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Ways to Handle and Store Breast Milk

Ways to Handle and Store Breast Milk

For new mothers using breast pumps, the handling and storing of expressed breast milk is an important part of insuring safe and nutritious food for your newborn. After first washing your hands, there are a few simple points to remember.

Utilizing proper storage methods can prevent breast milk from spoiling too soon. A hard plastic or glass container is better than soft plastic bags, as some types of plastic will sap the milk of its nutrients or otherwise destroy the integrity of the milk.  Plastic bags are also 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.

Making sure containers of breast milk are clearly labeled with the date they were stored and your child’s name is necessary to avoid milk sitting for too long or being confused with other expressed milk at childcare centers. It is widely recommended that milk be stored in single-feeding portions to avoid waste, which is entirely based on your child’s appetite at the time of the feeding.

The length of time breast milk keeps varies based upon the method it is stored. 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.

For further health-related concerns regarding the safe storage of breast milk, it is always best to discuss the options with your doctor. These are rules of thumb widely understood to be the best practices for handling expressed breast milk for both you and your child.

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