Many new moms find it difficult to keep up with breastfeeding when they return to work or school as their schedules get more and more packed. Beyond getting a breast pump and planning out a pumping schedule, you might wonder how you are going to store your breast milk during the day. We are here to help you lay out a plan!
Fresh milk is always best
When you have to be away from your baby for a few hours, it is important that you continue to express milk during the times you would normally breastfeed. This will keep up a normal schedule and keep mom and baby happy. Keep in mind that fresh breast milk is always the most nutrient-rich option for baby — freezing milk over long periods of time results in the loss of some essential vitamins.
How long can I store breast milk?
The length of time that breast milk keeps varies depending on how you store it. In order to ensure you are properly monitoring your stored breast milk, it is advised that you carefully label each container with the date that you expressed the breast milk.
Freshly expressed milk kept at room temperature will last for approximately 3-4 hours. Breast milk stored in the refrigerator (always at the back, away from the door) will keep for 3-8 days. Frozen breast milk can be kept for six months in a self-contained freezer unit, and up to twelve months in a separate deep freezer. Breast milk that has been frozen should only be thawed slowly in the refrigerator or under lukewarm running water, and should never be heated directly on the stove or in the microwave.
What is the best way to store milk?
After you begin pumping at work or school, you will find that there are many ways you can store your milk supply. Whether you choose to refrigerate the milk to use later that day, or freeze the milk for later use, there are a few safety factors that you must consider.
Using proper storage methods can prevent breast milk from spoiling too soon — A hard plastic or glass container will protect milk better than soft plastic bags, as some types of plastic will sap the milk of its nutrients. Milk collection storage bags provide ample space to store the milk and you can easily number and mark the bags, but they are more liable to break or have small leaks that can contaminate the milk. A hard plastic or glass container that has room for the milk to expand as it freezes is the safest way to ensure your baby gets a healthy meal.
How to freeze breast milk
Freezing breast milk is a great option for moms who want to build up a long-term milk supply: it can last up to 6 months. Freezing milk will allow it to keep for longer periods of time, but it must be done with care. In a self-contained freezer unit, you can safely store breast milk for up to six months. Properly labeling your milk with the date and time you pumped will ensure you use the milk within this time frame. If you plan to store breast milk in a deep freezer, it will keep for twice as long due to the lower temperature and controlled environment.
One precaution to take with freezing milk: Freeze a batch or two, then thaw and smell it. Some mothers produce breast milk that is high in lipase —an enzyme that digests fat. When frozen and thawed, the milk produces a soapy smell. If this happens, scald the milk in very hot water to deactivate the lipase. After boiling, the milk will be safe for baby.
How much milk can I store?
It’s best to fill the containers with the amount of milk you will need for one feeding.
Do not fill containers to the brim (breast milk expands when it freezes). You may add freshly expressed breast milk to your already refrigerated or frozen breast milk as long as it has been thoroughly cooled. Cool down freshly expressed breast milk in the refrigerator or in a cooler with ice pack before mixing it.