Breastmilk Storage 101: Where and How to Properly Store Breast Milk for Future Feedings
Congratulations! Whether you are approaching your due date or have already welcomed your little one, you are now entering the wonderful world of motherhood. And as a new mom, one of the things you are most anxious and excited about is feeding your baby with your breast milk.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding is among the most successful methods that help ensure infant health and survival. Therefore, moms like you need to provide their babies with breastmilk exclusively for the first six months. However, not every mother can breastfeed for that long. Some must go back to work, while others simply find it difficult to keep up with the baby’s changing feeding schedule.
If you are one of these moms, you have considered breast milk pumping and storing as an alternative. And while the entire process may seem overwhelming and complicated at first, it progressively becomes easier – once you get the hang of it.
In this article, we will give you a crash course on breast milk storage, including where and how to safely store breast milk for future feedings. Let us begin!
How Pumping Works
Before we delve into breast milk storage, it is essential to understand how pumping works.
Pumping is collecting milk from your breast through a breast pump. It is often done by mothers who must return to work or school or want to have a supply of breast milk in case they cannot breastfeed their baby for a certain period.
The breast pump works by creating suction on the breast, which then stimulates milk release. The milk is collected in a container (usually a bottle) and can then be stored for future feedings.
Different Types of Breast Pumps and Where You Can Get Them
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), there are three common types of breast pumps every mom can use. These are the manual breast pump, the battery-powered breast pump, and the electric breast pump.
The Manual Breast Pump
Manual breast pumps are typically seen in movies or TV shows. They are small, lightweight, and portable, making them ideal for moms on the go. Manual breast pumps are also relatively inexpensive, making them a great option for those on a budget.
To use a manual breast pump, you must place the breast shield (flange) over your breast and then hold it with your hand while you use the other to operate the pump. The longer and more frequently you use the pump, the more milk you will be able to collect.
You can easily find manual pumps at department stores or online retailers that sell baby supplies and purchase them for around $15 to $90 per set.
Electric and Battery-operated Breast Pumps
If you are looking for a breast pump that can do all the work for you, then an electric or battery-operated breast pump is what you need. These breast pumps are more powerful and efficient than manual breast pumps and can help you collect more breast milk in a shorter time.
Most electric and battery-operated pumps are also designed to mimic or simulate the natural suckling action of a baby, which further helps stimulate breast milk production. They have different controls that allow you to adjust the suction and speed to your comfort level, and some even come with built-in timers to help you keep track of your pumping sessions.
There are also hospital-grade breast pumps, usually found and used only in hospitals and birth centers. It is not advisable to purchase them because of their high price point and because you will just be using them for a brief period. However, if you want to use one at home, you can rent hospital-grade breast pumps for as low as $75 per month from the Motherhood Center.
Where Should You Store Breastmilk?
Now that you know the basics of breastmilk pumping, it is time to move on to how exactly you should store what you have just collected.
Ideally, breast milk should be stored in a clean and sterile environment. This means that it should not encounter anything that could potentially contaminate it, such as dirty hands, unclean surfaces, or spoiled food.
The best way to store breast milk is in a dedicated breastmilk storage bag or container. These are usually made of BPA-free plastic or glass and have been designed specifically for breast milk storage. They come in various sizes, so you can choose one that is best suited for your needs.
Proper Breastmilk Storage
Once secured in a breast milk storage bag or container, breast milk can be stored in a variety of places, such as the fridge, freezer, or insulated cooler bag. According to the Office on Women’s Health, breastmilk can also be kept at room temperature for up to four hours, as long as it won’t exceed 77°F.
How Long Can Breastmilk Be Stored?
When storing breast milk in a fridge, it can be kept fresh for up to four days. However, if you want to store breast milk for a longer period, you can keep it in a standard home freezer for up to six months, and in a deep freezer for up to 12 months.
When breast milk is thawed, it should be used within 24 hours. Any leftover breast milk that has not been used within this period should be discarded.
Thawing Your Frozen Breast Milk
Using frozen breast milk within six months is best, as it will retain more of its nutrients. When you are ready to use frozen breastmilk, there are various ways you can thaw it.
