Breast milk is precious stuff, its hard to make extra and so if you do manage to or you decide to express for any reason one of the most important things is storing it correctly! I think its most breastfeeding mothers dream to have a freezer full of it to allow them an afternoon or day away or even to make the transition back to work a little easier. I know personally I relied on having a secret stash so that I could ask my husband to do the late feed so I could have some precious sleep on days where it just all got a bit much! The main thing to know is that breast milk is different to cows milk or formula. It is usually thinner in appearance and can vary in colour from a rich creamy colour to a blue-white colour. If left sitting it will generally separate into layers with the creamy milk rising to the top. This is all important to know as to an untrained eye a perfectly fresh batch of breast milk may look odd or off. So firstly when it comes to storage you need to think about what your going to store it in. Generally I would collect expressed milk throughout the day and add it to one container which I would keep in the fridge. I used avent bottles with storage lids as that’s what I had but any clean sterile sealed bottle will do. Then at the end of the day I would decide if I was going to use that milk in the next few days or would I just freeze it. If I was going to freeze it I would put it into 1 to 3 oz portions in lansinoh breast milk storage bags (I never once experienced them leaking so I am happy to recommend them). Follow the instructions on the bag to put the milk in and then label and date the bag (actually label it first because its hard to write on a bag of breast milk…). Then you can store it in accordance with the following storage guidelines: Freshly expressed milk can be kept at:
- room temperature for 6-10hours
- In a fridge for up to five days
- In the freezer compartment of a single door fridge/freezer for two weeks
- In a freezer with separate door to the fridge for 3-4 months
- In a deep freezer for six months
To use frozen breast milk you can leave it to defrost in the fridge for up to 24 hours or else leave it at room temperature for one hour. If you want to use it urgently (lets face it who is organised enough with a baby around to have the gift of foresight…not me anyway!) then you get the freezer storage bag and sit it in a cup of warm water until it is warm enough to give. You can give it at room temperature or body temperature so never boil it! Another handy trick I relied on was leaving it under a running tap of warm water as this seems to do the job quicker but with the new water charges you might be as well try to be prepared! A few things to note is that once you have defrosted breast milk you can only keep it in the fridge for 24 hours and you can’t refreeze it. In this case you would actually be better off give the defrosted milk to your baby and express more and put that in the freezer… waste not want not when it comes to breast milk! Any milk which is put in a bottle and offered to your baby can not be saved for a later feed if they have sucked on that bottle… so only add 2oz portions to a bottle at a time and then add more if after winding they will take more so that you don’t have to ever discard more than an oz or so. When heating fresh breast milk you can just put it into a bottle and sit that bottle in a large cup of warm water until it is at the desired temperature. Never use a microwave to defrost or heat breast milk as it can change the composition of breast milk and cause hot spots in the milk which can burn the babies mouth. When storing breast milk in the fridge make sure not to place it in the door, place it towards the back of the fridge where the temperature is more consistent. Milk which has been stored in the fridge or freezer will need to be swirled to mix the layers back together – this is important as shaking can cause changes in the composition so really its important to stick to the swirling! I hope this helps you breast feeding mums and can act as a reference for expectant mums. Breast feeding is amazing but its important to make it work for you – after all – a happy mummy has a happy baby!