Breastfeeding has many challenges. It is a surprise to many people that something so natural is a skill to be learned, and there are some important things to remember about breastfeeding and breast milk to ensure your baby can make the most of this perfect nutrition. One important area to understand is the guidelines for storing pumped breast milk.
In order to make the most of this precious resource, let’s look at some breast milk storage dos and don’ts.
Do put dates your milk, to remember when it was pumped, and when it will expire.
Breast milk can be kept:
– on counter for 3-6 hours (under 25 degrees c)
– in the fridge for up to 5 days
– in a freezer compartment inside a fridge for 2 weeks
– in a freezer with a separate door on the fridge for 3-6 months
– in a deep freeze for 6-12 months.
Do keep breast milk in clear containers with extra space for expansion. Baby bottles with screw top lids and milk-saving bags are both commercially available.
Do thaw breast milk under warm running water, or by letting it thaw overnight in the fridge, then running it under warm water before offering to your child. Microwaving, which heats liquids unevenly, will not allow the milk to maintain its full nutritional value, and can damage the containers.
Do not refreeze breast milk. Unused, thawed milk should be disposed of. (Keep in mind that though it is not common in our culture, there is no medical reason why breast milk cannot be used by people other than children, say in a cup of coffee.)
Do not be concerned if breast milk changes color or consistency slightly. Depending on the age of your child and your recent diet, breast milk will be different everyday.
It can be very helpful for mothers to store their breast milk in the fridge or freezer so others can feed their children when they are not there. Also, in many cases, pumping helps mothers establish and keep an adequate supply of milk if they have to be separated from their children. To do so without storing the results would be wasted time and effort.
In some places, correctly stored breast milk can be donated to milk banks. The milk can then be used by children whose mothers are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. Some mothers also store small quantities past weaning for use as a salve for minor ailments, as the antiseptic and anti-microbial qualities in breast milk make it useful for helping heal nappy rash, scrapes and ear infections.
When stored properly, pumped breast milk can fill a great many needs, making the challenges well worth it.