4 Best Tips for Handling and Storing Breastmilk
Whoever coined the term, "There's no use crying over spilled milk" clearly wasn't a breastfeeding mama! Ruining even an ounce of freshly pumped milk is enough to send a new (very hormonal) mom into fits of tears. As a breastfeeding mom, you know how
important breastmilk is for your baby. No drop of this liquid gold should be wasted. Here we have 4 best tips for properly handling breast milk so you can use as much of your pumped milk as possible to keep your baby as healthy as can be!
Why does breastmilk have to be handled so carefully?
In a minute, we'll go over exactly what you need to know to properly store and warm your milk so you can be 100% sure you're only giving your baby milk when it's fresh. But first, it's important to understand why it must be handled with such care.
The first reason is that breastmilk is not unlike cow's milk when it comes to storage. I think we all know that smell of milk gone bad. We've all probably even had the unfortunate experience of tasting a sip of bad milk before realizing and then immediately spitting it out. Well, breastmilk is the same. Whether it's been sitting out on the counter for too long or been in the fridge well past expiration, it will go bad. And you certainly don't want to feed that to your baby!
The second reason for handling breastmilk so carefully is that you don't want any bacteria making its way into your baby's breastmilk. With it going straight into your little one's digestive system, any bacteria they drink with the breastmilk will likely make them sick.
Lastly, you know how important breastmilk is for your child's health, growth, and development. With the perfect balance of hormones, protein, sugar, fat and vitamins it's all your baby needs for their first year of life. The additional DHA and antibodies help your baby develop and ward off sickness. You don't want to do anything to compromise those powerful nutrients.
But you can rest assured that with a little extra care you can store and warm your expressed milk properly to give your little one the perfect, healthy meal every time.
1. Breast Milk Storage Tips
Moms pump breastmilk for many reasons. Whether it's because your baby has trouble latching or it's time for you to go back to work post-Maternity Leave, most moms pump at one time another. It's important to know the steps to get your pumped milk into storage the right way.
- Before pumping, make sure all your pump parts are sanitized. You should also wash your hands before beginning any pump session. This will prevent any germs from seeping into the breastmilk.
- Have a cooler bag ready if you're going to be away from a refrigerator for the day. Make sure it's well insulated with enough ice packs inside so that each bottle of milk can be touching one of the ice packs.
- Only use storage bottles and bags that are specifically made for human milk.
- It's okay to add freshly expressed milk to a bottle of milk already in the cooler back. Just don't add fresh milk to frozen milk.
Once home you'll need to decide whether you'll feed the milk to your baby, put it in the fridge, or freeze it.
- If you have milk that's already been in the fridge for a few days, you'll want to feed that to your baby first - before it goes bad.
- Your new milk can go into the fridge if it will be used within the next 1-3 days.
- If you already have a fridge supply, your newly pumped milk can go into the freezer.
Here are the guidelines on how long you can safely store breastmilk:
Room Temperature: If it's less than 78 degrees, milk can be left out for a maximum of 8 hours.
Cooler Storage Bag: As long as the bottles are touching the ice packs, they can be stored up to 24 hours.
Refrigerator: 5 days maximum.
Freezer: In a typical freezer with its own door (what most people have in their kitchen) you can store milk up to 6 months. Closer to 4 months is better. (Never refreeze milk once it's been defrosted.)
2. Safely Warming Breastmilk
If you are giving your baby a bottle straight after pumping, you likely won't need to warm it. But most babies won't take milk out of the fridge (brrr!) so you'll need to warm it up first. Frozen milk can also be warmed up if necessary.
Here's how to safely warm refrigerated milk:
- Use a bowl of warm water to bring the cold milk to a good feeding temperature. This will be easier if the milk is in a breast storage bag, but it can be done by placing the bottle in the warm water as well. (It will just take longer.) You can also do this from frozen, but again, it will take much longer. Avoid using hot water for this process.
- The above is a no-frills approach, but it can take a long time. The milk also may not get warm enough to your baby's liking leaving them pushing the milk away. A better option is using a bottle warmer that allows for perfectly warmed milk. The Baby's Brew Portable Bottle Warmer is a safe and easy warming method that can be used both at home and on the go. It even has 4 different temperature settings - 2 of which are safe for preserving breastmilk nutrients.
However you choose to warm your baby's milk, you want it to be done safely. NEVER use a microwave to warm your baby's milk. It can cause hot spots that can scald your baby's mouth. Additionally, it's the quickest way to kill off the precious nutrients found in breastmilk.
3. Maintaining Breastmilk Nutrients
La Leche League shares how breastmilk is a "living fluid" with "valuable immunological components" that will be destroyed if warmed in a microwave. Additionally, warming milk in boiling water on a hot stove will also rid the milk of its valuable properties. Be sure you're only using the safe warming methods outlined above. With as much hard work you put into pumping and preparing bottles for your baby, it's a sad thought to think that all of those amazing components wouldn't even be making it into your baby's body.
4. Knowing When to Throw it Out
If we could save every last drop of breastmilk for our babies we would. But we are humans and we make mistakes. It's important that you recognize when milk hasn't been properly stored or handled and you throw it out. Additionally, you can't save milk your baby didn't finish and use it for the next feeding.
I know it's the worst seeing your hard work literally poured down the drain. But, if you have to question it at all, it's not worth it giving it to your baby.
Just take a deep breath, and move onto the milk you've stored ex
actly as prescribed. Once you have your baby in your arms and you remind yourself of the gift you're giving them with your breastmilk, you'll know it was for the best.