How to Store Breast Milk: Tips and Guidelines for Freezing and Thawing

As a parent, you want to give your child the best nutrition possible. For breastfeeding mothers, that sometimes means storing breast milk for future feedings. Freezing and thawing your pumped milk may seem intimidating at first, but with a few helpful tips from experts in the field of infant nutrition, you can be confident in how to best provide for your newborn's needs. In this blog post we'll break down how to store breast milk safely and effectively - so you can rest easy knowing that when a baby is ready for their next meal they're being nourished by the healthiest option available.

How to Pump Breast Milk

Pumping is a great option if you plan to nurse your baby and feed them expressed milk. Before you begin pumping, it's important to decide which type of breast pump is right for you. There are four main categories, including hospital-grade, electric, wearable, and manual. Once you have your pump, you might be wondering when to start using it. Although there is no hard and fast rule, lactation consultants suggest waiting about two to three weeks after birth to pump milk. When it comes to frequency and duration, every individual's situation is different. However, a recommended rule of thumb for those who plan to nurse and pump is to pump once or twice a day for 10-20 minutes each session.

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Breast Milk Storage

Storing breast milk may seem simple, but there's a lot to know in order to do it safely and effectively. Temperature fluctuations, cleanliness, and storage conditions all play a role in the quality of the milk. Luckily, organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have created guidelines to help mothers properly store and handle their breast milk. One trick to remember is the "rule of fours" from the AAP: breast milk can stay at room temperature for up to 4 hours and in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Following these guidelines can ensure that your baby is getting the best possible nutrition.

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Breast Milk Storage Options

bottles of breastmilk

The CDC recommends using milk storage bags or clean, food-grade glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids to store expressed breast milk. It's also important to avoid containers with the recycle symbol number seven as these may contain BPA-containing plastic. While there are various storage options available,  it's crucial to choose a reliable and safe option to protect your baby's health.

As a breastfeeding mother, it is important to consider your breast milk storage options.

  • Pre-sterilized plastic storage bags: One popular choice is pre-sterilized plastic storage bags, which are fairly inexpensive and freeze flat for easy storage. However, they can sometimes have issues with leaks. 
  • Silicone milk storage bags : For those looking for an eco-friendly and reusable option, silicone milk storage bags are a consideration. They are plastic-free and a great choice for those wanting to reduce their carbon footprint. However, they are more expensive and take longer to clean. 
  • Breast milk storage bottles are also available and make pumping directly into them convenient and eco-friendly. However, they are expensive, bulky, and can take longer to thaw if frozen. 
  • Breast milk storage trays are another option, great for freezing and reducing waste. However, they can be expensive and take longer to clean. 

Ultimately, the choice of breast milk storage option depends on your personal preference and lifestyle.

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How to Store Breast Milk in the Refrigerator

baby being breastfed

As a new mother, figuring out how to store your breast milk effectively can be stressful. Fortunately, the CDC has provided guidelines that can make the process much easier. Freshly pumped milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days, while thawed milk can last for up to 24 hours. It's important to note that you should start this 24 hour countdown only after the milk is completely thawed, not when you first take it out of the freezer. Additionally, always store your milk in the back of your fridge where it's the coldest. Avoid the temptation to store it in the door, as the milk may get too warm and spoil as the fridge is opened and closed repeatedly throughout the day. And above all, remember that you cannot refreeze breast milk. With these tips in mind, storing your breast milk in the fridge can be a breeze.

How to Store Breast Milk in the Freezer

It’s recommended to store breast milk in the freezer for 6 to 12 months. The milk should be stored in the back of the freezer, where the temperature is the coldest, and a separate chest freezer can be used if necessary. Just keep in mind that the recommended storage duration remains unchanged regardless of whether or not you opt for a chest freezer. Keeping in mind that breast milk expands when frozen, it is essential to leave room for expansion in the chosen storage container. By adhering to these guidelines, you can ensure that your infant receives the highest-quality breast milk whenever it is required.

How to Thaw Breast Milk

As a new parent, one of the many things you may need to learn is how to safely and effectively thaw breast milk. There are a few different methods you can use, depending on your preferences and schedule. Thawing breast milk in the refrigerator overnight is an easy and convenient option, while using a container of warm or lukewarm water can speed up the process. Running the milk under lukewarm water can also work well. However, be sure to avoid using a microwave, which can heat the milk unevenly and destroy some of the important nutrients. Remember, once breast milk is thawed, you cannot refreeze it, and the countdown to use it starts from when there are no more ice crystals. With these tips in mind, you can confidently and safely thaw your breast milk for your little one.

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Properly Storing Breast Milk

Freezing and thawing breast milk is an important step in providing the best possible nutrition for your baby. Following the guidelines outlined in this article can give you peace of mind knowing that you are doing your utmost to keep your baby’s formula safe to use. Don't forget to always wash your hands before handling stored breastmilk and never refreeze breastmilk after it has been thawed. Breastfeeding sustainably helps you, your child, and our planet by reducing waste, supporting healthy development, and forming a strong bond between mother and child. So be sure to use the provided tips when storing breastmilk and you will have a freezer full of healthy pumpable portions for your baby. For more helpful parenting advice, check out our blog to learn how to care for your baby now and build long-term positive habits.

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