Breast Milk Storage: How to Freeze and Thaw Breast Milk
Are you a breastfeeding mother who's planning to go back to work, but hesitant to stop breastfeeding your infant? Or are you just looking for a more convenient way to feed your infant so you can do more around the house? You might want to consider pumping your excess milk while you're on your maternity leave or if your infant is asleep. It may take a while to get used to the routine of latching-pumping-storing-thawing-feeding, but once you've gotten a hang of it, it's important to know how to properly store your breastmilk and observe proper hygiene to avoid contamination.
Every breastfeeding mother knows the struggle on breast milk storage space and proper protocol on freezing and thawing their breast milk. It’s important for mothers to be aware about freshly expressed breast milk storage to avoid mix-up that can be harmful to your baby. Worry not because ParentsNeed HQ is here to provide more information on breast milk storage and resources for your breast milk storage needs! Here's a guide on learning the basics of proper breast milk storage do's and don'ts.
Expressing and Collecting Breastmilk
Moms here at ParentsNeed HQ are very particular about breastfeeding because everybody knows that it is the best for babies. But more often than not, other moms still neglect their part of the proper handling of their expressed milk which causes contamination and illness to their precious babies. To prevent that from happening, we’ve made this guide about the right way of expressing and collecting breastmilk. So fellow moms, please bear with us until the end.
- First, of course, you have to make sure that your hands are clean when expressing your breastmilk. This is to avoid foreign contaminants in your freshly expressed milk.
- Wash your breast pump and its parts thoroughly and sterilize. Having trouble finding the right breast pump? We have made a list of suitable breast pump that may be useful for you based on your requirements and personal style.
- You must always consult with your breast pump manual on how to properly wash and sterilize your breast pump and its parts. Always use mild soap for cleaning your pump since strong soap can lead harm your baby.
- Disinfect your pump and parts either by throwing it in the dishwasher or you can use a sterilizer. For electrical unit operated breast pumps, wipe it with a clean paper towel.
- You can start pumping once your breast pump and parts has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Start practising by pumping at least once a day to get a hang of the feel. Word of advice, pump when your breast is feeling full or your baby is asleep. Once you've gotten a hang of it, you can also try pumping while nursing your baby.
- If you're planning to go back to work, it's best to start introducing bottle feeding as early as 3 weeks before your scheduled leave ends. Keep in mind that you have to be patient when introducing the bottle to your baby since he will need ample time to get used to bottle feeding because this will be a big transition for him especially in terms of your nipple and a silicone nipple.
- Follow a routine. It's best to express milk in the morning especially when you have engorged breasts and before going to bed at night. However, if you happen to be working and need to pump, we advise you to pump at least thrice if you have an eight (8) hour shift. You should pump more when your hours exceed eight (8) hours.
- Be consistent with your preferred routine. Although, this is easier said than done, dedication and hard work is key to achieving a consistent routine.
- Ensure that you know how to properly store your breast milk after each pumping session
Breast Milk Storage and Preparation
You have successfully expressed your breastmilk for your baby’s consumption. Now what? Calm down fellow moms because we won’t leave you hanging. We’ve also prepared the following guidelines about the proper milk storage and preparation. Make sure to share it to your husband or babysitter just in case you couldn’t attend to your baby. This may seem simple but it’s very crucial because your baby’s health is at stake.
- Date and label the breastmilk storage bags every time you pump. This can help you keep track on whether the milk you have on stash is still safe to use or not. Also, this can help you organize your breast milk storage space easier and determining from the oldest to the newest expressed milk. Remember, first in - first out.
- Use BPA-free breast milk storage bags. These are safer than those ordinary plastic bags made with harmful chemicals. You wouldn’t want that for your baby, right? So better safe than sorry, choose the BPA-free milk storage bags.
- When pumping, don’t go all the way to the top of your container. Leave a little extra space since breast milk can expand when frozen and if you fill it all the way to the top, it may burst and all your hard work will be put to waste.
- Breast milk can separate when you’re storing them -- this is normal since the hindmilk can separate from the foremilk. Once thawed, you just have to gently tilt your container to combine them again.
- 5. Store milk into smaller but equal portions. This is to ensure that your baby won’t overfeed and to minimize wastage. Also, overfeeding infants can make your little one’s tummy upset.
- According to Mayo Clinic, breast milk stored for too long can lose its Vitamin C. That’s why we advise you to use your oldest milk first.
- You can add your freshly expressed milk to your already stored milk. Just keep in mind that you cannot add your warm breast milk to your frozen one as this can cause your frozen milk to thaw and might go bad.
