Some mothers are blessed with an excess milk supply. Luckily, it is possible to store your excess milk for future feedings. However, there are some very important guidelines to follow when handling and storing milk, as to not waste this precious liquid gold.
How Should I Store My Breast Milk? Breast milk can be stored in a plastic or glass bottle with a sealable lid, or in a sterile sealable bag. It is recommended to store 4 ounces in a container at a time, but this can vary from mother to mother and baby to baby.
Where Should I Store My Breast Milk? You can store your breast milk in your refrigerator, freezer, or deep freezer. However, it is not recommended to store your milk in the door of your refrigerator as the temperature in this spot fluctuates often due to the refrigerator door being open. This may compromise the lifespan of your milk.
Safely Preparing and Storing Expressed Breast Milk Before Expressing Breast Milk Before expressing milk, it is important to wash your hands to avoid external contamination. Be sure to use clean containers to collect the expressed milk. Try to avoid using ordinary plastic bags such as sandwich bags, as these can easily leak or spill (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017).
Labeling Expressed Milk Be sure to label the bottle or bag with the date that the milk was expressed and your child’s name if you intend to send the milk with them to daycare. It is important to write the date that the milk was expressed as to ensure that the oldest milk is always used first.
Clean-Up Be sure to clean all breast pump parts after each use. It is important to detach all parts of the pump and thoroughly clean the breast shields, connector pieces, and pump valves (be sure to detach the duck bills/membranes to avoid mold build-up). If you are on the go, there are disinfectant pump wipes available for purchase.
How Long Can I Store My Breast Milk? It is important to cool your expressed breast milk either in a refrigerator or other cooler as soon as possible. If you are not going to use it right away, you can also freeze the milk (Women's Health, 2017). Here are some general breast milk storage guidelines:
Expressed milk can remain at room temperature (less than 77°F) for up to 6 hours.
Expressed milk can remain in cooler bags with ice packs for up to 24 hours.
Expressed milk can remain at the back of a refrigerator for 3 to 8 days.
Expressed milk can remain at the back of a freezer for up to 6 months (Women's Health, 2017).
The Breast Milk I Have in My Refrigerator Looks Funny. Is Something Wrong With It? Breast milk can come in many colors. It can be bluish, yellowish or brownish. It is also normal for breast milk to separate, so that the fatty part of the milk goes to the top and the bottom has a clear watery appearance (Women's Health, 2017). If you shake the bottle or sealed bag, the fat will mix back into the milk and will be ready for use.
How Should I Thaw Frozen Breast Milk? To thaw the milk, slowly swirl the container of milk in warm water or by putting the container in the refrigerator the night before. Never attempt to thaw breast milk in a microwave oven. This can cause the milk to get too hot and burn your baby’s mouth, as well as damage valuable proteins found in the breast milk. Thawed breast milk can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours, but cannot be refrozen.
Storage: Tips for Thawing and Warming Up Milk
Label milk containers with the date that the milk was expressed. Make sure to use the oldest stored milk first.
Breastmilk does not need to be warmed, but some moms prefer to serve it at room temperature, while others serve it cold.
You can either thaw your frozen milk bottle or bag by putting it in the refrigerator overnight, holding it under warm running water, or by setting it in a container of warm water.
Never put a bottle or bag of breast milk in the microwave (Women's health, 2017).
What Can Happen If Someone Else’s Breast Milk is Given to Another Child? It is possible for HIV and other serious infectious diseases to be transmitted through breast milk. However, the risk of infection from a single bottle of breast milk is very small. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). If you believe that your child has been exposed to contaminated milk, please seek out help from your health care provider right away.