk first.
There is a difference between thawing frozen milk and warming milk from the refrigerator. If you are thawing your frozen milk, you can do any of the following;
- Move it from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before.
- Run warm water over the sealed frozen container
- Place the frozen container in a cup or bowl of warm, almost room temperature, water.
Do NOT boil or microwave your breast milk. Microwaving or boiling milk is dangerous because it can this harm your infant by the uneven hot spots, and it will also destroy the nutrients you’ve worked so hard to create.
If you’ve thawed your breastmilk in the refrigerator, and once you have completely thawed your milk, use it within 24 hours. If you’ve warmed your breastmilk, or once it is brought to room temperature, use it within two hours.
As always, you've got this, Mama! We hope you found this article helpful. Reach out if you have any further questions for us on our Facebook page, The Official Milky mama Lactation Support Group or join us for more advice and support! We are here to offer advice and encouragement.