The easiest way is to place the breast milk storage bag or container in a bowl of warm water for about 20 to 30 minutes. You can also thaw breast milk by placing it in the fridge overnight. Heating breast milk up in the microwave is not recommended, as this can cause hot spots and destroy some of its nutrients and antibodies.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
You are now ready to breastfeed your baby! However, to make sure everything goes smoothly, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
Breast Milk Can Lose Its Nutrients Over Time
Breast milk, even when frozen, can lose some of its nutrients and antibodies over time. Therefore, fresh or newly expressed breast milk is always best.
If you are using frozen breast milk, ensure your baby consumes it within six months or earlier.
You Might Not Be Able to Pump as Much Breast Milk as Your Baby Needs
It is important to remember that breast milk production varies daily, even from feeding to feeding. This means that you might not be able to pump as much breast milk as your baby needs, and you might need to supplement with formula.
To help increase your breastmilk supply, drink plenty of fluids, eat a balanced and healthy diet, and breastfeed or pump as often as possible.
You Shouldn’t Feel Pressured to Pump Breastmilk.
There is no right or wrong way to feed your baby, and you should not feel pressured to pump breast milk if you cannot or do not want to. Some moms do not pump and store breastmilk at all and will go through the first six months breastfeeding their babies directly or supplementing with formula.
Nonetheless, given its many benefits, pumping breast milk and storing it for future feedings is worth considering.
Tips for Successful Breastmilk Storage
Apart from all the breast milk storage and pumping essentials mentioned above, here are a few more tips that can help lessen your worries overall:
ALWAYS Wash Your Hands Before Handling Breast Milk
The key to successful breast milk storage is keeping everything clean. This means you should always wash your hands before handling breast milk, breast pumps, and breast milk storage bags or containers.
You can use warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Washing your hands is especially important if you have been managing anything dirty, such as diapers. You should also ensure that every surface that can potentially meet breastmilk and your hands is clean and sanitized.
Only Use BPA-Free Breast Milk Storage Bags or Containers
You do not want to take any chances regarding your baby’s health and safety, so only use breast milk storage bags or BPA-free containers.
BPA is a synthetic compound that can leach into breast milk and potentially cause health problems in babies, such as hormonal disruptions. This BPA is usually found in plastic containers such as bottles and sippy cups.
Nonetheless, many BPA-free breast milk storage bags and containers are available in the market, so you should have no trouble finding one that suits your needs. Just make sure to check the labels before you buy anything.
Make Sure to Label Breastmilk Storage Bags or Containers with the Date
Keeping track of your breast milk stash can be tricky, especially if you have many packs in the freezer. To make things easier, label each breast milk storage bag or container with the date it was expressed.
This way, you will know exactly how old the breast milk is and when you need to use it. You can also use a tracker and organize them in your fridge or freezer according to date.
Keep Frozen Breast Milk Away from Raw Foods in the Freezer
Speaking of organizing your breast milk packs in the freezer, keep them away from raw foods. Breast milk can pick up smell and bacteria from raw meat, poultry, and fish like any other food.
To avoid this, store breast milk at the back of the freezer where it is coldest or in a separate freezer if you have one. You can also use breast milk storage bags or containers designed explicitly for freezing breast milk. Breastmilk Storage
Only Thaw as Much Breastmilk as You Need
You can only use thawed breast milk for up to 24 hours. Hence, to avoid wasting frozen breast milk, only thaw as much as you need for a single feeding.
Discard Any Leftover Thawed Breastmilk
The safety of your little one is always more important than anything else, and it is especially important to discard any leftover thawed breast milk that your baby did not finish.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast milk that has been warmed or thawed can only be used once at room temperature within two hours. You should NEVER put thawed breast milk back in the freezer and use it later.
Breastfeed Your Little One with Confidence
Breastfeeding can be one of the most challenging aspects of caring for your newborn. The pressure of providing your little one with the best nutrition possible while ensuring their safety can be overwhelming as a mother.
However, with a little bit of knowledge and preparation, you can breastfeed your baby with confidence. Following the tips above and consulting with a lactation specialist or your healthcare provider, you can be sure that you are providing your little one with the best possible start in life.
Please contact Motherhood Center to help answer your questions about Breastmilk Storage in Houston.
Motherhood Center is the expert in Breastmilk Storage
3701 W. Alabama Ste 230, Houston, TX 77027 Phone: 713-963-8880
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