How do I Store my Expressed Breast Milk? | Ameda Australia
At times you may be away from your baby and need to store your expressed breast milk for them as you are unable to breastfeed. Storing breast milk involves using a breast pump to express your milk, and then keeping it refrigerated or frozen in hygienic containers. There’s a long list of variables to consider when storing breast milk, and it’s important to carefully examine each to ensure the safety and well being of your baby. In this article, we guide you through the process of storing breast milk so that you know it is safe and suitable for your baby.
Containers for storing expressed breast milk.
There are several options when it comes to choosing the most appropriate container for the storage of your breast milk. You may select breast milk storage bottles made from glass, which can be used in the refrigerator but are not recommended for the freezer. Alternatively, plastic breast milk storage bottles can be placed in the fridge or freezer, but it’s vital to make sure they are BPA-free. If you are short on space, you may find store-and-pour breast milk storage bags best, as they take up little room and can be connected straight to the milk collection system on your breast pump. This type of breast milk storage bag is designed for the freezer, but it’s important to note that other disposable plastic bags, such as everyday sandwich bags, are NOT suitable for storing breast milk as they can split when frozen.
Always label your breast milk containers with the date and time that you expressed the milk. And don’t forget to place your baby’s full name on the label if you are storing your breast milk in a communal facility such as a daycare centre fridge.
How much breast milk to store in each container.
You may be tempted to avoid wasting space by filling each container to the top when storing your breast milk. This can lead to you squandering your supply, as once you have thawed your frozen breast milk for your baby, the milk needs to be used within 24 hours (if it is being kept in the fridge). If you have warmed an entire container, but your baby only takes a portion of it, the rest needs to be used within four hours (if it is being kept in the fridge). There’s nothing worse than having to discard unused breast milk. So it’s best to portion your expressed breast milk into single servings based on the smallest amount that your baby is likely to take. You can always warm more if they are hungry.
Remember that your breast milk will expand when it is frozen, so be sure to leave some room at the top of the container when placing it in the freezer.
Refrigerating breast milk.
When refrigerating your breast milk, keep a close eye on the temperature of your fridge. Domestic fridges can vary dramatically in temperature, and where you place your breast milk in the fridge matters. Never keep it in the door, as this area is more likely to become warmer than other compartments. You can store your freshly pumped breast milk in a fridge that maintains a temperature of about four degrees Celsius, for around eight days. Always check the breast milk before feeding it to your baby. Make note of the smell once you have expressed your milk. If the smell has changed and smells off, the milk has gone bad.
Freezing breast milk.
Temperature is also a major factor when storing breast milk in the freezer. Freshly pumped breast milk can be kept in a fridge-freezer, typically at -18 degrees Celsius, for approximately three to four months. If storing it in a deep freeze, which should be -20 degrees Celsius, it can be kept for up to twelve months. Keep in mind that your breast milk will lose vitamins and antioxidants the longer it is stored, but will still provide more health benefits for your baby than breast milk substitutes. If you are unable to breastfeed your baby, choose to give them freshly expressed breast milk over that which has been frozen and thawed, if you can.
Thawing frozen breast milk.
Frozen breast milk should be thawed in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. It should be used within 24 hours of thawing and should never be refrozen. When you defrost your breast milk, you may notice that it has separated into a thicker substance at the top of the container and became watery towards the bottom. This is normal and can be rectified by giving the container a gentle swirl to combine the two layers. To heat the breast milk, place the container in a bowl or jug of warm water (do not use boiling water!) and check the temperature before feeding it to your baby. Never heat breast milk in the microwave as hot spots can become present in the milk. Remember that once thawed breast milk has been warmed, it can only be put back in the refrigerator for a maximum of four hours before it needs to be used or discarded. Avoid reheating refrigerated breast milk more than once.
Breast milk on-the-go.
There may be times when you need to carry expressed breast milk with you, like if you have pumped at work and are bringing it home or need to take it to your baby’s daycare. In this case, you can store freshly expressed breast milk in a cooler carry bag lined with freezer packs. If the breast milk cooler bag can maintain a temperature lower than 15 degrees Celsius, you can store your freshly expressed breast milk here for up to 24 hours. Storing frozen or thawed breast milk in a cooler carry bag is not recommended.
Considering room temperature in Australia.
You may come across several guides or suggestions concerning storing breast milk at room temperature, but it’s vital to consider this in relation to the climate in which you live. Australia is hotter than most countries, and what is classified as room temperature here is very different to room temperature in places such as the UK and parts of the USA. Keep an eye on the temperature your air conditioning is set at in summer if leaving your breast milk out on the counter in your home. Freshly expressed breast milk can typically be left out in a room that is approximately 19 to 20 Celsius for six to ten hours, and a room that is no higher than 26 degrees Celsius for a maximum of four hours. Do not leave thawed (and not yet warmed) breast milk unrefrigerated for more than four hours in these conditions.