Whether you are a breastfeeding mom who is going back to work, or a breastfeeding mom who is just going to be out and about for a day, you will want to store some breast milk for your baby to eat while you are gone.
Whether you are using a breast pump or hand expressing your milk, you need to know how to store it so that it will be safe for your baby to use when she’s ready.
There are basically two types of storage containers: plastic bags designed especially for storing breast milk, and bottles made of glass or plastic. Do not use the plastic liners used with some bottles for storing breast milk.
Studies are inconclusive as to which type of storage container is best, although current research supports glass or hard, clear plastic bottles. Unless your baby is getting stored breast milk exclusively, the minor variations in nutritional content will probably have little impact on your baby.
Whenever you are storing milk for your baby, wash your hands with warm, soapy water. Glass or plastic containers should be washed with hot, soapy water.
Breast milk is safe to store at room temperatures less than 80 degrees for a few hours. For best results, however, refrigerate your breast milk as quickly as possible. Breast milk may be refrigerated safely for up to 8 days.
If you anticipate needing milk longer than this, you will want to freeze your milk. Whatever kind of container you are using; allow room for the milk to expand.
If you use the freezer compartment of your refrigerator, your milk can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. If you have a separate freezer, your milk can be frozen for up to 3 months.
If you have a separate deep freezer which maintains a constant temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit, your milk will be kept for six months, or possibly longer. If you are using frozen milk, always use the oldest milk first. Label your milk with the date when it is stored to help you know which milk is oldest.
Frozen milk can be thawed by (1) holding the container under warm running water, or (2) placing it in the refrigerator overnight. Do not microwave breast milk or heat it on the stove.
To warm breast milk, place it in a cup or bowl of water and allow it to warm slowly to about body temperature. Swirl it gently to mix before serving; it is normal for some cream to rise to the top during storage.
Breast milk that has been thawed should be used within 24 hours; if it has not been used within 24 hours, discard it. Do not refreeze breast milk once it has been thawed.
This information assumes your baby is a healthy, full term infant. If your baby is premature or suffers from some form of illness, check with your pediatrician or lactation consultant for additional instructions.