The WHO recommends feeding breast milk to your newborn exclusively for the first six months and thereafter continue till 2 years of age. If you don’t want to breastfeed past 6 months, you can store breast milk and still supplement your baby with breast milk past those six months if you do it right.
There is no doubt that the breast milk is the purest form of food that you can feed your baby, so any bit more of breastmilk you can feed your baby is indeed welcome.
If you are considering to stop breastfeeding, read our post on what your body goes through when you stop breastfeeding.
Why is Breast Milk Stored?
All mothers may not be able to breastfeed their babies because of various reasons. Working mothers find it difficult to feed when they are working full-time. If the mother has some serious health issues, she may not be able to feed the child.
This is where breast milk expressing and storing comes into picture. By storing breastmilk at the optimal condition, the baby can be fed by anyone whenever the need arises.
What Are the Guidelines for Storing Breastmilk?
Here are a few things to consider while storing breast milk.
- Fresh milk: Freshly expressed milk can be stored in room temperature for up to 4 hours. The temperature of the room should be 25 degrees or less so that the milk does not get spoiled.
If the milk is stored in the refrigerator at a temperature of 4 degree Celsius, then it will stay unspoiled for up to 4 days. Frozen milk which is stored at zero degree Celsius will remain fresh till 6 months. If you want to store the milk for an year, then you should deep freeze it at -4 degree Celcius.
- Previously frozen and thawed milk: Milk that has been previously frozen and thawed will remain at room temperature for 1-2 hours. If it is kept in the refrigerator compartment, it will remain fresh up to 24 hours.
You should never re-freeze breastmilk once it has been thawed.
If milk has been expressed and the baby did not finish feeding it, then the remain milk can be fed to the baby within the next 2 hours. If it cannot be fed, then it is better to discard the milk.
What Are the Things You Should Do When You Store Breast milk?
- Maintain personal hygiene: You should always maintain personal hygiene before expressing the breast milk. Wash your hand with soap and water before you star expressing. If soap is not readily available, then you can use a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol.
- Clean the pump: If you are using a breast pump for expressing milk, then you should clean the pump before expressing. Pay special attention to the tube and make sure that it is free from dirt or mold.
- Select the right container: Store the expressed milk in good quality and clean food-grade container with a tight lid. It is advisable to use a glass container though plastic can also be used. The container should be BPA free.
You should never store breastmilk in normal plastic container meant for household use.
- Select the right place for storing: If you plan to use the milk within the next 4 hours, you can store it in the kitchen countertop.
If you are planning to refrigerate it, then place the milk inside the compartment and not close to the door.
If you do not plan to use it within the next 4 days, then it is best to immediately freeze the milk. While freezing the milk, you should leave some space at the top of the container as the milk expands when frozen.
- Label the container: Once expressed, the container should be labeled with the date and time. If you are giving the container to your baby’s childcare center, then you should enter the baby’s name as well.
- Express the right quantity: It is advisable to express milk for one feed rather than subsequent feeds. This will prevent milk from being spoiled and wasted.
What Are the Things You Should Not Do When You Store Breast milk?
- Never mix freshly expressed milk with frozen milk. This will make the frozen milk thaw. If you want to mix both the milk, you should bring both to the same temperature before mixing.
- Breast milk should not be stored in plastic containers or pouches meant for kitchen use.
- You should not store expressed milk in the refrigerator door. This is because the milk will be exposed to temperature fluctuation while opening and closing the door.
- To bring the cold milk to room temperature, place the bottle in warm water till it reaches the desired temperature. You should not microwave it as it will not get heated evenly.
- You should never refreeze thawed milk.
It is always advisable to feed breastmilk the same day it is expressed. This is because, more the time the breastmilk is stored more will be loss of Vitamin C. There is also the chance that the milk might be contaminated by bacteria and other microorganisms.