- If you’re having a hard time feeding baby who refuses to drink your stored milk, try shortening your storage time or pump a few hours before work or when leaving the house. This can ensure freshness and might solve your stored feeding problem.
How to Thaw Milk
- Thaw the oldest milk first. This one is very basic. We repeat, first in – first out.
- Thaw milk ahead of time. You can easily thaw milk by putting it in the refrigerator overnight. If you’ve forgotten to thaw it overnight, you can place it on a bowl of hot water or under running water.
- Thawed milk is safe for your baby to drink up until 24 hours. Reminder: DO NOT REFREEZE thawed milk. Bacteria can cultivate once your baby’s saliva gets in contact with your milk and it’s no longer good for baby’s consumption.
- When thawing milk, DO NOT SHAKE as it affects and denatures the shaped molecules of the protective proteins. Avoid shaking your baby’s bottle -- swirl it instead.
- You can also use a bottle warmer to thaw your milk especially if it’s still cold but not frozen.
- NEVER microwave your breastmilk. Using microwave can’t heat the milk evenly which can damage the milk. This can disintegrate proteins and other components of breastmilk.
- If your baby did not/cannot finish their bottled milk in one feeding session, discard it right away if not used within 2 hours. Don’t worry about it because moms can produce more than enough.
Breastmilk Color, Odor, and Taste Changes
During your breastfeeding journey, you may notice the changes in color, odor and the taste of the breastmilk. There are some factors that contribute to this so we also want to share this information with you.
1. The color of your stored breast milk varies depending on your diet and food consumption. Some can look blue because of excessive consumption of food with a tint of blue and/or dye while others has a brown tint that indicates the presence of blood during the first few days of breastfeeding (See: Blood in breast milk). It’s normal and you need not to worry about it.
2. The odor of your stored breast milk is most likely due to the enzyme called lipase, which breaks down fat into fatty acids. It’s said to have an unpleasant, soapy, or rancid smell to it.
3. The taste of your stored breastmilk can have a sort of metallic taste to it but it is not harmful in any way, shape, or form. Although, some babies refuse to drink milk that has a different taste from what they’re used to. If you’re very concerned about this, check with your local breastfeeding consultant on how to differentiate spoiled milk to fresh milk.
Here is a list that can affect the taste of your breast milk:
- Hormonal Changes. The changes of your body, which includes menstruation and/or possible pregnancy, can greatly influence the taste of your breast milk. Despite the hormonal imbalances, it’s still safe to continue breastfeeding with the exception if you’re in a high risk pregnancy.
- Strenuous Exercises and Activities. Potential build-up of lactic acid and the saltiness of your perspiration can greatly interfere with the taste of your breast milk. Try doing mild to moderate exercises.
- Medications. Always consult your Doctor if you need to take prescribed medications while breastfeeding. It’s always better to know what is and what is not safe for your baby.
- Smoking. Aside from your baby harboring the scent of tobacco when you’ve just finished smoking, they can also taste it through your breast milk. Regardless if you’re a light to heavy smoker, you shouldn’t nurse your baby right after smoking. Nurse your child before you smoke then wait at least two hours to minimize the scent and taste of tobacco.
- Mastitis. This infection can cause your breast milk to taste strong and salty. However, it’s still safe to nurse your child despite having mastitis, but he may refuse to do so if your condition worsens.
Rule of Thumb
If you are still confused about the process of freezing and thawing your breastmilk, just remember this “Rule of 4”. Breast milk can sit up to 4 hours in room temperature and up to 4 days inside the refrigerator.
Now, that’s easier to remember right? But of course, we still recommend that you know every single thing that we’ve tackled earlier so that you can still give the very best and properly prepared breast milk for your little one. You wouldn’t want your baby to be sick because of the spoiled milk, are you? So yes, we here at ParentsNeed HQ are very careful with it too.
You are What's Best for your Baby
Always take note about the proper guidelines from pumping and collection to proper breast milk storage. This is to ensure that you won’t be feeding your child your spoiled breast milk. Also, if you have leftover breast milk from your stash, you can try donating it to your local hospital or orphanage as long as you spread the word on proper protocol in storing breast milk. We at ParentsNeed HQ advise you to send us your suggestions and comments to help other readers on guidelines for storing and thawing your breast milk especially to first time moms. Remember to be courteous regardless of conflicting opinions. We hope you check out the links provided if you want to try something new to change up your breast milk storage setup.