Breastfeeding is a wonderful journey for you and your baby. You give the best form of nutrition to your child while holding her close to you. While it’s best to feed your baby directly from your breast, some circumstances may prevent this. For instance, you may need to go back to work, there could be health reasons, or your baby simply finds it difficult to latch.
No situation should stop you from pursuing breastfeeding. You may feel discouraged at first, but knowing how to pump and store your breast milk will make things much easier for you.
Getting ready for pumping and breast milk storage
Going back to work is tough for new moms. Aside from separation anxiety, your number one concern is how to feed your baby when you’re breastfeeding. Gone are the days when moms were forced to wean their babies simply because they couldn’t attend to their child while at work. Today, more and more moms continue to breastfeed because pumping and storing breast milk is possible.
Like many moms, I also had my fair share of pumping and storing breast milk when I had to go back to work. I wanted to continue breastfeeding at that time because of the health benefits for me and my baby, but also because it was very economical for us as a family. I remember researching how to store my pumped breast milk at work and reading a lot of breast milk storage tips.
Perhaps the most important thing I needed to master at that time was how to keep up my milk supply while pumping. Remember, breastfeeding follows the law of demand and supply, so it’s crucial to mimic how often you will feed your baby to how frequently you will need to pump your breast milk while at work.
Once you have maintained your milk supply, you can express your breast milk by using either an electric or manual pump. You’re also encouraged to learn how to pump your milk through hand expression just in case your breast pump isn’t readily available.
Knowing how to store breast milk is next on your list. You might see this as a challenge, especially if you’re always in the field for work. Don’t worry, though; there are ways to store breast milk when traveling and if you’re always on the go. Having all the essentials will make your breastfeeding journey a breeze. A reliable breast pump, milk storage bags and bottles, your freezer or insulated bag, and your breast milk storage chart will all be your “breastfriends.”
How to store pumped breast milk
It’s essential to know the right way of storing your breast milk because you don’t want to compromise the health of your baby, right? Like any other food, your breast milk can be spoiled if not properly handled. Knowing how to store and use breast milk will allow you to keep providing the best nourishment to your baby.
So, what are the important things you need to know about storing your breast milk properly?
Breast milk storage guidelines
Is it safe to store expressed breast milk and give it to your baby later on? Yes, it is.
The CDC sets a clear standard for storing the different “types” of breast milk in different storage locations and temperatures so it can be available to you and other breastfeeding mothers.
- Freshly pumped breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to 4 hours, in a refrigerator for up to 4 days, and in the freezer for 6-12 months.
- Thawed breast milk that was previously frozen must be consumed within 2 hours and can be kept in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours. Also, thawed breast milk must not be placed back in the freezer.
- Any leftover from feeding through a bottle should be used within 2 hours after your baby’s last feeding. If your baby didn’t finish the breast milk and can’t consume the leftover, it is best to discard the milk for your child’s safety.
The CDC also has some storing tips, thawing recommendations, and feeding advice, as well as tips on ensuring that your pumping materials and other feeding essentials are well-maintained.
If you follow these recommendations, the quality of your breast milk will not be compromised.
How long to store breast milk
How long you can keep breast milk safe depends on its temperature. If you’ve just pumped, and refrigerating or freezing it right away is not possible, don’t worry—your breast milk will still be OK at room temperature (up to 77°F ) up to 4 hours after pumping.
If you have managed to place it in the refrigerator (at 40°F), your breast milk will maintain its nutritional value for up to 4 days after pumping or expressing.
How to store breast milk in the freezer
If you have been blessed with an abundant supply of breast milk and your baby won’t be able to consume all your expressed milk, the best thing to do is to freeze it. Frozen breast milk can last about 6-12 months at 0°F or colder.
Be sure to use good-quality breast milk storage bags and organizers, like these by Nanobebe, to ensure effortless organization while building your frozen breast milk stash. It is also efficient to use breast milk organizers to avoid mixing it with other food items in your freezer. These organizers not only keep your stash arranged neatly but also prevent direct contamination from other frozen goods in your freezer.
How to store breastmilk when traveling
You will surely need to go out of the house or your office once in a while, so it’s important to know how to store breast milk on the go.
Cooler packs and insulated cooler bags with frozen ice packs, like this one from Spectra, can keep your breast milk from spoiling and allow it to be stored for up to 24 hours. Cooler bags may be an additional item to carry while you’re on the move, but you wouldn’t mind at all because your pumped breast milk will maintain its quality until you get home.
Just remember that after the 24-hour mark, you’ll need to refrigerate or freeze your breast milk. Otherwise, it is safer to discard it.
Breast milk storage tips
There’s more to breast milk storage than just pumping and refrigerating or freezing your breast milk.
Here are some beginner breast milk storage tips that seasoned breastfeeding moms swear by:
- Label breast milk storage bags before freezing them. Indicate the date and time pumped and use the “first-in-first-out” approach when thawing your milk stash. It is also recommended to put the right amount of milk in each bag, so you will know how much you thaw. It’s advisable to freeze breast milk in small amounts (2-4 ounces) depending on how much breast milk you give your baby per feeding.
- Avoid storing your breast milk in your fridge door. Due to the temperature changes, the quality of your breast milk will be compromised.
- Freeze your breast milk right away if you think your baby won’t be able to consume it within the next 4 days.This will ensure that your breast milk retains its nutritional value.
- Store your breast milk in bags specifically designed for breast milk collection and storage. You can also use food-grade glass containers or BPA-free hard plastics with tight lids.
- Never re-freeze thawed breast milk and use the breast milk within 2 hours at room temperature or within 24 hours when thawed in the refrigerator.
- Never re-use disposable milk bags. They are meant for single use only.
- Wash the breast pump and its parts, containers, and bottles in a separate basin. Avoid washing them directly in the sink to avoid germs that can contaminate your breast milk storage essentials.
My final thoughts
You may want to continue breastfeeding your child directly because it’s easier and more comfortable, but sometimes, your circumstances will require that you pump and store your breast milk. Instead of feeling bad about it, embrace it.
After all, you’re still providing your little one with breast milk. After a long day at work (and pumping your milk), you have someone waiting for you and the liquid gold you’re bringing home.