The importance of feeding your child breast milk goes beyond just nutritional needs. Considered the baby's only source of nutrition for 6 months of its life, breast milk equips the young one's body with substances that fight deadly diseases for the reminder of the child's life. But these days, moms find it difficult to breastfeed their children due to professional commitments. At such times, storing breast milk for later use helps. As part of World Breastfeeding Week, let's learn how to store breast milk.
Breast milk storage can be confusing. Follow these practical tips on choosing containers, freezing breast milk, thawing breast milk and more. If you're breast-feeding and going back to work or looking for more flexibility, you're probably considering using a breast pump. Once you start pumping, it's important to know how to safely store your expressed milk. Consider these do's and don'ts for breast milk storage.
How can I store the expressed breast milk? Any specific container is recommended?
It is recommended that you should go for a BPA(Bisphenol A)free container, make sure the container is clean and has capped glass with hard plastic. Before expressing the milk into the container, make sure that your hands are clean, always wash your hands with soap and water before expressing the milk.
Apart from normal containers, there are also special plastic bags available in the market which are specially designed for milk collection and storage. However, extra care should be taken while using milk storage bags, as it might tear, leak or become contaminated easily. You can keep the milk storage bags in the hard plastic food storage containers for safety.
Never store breast milk in any disposable bottle or in normal plastic bags which you use for household use. Don't store breast milk in disposable bottle liners or plastic bags designed for general household use.
Where can I keep the expressed breast milk container?
Apart from using proper container, there are other things to be taken care of. After expressing the milk, you must store the container in freezer or in the back of the refrigerator. You can make use of waterproof labels and ink to label the containers with the date you have expressed the breast milk. This can help your family members in identifying the suitable container when you are away from home.
However, if you do not have the access to refrigerator, you can store the container in a room with AC or a cooler. One point to be noted is that, never fill the containers to the brim as the breast milk expands when it freezes, the container might overflow when stored.
What is the validity/ life span of the stored breast milk?
The expiry of expressed milk generally depends on how safely you are expressing and storing the milk, also the container plays a role in it.
• Room temperature: Freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to six hours. However, use or proper storage within four hours is optimal. If the room is especially warm, the limit is also four hours.
• Insulated cooler: Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to one day.
• Refrigerator: Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator for up to five days in clean conditions. However, use or freezer storage within three days is optimal.
• Deep freezer: Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of a deep freezer for up to 12 months. However, using the frozen milk within six months is optimal.
Can I mix old and fresh breast milk?
Yes, you can add the freshly expressed breast milk to the already stored milk, however, the condition to this is that you should never add warm expressed milk to the already stored cool milk. For mixing both the milk, you first need to cool the freshly expressed milk and then you can add both the milk together. Adding the freshly expressed milk to the chilled milk can spoil the entire milk.
Keep in mind research suggests that the longer you store breast milk — whether in the refrigerator or in the freezer — the greater the loss of vitamin C in the milk. It's also important to note that breast milk expressed when a baby is a newborn won't as completely meet the same baby's needs when he or she is a few months older. Also, storage guidelines might differ for preterm, sick or hospitalized infants.
What is the process of using freeze expressed milk for feeding the child?
You can thaw the oldest stored milk first, by reading the date labels on the container. You can keep the frozen container out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before feeding it to the baby, to bring the milk at the room temperature. You can also gently warm the milk by placing it under warm running water or in a bowl of warm water.
How do I know if the stored milk is thawed?
The color of your expressed milk depends on your diet, so it varies from woman to woman. So color is not the prerequisite to decide if the milk has been thawed, however the thawed milk might have a different or odd odor. Also, if the milk and water in the stored expressed milk separates, do not misunderstood it as thawed, you can simply stir it with a sterilised spoon and can feed your child.
(This article is contributed by Pediatrician Dr. Yogesh Gupta from Fortis Hospital)