Fresh breastmilk is the best food for babies. But work, chores and all sorts of duties can affect mums’ breastfeeding schedule. No worries! We can always have breastmilk expressed ahead of time using our manual or electric pump. One thing we need to know, however, is how to store breastmilk properly to preserve its quality. These FAQs and storage guidelines should help you do this all-important task like a pro.
Can I Store Breastmilk at Room Temperature?
- Yes, breastmilk can stay at room temperature at 25C (or lower) for up to 6 hours.
- Keep your expressed milk in proper storage bottles or breastmilk bags. Always seal them with bottle caps to protect the contents. Make it a habit to clean your breast pump kit afterwards.
- If the temperature is above 25C, make sure to store breastmilk in the fridge or an insulated cooler instead. Alternatively, you can cover the milk bottle with a cold, damp towel to keep it cool.
- Do not place your breastmilk near windows with direct sunlight or any heat source.
How Do I Store Breastmilk in the Fridge?
- Refrigerate your expressed milk immediately after pumping. Make sure to use clean, bisphenol A (BPA)-free milk bottles or bags.
- Store the covered containers at the back part of your refrigerator. Doing this can maintain the right 4C storage temperature. Storing human milk near or in the fridge door can cause temperature fluctuation.
- Per the Australian Breastfeeding Association, store your freshly expressed milk in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours only.
- If you’re travelling or at work and don’t have access to a fridge, bring your insulated cooler and ice packs with you. Milk stored in an insulated pump cooler case stays fresh for up to 24 hours. When you get home, make sure to use it immediately, or store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
- You can add small amounts of freshly expressed milk to a refrigerated container, as long as you have chilled the milk first. Combining cold and warm milk allows harmful bacteria to grow and results in spoilage. Make sure that you have pumped both milk types within the same day, too.
Is it Safe to Keep Breastmilk in the Freezer?
- Yes, absolutely! However, the shelf-life of frozen milk depends on your freezing unit. For instance, frozen milk can last for up to two weeks when stored in the freezer compartment of a mini-fridge. A separate freezer of your fridge can keep it for six months, while a deep freezer can store milk for up to 12 months.
- Like in the fridge storage, place your milk bottles or bags at the back to avoid temperature changes.
- Use freezer-safe containers or bottles to avoid damage or cracking. Ideally, use milk storage bags as they are easy to label and stack to save space.
- Don’t fill your milk bottles more than three-fourths full. Leaving about an inch of headspace gives the bottle room to expand when frozen.
- You should use your thawed out frozen milk immediately and never refreeze it.
How Do I Feed Stored Milk to My Baby?
- If it’s frozen, you need to know how to thaw breastmilk properly. There are three ways: in the fridge overnight, in a bowl of warm water or under warm running water. Thawing in the refrigerator is the best method and keeps your frozen milk safe for up to 12 hours.
- If your baby prefers warmed milk, let the milk container stay in a pot of warm water for a few minutes. Swirl the container to mix the fat into the liquid milk. Then test a few drops of it to your wrist to check if it’s warm enough (close to body temperature).
- Never use the microwave or boiling water for warming or thawing breastmilk. Hotspots may form and burn your baby’s mouth. High temperature can also destroy the milk’s nutrients and energy content. Slow, steady heating is best.
- Before opening your breastmilk storage bags or bottles, make sure to wipe the exterior dry. This way, no water droplets from condensation or steam can contaminate the milk.
- When frozen or chilled milk is already warmed or at room temperature, make sure to use it within 2 hours.
- Breastmilk from storage can be given to your baby using a cup, feeding bottle or spoon.
What Should I Do with Leftover Breastmilk?
- If your baby wasn’t able to finish his or her bottle, store leftover milk in the fridge, sealed with a clean cap.
- Store leftover breastmilk in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours. After that time limit, you need to discard it. So, make sure to give leftover breastmilk to your baby on the next feeding.
- For minimal wastage, store milk in small portions (about 60ml or less), good enough for one feeding. This tip allows easier thawing, too.
- Try to keep track of how much milk your baby consumes, so you’ll know how much to store per container.
Any Other Helpful Storage Tips?
- Store breastmilk with waterproof labels. Place the dates of milk expression on the storage container using a non-toxic marker or sticker paper.
- Arrange your expressed milk according to their dates of milk expression. Place the earliest date to the front and the latest at the back. Always practice the first-in, first-out system.
- Choose only pre-sterilised, food-grade bottles or freezer bags with tight-fitting lids made for storing human milk. Stay clear from container types with a number 7 recycle number as these may contain harmful BPA. Glass bottles, on the other hand, can be too heavy and can crack in cold temperatures.
- Breastmilk commonly forms creamy layers while in storage. After thawing, gently shake the container to mix in the fat that has settled on top. Avoid vigorous stirring, though, as this can affect its health-giving benefits.
- Smell the stored milk first before giving it to your baby. If it smells bad, discard it right away.
- Chilled or thawed milk can, at times, give a soapy or rancid odour. This smell is due to the lipase enzyme breaking down the milk fats into fatty acids. Don’t worry. This process is needed to strengthen bacterial growth protection. As long as you follow the safe storage guidelines, your baby should be happy with his lunch or dinner!
- Seek the help of your lactation consultant or healthcare provider for further information on safe milk storage methods.