A Complete Guide to Storing Breast Milk

Expressed breast milk is the best food for babies, at least for the first few months after birth. However, due to reasons such as a full-time job or health problems which do not allow new mums to express frequently, pumping and storing breast milk is essential. That said, learning how to use breast pumps and storing your milk can be a time-consuming task. However, if you develop the knack for it, your breastfeeding journey would be as smooth as silk. In the same vein, below are some guidelines shared which may help you safely and effectively store your breast milk. 

 

  1. Expressing breast milk 

 

  • Wash your hands before expressing. Use soap, water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to ensure that you start on a hygienic note.

  • Ensure your surroundings are as clean as your hands. Things such as breast pump, the bottle, and the area where you’ll be expressing should be germ free. Follow the Medela breast pump instruction manual

  • Pump when you’re relaxed, when your breasts feel somewhat full. Also, pump right after your baby has finished breastfeeding. Your breasts are rarely empty, and the remaining milk can be pumped out and stored for later. 

  • Use the right size breast shield to ensure proper fit, maximized comfort and efficient pumping.

  • Keep pumping consistently to protect your milk supply. If you have a full-time job you’ve to get back to, begin pumping 2-3 weeks before returning to work. Once you start working again, pump after every three hours to protect your milk supply. 

 

  1. Breast milk storage 

 

  • Store your milk only in bottles or disposable bags designed specifically for storing breast milk. 

  • You can safely store your breast milk for up to 4 hours at room temperature, up to 3 days if you store it in the refrigerator, and up to 6 months if you store it in a freezer.

  • Store milk in small amounts. This way, even if your baby fails to empty the whole bottle, you’ll waste less milk and avoid over-feeding.

  • Liquids expand when frozen. Be sure to remember this while storing breast milk. 

  • Add freshly expressed milk to stored milk. That said, it is best to cool the newly expressed milk before adding it to stored milk. Avoid adding warm milk to already cooled breast milk. (Source: http://bit.ly/2KBEv8t)

  • Remember to wait before tightening the bottle caps or lids until the milk is completely frozen. 

  • Also, storing leftover milk is different than the storage of freshly expressed milk. Once the baby starts drinking the expressed milk, some level of contamination occurs in the milk from the infant’s mouth. To avoid wastage, pumping mums should store milk in a variety of increments such as 15, 30, or 60 ml. 

  • Do not microwave breast milk. Breast milk that is microwaved develops hot spots which might cause severe burns to the baby's mouth. It also changes the composition of breast milk.  

 

The abovementioned breast milk collection and storage guidelines are for mums with full-term babies. If your baby is hospitalized or born a preemie, please consult your healthcare provider for specific instructions.