How to Store Breast Milk

If you are expressing milk for later use, great care needs to be taken when storing it. Once breast milk has been expressed contamination can easily occur. Follow these guidelines when storing breast milk.

If you are expressing your milk by hand then you should use a wide mouthed plastic container; it is very difficult to guide you flow of milk. Mechanical and electric pumps do make the job easier. Before using a pump for the first time, read the instructions carefully. It is important to use a pump correctly; you don’t want to damage your nipples. When expressing by hand, wash your hands first to avoid the risk of contaminating your breast milk. Likewise, when using a pump, make sure the parts that come into contact with your breast are clean and sterile.

Breast milk should always be stored in plastic containers, as there is less risk of its composition altering than if it is stored in glass: you don’t want to destroy your antibodies and other essential vitamins and nutrients. As well as plastic containers, you can also buy plastic bags that are specially designed for storing breast milk. If you are expressing your milk for use later that day, you can store your milk directly in your baby’s plastic feeding bottle. Whatever you use to store your breast milk it is essential that the receptor has been thoroughly washed and sterilized.

If you plan on freezing your milk, pour it into a plastic container and label it with the date. Only fill the container three-quarters full as the milk will expand when frozen and there is every chance that the container will burst. Make sure the container is sealed correctly. Cool the milk first in the refrigerator before placing into the freezer. Do not store breast milk for long periods of time as bacteria can still grow and contaminate the milk. Feeding this milk to your baby may cause an infection and illness. Also, does your freezer have a defrost cycle? If so, then you will need to monitor your freezer and discard an milk that is in the freezer when it does begin its defrost cycle.

The following are general guidelines on the length of time breast milk can be stored. In a one-door refrigerator breast milk can be stored for up to one week; two weeks in the freezer section of a two-door refrigerator; or three months in a deep freezer.

You should thaw your breast milk quickly so as to avoid bacterial contamination. This is best done by placing the plastic container in warm water. Never thaw your milk in a microwave as this will almost certainly change the milk’s composition thereby robbing your baby of your antibodies, vitamins and other of mom’s goodies. After you have thawed your milk give a good shake before feeding your baby.

That’s all there is to it. Remember, when storing breast milk you must try to protect against bacterial infection. Bacteria need three things to thrive: water (your milk); warmth; and food (again your milk). You can’t avoid points one and three but you do something about point two.