How to store your expressed breastmilk properly
Your milk is a living substance, so precious some call it “liquid gold”. It is essential to store your expressed breastmilk properly to maximize its nutritional and anti-infective qualities. Breastmilk actually has anti-bacterial properties that help it to stay fresh. Giving your baby the freshest milk you have pumped ensures its high quality.
All milk should be dated before storing. Storing milk in 2-4 ounce (60 to 120 ml) amounts may reduce waste. Refrigerated breastmilk has more anti-infective properties than frozen milk. Cool fresh milk in the refrigerator before adding it to previously frozen milk. Preferably, breastmilk should be refrigerated or chilled right after it is expressed.
The MAM Storage solution and MAM Easy Start Anti colic bottles (enter code: TRYMEFREEBLOG to claim a free sample excluding P&P) can be easily screwed on to the MAM Breast pump, and breast milk can be safely expressed directly into the bottle or storage solution. The storage solutions can also be repeatedly labelled with corresponding dates, making correct storage easy. You can store breast milk in a sterilised container or in special breast milk storage bags:
- in the fridge for up to five days at 4C or lower (you can buy cheap fridge thermometers online). Do not store in the fridge door.
- for two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge
- for up to six months in a freezer
Breast milk that’s been cooled in the fridge can be carried in a cool bag with ice packs for up to 24 hours. Storing breast milk in small quantities will help to avoid waste. If you’re freezing it, make sure you label and date it first.
How to Warm the Milk
Frozen milk: thaw in the refrigerator overnight or under cool running water. Gradually increase the temperature of the water to heat the milk to feeding temperature.
Refrigerated milk: Warm the milk under warm running water for several minutes. Or immerse the container in a pan of water that has been heated on the stove. Some babies accept milk right from the refrigerator. Do not bring temperature of milk to boiling point.
Breastmilk may separate into a milk layer and a cream layer when it is stored. This is normal. Swirl it gently to redistribute the cream before giving it to baby.
Do not use a microwave to heat breastmilk. It may cause the loss of some of the beneficial properties of the milk. Microwaves do not heat liquids evenly and may leave hot spots in the container of milk. This could be dangerous for your baby.
Sometimes thawed milk may smell or taste soapy. This is due to the breakdown of milk fats. The milk is safe and most babies will still drink it. If there is a rancid smell from high lipase (enzyme that breaks down milk fats) activity when the milk has been chilled or frozen, the milk can be heated to scalding (bubbles around the edges, not boiling) after expression, then quickly cooled and frozen. This deactivates the lipase enzyme.
Previously frozen milk that has been thawed can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. While there is limited evidence to date that milk thawed for a few hours may be refrozen, this results in further breakdown of milk components and loss of antimicrobial activity. At this time, the accepted practice is not to refreeze thawed milk.
While some mothers and caregivers reheat expressed milk that was leftover and refrigerated after a previous feeding, there is no research on the safety of this practice. There is also no research about whether freshly expressed milk left unfinished at room temperature should be discarded, or can be saved for a short time (perhaps up to one hour as reported by some mothers and caregivers) to finish the feeding if the baby wakens from having fallen asleep or still appears hungry.
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