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Why Do You Need to Store Breast Milk?
Aside from giving your little one the best nutrition possible, breastfeeding directly from the mother also helps develop a sense of security, comfort, and love between mum and baby. Direct breastfeeding can be a major struggle though, especially if you’re trying to juggle caring for your baby and getting done with chores or work. That is why many mums prefer to store breast milk to have sufficient supply later on.
Because formula milk is not an option for a lot of mums, expressing milk by pumping is the only feasible solution. However, because breast milk can easily mix in with contaminants that can threaten the baby’s health, proper storage should be a top priority.
1. Maintain Sanitary Pumping Practices
The first phase of breast milk storage is the pumping process. Of course, how else would you be able to store milk if you don’t express it in the first place?
While it may seem like a straightforward practice, pumping breast milk can actually be a very tricky task especially when you factor in sanitation. Make sure to follow these strategies to keep your milk clean and contaminant-free when pumping:
Before Pumping – Wash your hands and breasts. Make sure to rinse thoroughly to remove any residual soap and dirt. Wipe down your pump and inspect for any potential contaminants. If you suspect that your pump is dirty, wash it before use.
While Pumping – Keep an eye on your pump at all times. Inspect tubes for any signs of poor quality milk such as discoloration or sediments and foreign contaminants. Stop pumping if you see any dirt and discard the contaminated milk.
After Pumping – Seal the bottles immediately after pumping making sure to limit the milk’s exposure to open air. Label your bottles with the date and time of pumping. Sanitize your pump and all of its parts. Make sure to soak detachable pieces in hot water after use. Store all parts and the pump unit in a dry, clean space.
2. Use the Right Containers
Mums who pump and store breast milk should know that not any old container will suffice. Breast milk is a very sensitive substance, and the slightest contamination could result to illness in your baby.
When storing breast milk, it’s important that you choose only the right storage containers manufactured specifically for it. BPA-free bottles and plastic containers can be purchased through baby supply specialty stores online and in malls.
Glass bottles can be used for storing breast milk. However, this may not be the best if you plan to keep your milk in storage for more than a month. This is because glass containers can crack and break, causing contaminants to make contact with your milk.
3. Understand Storage Temperatures
Depending on the temperature you choose to store your breast milk in, it’s shelf life can vary. As a general rule, the colder the temperature you choose, the longer breast milk can be stored.
- Breast milk stored at room temperature not exceeding 25 degrees Celsius can last for up to 6 hours.
- For mums on the go, an icebox with packs of ice can keep breast milk fresh for up to 24 hours.
- If you’re pumping milk at work and you need to store your breast milk in the office fridge, placing your containers at the backmost area of the fridge compartment can keep it fresh for up to 5 days. Make sure to keep milk away from eggs, uncooked meat, and leftovers.
- Placing milk in a fridge’s chiller compartment can maintain good quality for up to 2 weeks.
- At home, the best way to store breast milk would be to place it in your freezer at minus 18 degrees Celsius, allowing it to last for up to 6 months.
4. Practice Smart Storage Placements
It’s easy to pack your freezer full of breast milk, especially when you have a lot of supply. But it pays to be mindful of how you place all of that milk in your freezer to ensure good quality.
After each breast pumping session, make sure to label your bottles with the time and date that they were expressed. This will make it easier to determine which batch should be consumed first.
Another thing you need to consider is how you place your bottles in relation to one another. It’s common for older bottles to keep getting pushed to the back of storage when newer supplies are added in. But this could mean that every time you reach in for a bottle, you’ll end up getting newer containers, leaving older ones to age at the back of the freezer.
Every time you store a new batch, be sure to place it closer to the back of the freezer. By doing this, you can be sure that it achieves the desired temperature sooner, and that the older milk will be easier to access towards the front of the storage.
5. Know When To Stop
Mums who have a lot of milk to spare often find themselves able to fill up an entire storage bottle in just one session. While it can be convenient to just keep filling bottles to the brim instead of switching different containers throughout the session, it’s not ideal to completely fill up your breast milk storage bottles.
It’s important to keep in mind that milk will expand once frozen. If you don’t leave some space in the bottles, it can freeze over and seep through the lid.
6. Avoid Using a Microwave
A baby that’s crying and asking for milk can be hard to ignore, and some mums often microwave breast milk to speed up the warming process. But according to some sources, heating breast milk in a microwave can cause serious problems during the feeding process.
Microwaves unevenly heat breast milk, which means there will be some portions that are hotter than others. This could scald your baby’s lips, tongue, and throat which can be very painful to bear. When heating breast milk, thaw the bottle in a basin of warm water instead and shake thoroughly for an even consistency.
7. Refrain from Refreezing
It can seem like a waste if your baby doesn’t finish a bottle of breast milk after you thaw it. However, refreezing the milk should never be an option.
Once exposed to different temperatures, milk can easily spoil. Even if it’s frozen right after, the milk’s quality would have already been compromised. Don’t worry about tossing out a bottle of breast milk that was thawed and unfinished – this will keep your baby from stomach irritation.
8. Always Check for Freshness
While it’s unlikely that milk will spoil if you store it properly, there is no harm in making sure the breast milk you offer your baby is healthy and fresh.
Before giving a bottle of thawed milk to your little one, always sniff it for any odors that may indicate compromised freshness. It’s also ideal that you inspect the milk and check for faulty textures before offering it to your baby.
Milk that’s placed in storage will separate, and this is normal. Simply shake the milk to achieve an even consistency before giving the bottle to your child.
9. Bring a Cooler
Lots of mums pump milk at work. This helps keep up the supply and allows them to store milk at home for their baby while they’re in the office. Often, milk that’s pumped at work is stored in the office refrigerator until the mum takes them out to bring home at the end of the shift.
If you’re a working and milking mommy, it’s important that you make sure your milk is properly transported from the office to your home without spoilage. As a general rule, breast milk should not be allowed to warm down unless it’s about to be consumed.
So if you store your breast milk in an office fridge and bring it home at the end of the day, be sure to have a small cooler or use the Medela breastmilk cooler with you to prevent compromising the freshness and quality of the expressed milk.
The process of expressing and storing milk may seem simple, but there are lots of details that milking mums need to consider to ensure the quality of their breast milk. Making the slightest mistakes when storing milk can cause major problems for your little one.
And the 10th tip?
10. Have fun
While pumping milk may not be something you’d look forward to every day, it can be fun with the right mindset. There are a lot of things to learn, no matter how small. So despite how stressful it can become, remember to relax and smile. You can do it.
Be sure to remember these important factors when storing your breast milk to give your baby the best nutrition with fresh, clean, and healthy breast milk. Until next time, mums and dads!