Your breast milk is the best food for a newborn baby. It is not only nutritious but also contains essential growth factors, boost immunity. Studies have also proved that the very act of breastfeeding helps a mother and child build a strong bond.
That said, you may not always be able to breastfeed your baby directly. If you’ve gone back to work, you may need to express milk with a pump or manually and store it for a later feed. Some mothers may also produce more milk than needed. This may be used as donor milk. In either of these cases, here are a few do’s and don’ts for breast milk storage.
Do Use A Clean Container
Always use a clean food-grade hard plastic or glass container to store breast milk. Before putting the milk into this container, it should be washed with soap and water and dried. As far as possible, avoid containers made from plastic with chemical bis-phenol A (BPA).
Many brands also make special bags designed for breast milk storage. Generic plastic bags and disposable bottle liners should never be used to store breast milk. Every container should be labeled with the date. Ideally, use small containers that can store enough breast milk for a single feed.
Do Not Leave The Milk At Room Temperature For More Than 6 Hours
Breast milk will spoil if left out at room temperature for more than 6 hours. On a hot day, it could spoil even faster. If you plan on using the expressed breast milk on the same day, you can store it in an insulated cooler with a few ice packs.
Breast milk stored in the back of the refrigerator will keep for up to 5 days. Do not store breast milk in the refrigerator door shelves. Ideally, if you plan on keeping the breast milk for more than 3 days, you should freeze it. Once frozen, it has a 6-month shelf life. Remember that breast milk expands on freezing. Hence, do not fill containers all the way.
Do Thaw The Human Milk Gradually
Frozen breast milk must be thawed before it can be given to your baby. Never thaw breast milk by leaving it in the open or by heating it on the stove or microwave. Instead, place the container in another container filled with warm water.
This allows the human to thaw gradually and evenly. You could also use a bottle warmer. Overheating the milk can weaken its immunity protecting properties. You may also risk scalding your baby’s mouth. Ideally, your baby should be able to drink it once it has been brought to room temperature or just slightly warmed.
Do Not Add Leftover Breast Milk To Frozen Breast Milk
Any fresh or thawed breast milk leftover from a feed should be discarded or stored separately. You may keep it refrigerated and use it for the next feed but do not keep it for more than a day. Do not mix it with frozen breast milk either. This will partially thaw the frozen breast milk and may spoil it.
As long as you follow the simple do’s and don’ts of breast milk storage, it can be used to supplement feeds when you are away from your baby or can be shared as donor milk. The latter is extremely helpful to mothers who are unable to produce sufficient breast milk for their little ones.
Though frozen human milk has a shelf life of 6 months, feeding a 6-month-old baby breast milk expressed when he was a few weeks old may not meet his nutritional requirements. So, instead of hoarding, isn’t it better if it could be used to feed another baby? It’s the simplest way to earn good karma!