Guidelines for Storing Breast Milk

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Superfood, liquid gold, whatever name you call it, nothing beats breast milk when it comes to protecting your baby and keeping him/her healthy. For starters, the antibodies found in breast milk boost your little one’s immune system, which helps against infections and diseases. 


And we haven’t even mentioned the other nutrients that make breast milk worthy of the nicknames earlier yet. If you think about it, this so-called “superfood” is specifically designed for the wellness of babies. That is why it is important that we keep it fresh and not let it go to waste.


CuteLittleDarling.com mentioned different bags of storing breast milk. You can choose whatever works best for you, whether it’s bags, trays, or lidded containers. However, there is a lot to consider and remember when storing breast milk. 


Like all foods, it is perishable if you don’t keep it in the best environment. Here are the things that you need to know to keep your liquid gold fresh and not have you cry over spilled milk, literally. 


What Container Should You Use for Storing Breast Milk?



  1. BPA-Free Plastic Capped Containers



One of the most popularly used for breast milk storage is plastic containers/bottles. They are not as fragile as glass containers or bags, and they also come in a variety of sizes. However, because it’s plastic, you have to be extra diligent in checking its materials. 


Make sure that the plastic container doesn’t have any chemicals that might leach onto the milk. For example, you have probably heard of BPA and its detrimental effects, especially on younger children. 


Sadly, they are commonly found in plastic products. An excellent telltale sign if the plastic container has BPA is when it has the recycle symbol 7, so avoid these products. 


  1. Glass Capped Containers



You can also use food-grade glass bottles and containers with tight-fitting lids for storage. They have a lower risk of chemical contamination at the expense of their fragility. You have to be extra careful in handling them because they might break upon the impact of falling. 


  1. Breast Milk Storage Bags



Lastly, breast milk storage bags are an affordable, one-time use option for mothers. Because you can only use them once, you don’t have to worry about contamination from poor clean-up. These bags nowadays also have a dedicated pouring spout for added convenience during the transfer on nursing bottles.


However, because they are not as robust as the previous two, they might tear and spill on improper handling and stacking. We recommend that you store them upright or place the bag in a food storage container before freezing.  


Do take note that bottle liners and ordinary plastic bags are not great substitutes for breast milk storage bags. It might be tempting, but they are not meant to withstand cold and hot temperatures or holding the milk itself. 


Bonus Tips:



  • Do not fill the containers full because breast milk expands upon freezing. Leave an inch of space at the top for this expansion.
  • You can fill the containers from 2 to 4 ounces. These amounts are usually what babies need for one feeding, and it prevents you from wasting leftover milk. You can also store a smaller amount (e.g., 1 ounce) for random feedings or as an extra. 


How Long Can You Keep Breast Milk?



  • At room temperature


According to CuteLittleDarling, you can keep breast milk in the room as long as it doesn’t receive direct sunlight. It is also essential that the room temperature is at least 77°F or colder for the milk to last 4 hours.


  • In the cooler


In case you need to travel, fill a cooler with ice packs. The milk can last up to 24 hours, and refrain from constantly opening the lid.

  • In the fridge


You can keep breast milk in the fridge for as long as 4 days. 


  • In the freezer


Breast milk can last up to 6 months in the freezer. However, it is worth noting that the Vitamin C content of the milk reclines the longer you have it stored. This is why some studies promote the use of frozen breast milk after just a month.


Bonus Tips



  • Label the container with the date you expressed the milk, as well as your child's name. This way, you can store the containers in a way where the newly expressed are at the back. And your child’s name is also important in case you’re bringing the storage containers at a child care center.
  • Do not put the containers at the door of the freezer or fridge. The temperature in this area is not steady because of the opening and closing of the appliance. It is best that you place the containers at the back part of the freezer and fridge for stable temperature.
  • If you will not be immediately using the breast milk, place it in the freezer for a longer lifespan.
  • You should use the milk immediately or store it in the fridge/freezer if it has been in a cooler for 24 hours. 


Can You Add Freshly Pumped Milk to a Previously Stored Milk?



It might not seem like a good idea, but yes, you can add freshly pumped milk to a previously stored milk. This is particularly useful for mothers who have difficulty pumping a large amount in a single session. However, you can only do this if you have expressed both milks on the same day. You should also cool the freshly warm milk before adding it to the previously stored one to prevent it from thawing the cooler milk. 


What are the Signs That Breast Milk Has Gone Bad?



It’s very easy to tell if your breast milk has gone bad. Of course, all types of milk smells rancid. You will also notice that the composition of the milk starts to separate, with solid pieces floating at the top. 


Can You Reheat Leftover Breast Milk?



While it is tempting to reuse leftover milk, it’s a risk that you don’t want to take for the sake of your baby’s health. Pumping takes effort and time, so letting the milk go to waste is heartbreaking. However, you can do other things to prevent this situation from happening. Instead of reheating leftover breast milk and risk bacterial contamination, you can avoid getting leftovers instead. 

As we have mentioned earlier, only store the amount that you think your baby will need for every feeding. This way, you can guarantee that your baby can get his/her superfood without leaving a huge amount afterward. 

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