Breast Milk Storage: What You Need to Know

Breast milk storage can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some simple and practical tips to help you make the right choices when it comes to storing your precious breast milk.

Choosing the Right Container

Before handling breast milk, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. When storing expressed milk, use a clean glass container with a secure cap or a hard plastic container that is free from bisphenol A (BPA). Alternatively, you can opt for special plastic bags designed specifically for milk storage. Avoid using disposable bottle liners or plastic bags meant for general household use.

Properly Label and Store

Label each container with the date you expressed the milk, using waterproof labels and ink. If you plan to store the milk at a child care facility, don't forget to include your baby's name on the label. Store the containers at the back of the refrigerator or freezer, as that's where the temperature is the coolest. If refrigeration is not available, you can temporarily store the milk in an insulated cooler with ice packs.

Portion Sizes

Fill individual containers with the amount of milk your baby will need for one feeding. Start with 2 to 4 ounces (60 to 120 milliliters), adjusting as necessary. It's also a good idea to store smaller portions, such as 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60 milliliters), for unexpected situations or delays in regular feedings. Remember not to fill the containers to the brim, as breast milk expands when frozen.

Adding Fresh Milk to Stored Milk

You can add freshly expressed breast milk to already refrigerated or frozen milk. However, ensure that the freshly expressed milk is thoroughly cooled in the refrigerator or with ice packs before combining it with previously chilled or frozen milk. Avoid adding warm breast milk to frozen milk, as it can cause partial thawing.

Storage Timeframes

The duration for which you can safely store expressed breast milk varies depending on the storage method. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:
Room temperature: Freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to six hours. To maintain its quality, it's best to use or properly store the milk within four hours, especially in warmer rooms.
Insulated cooler: You can store freshly expressed breast milk in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to one day.
Refrigerator: Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator for up to four days in clean conditions. However, it's recommended to use or freeze the milk within three days.
Deep freezer: Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of a deep freezer for up to 12 months. For optimal quality, it's best to use the frozen milk within six months.

Remember that the longer you store breast milk, the greater the loss of vitamin C in the milk. Additionally, it's important to note that your breast milk changes to meet your baby's evolving needs. Storage guidelines may also differ for preterm, sick, or hospitalized infants.

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