Without a doubt, the best food for your baby is your own milk, but combining breastfeeding with your daily life is not always easy, right? Especially if you have to return to work, it is almost impossible to keep up with the feeding routine.
So, going back to your work life, going out with friends for a while, or being able to rest at night means giving up breastfeeding? Absolutely not.
Using a breast pump or expressing your milk manually will allow you to continue feeding your child with your milk even if you are not at home or if you want to combine it with your partner.
Ok, and once you have expressed the milk, all the other questions come: how long can I keep it? Where do I keep it? How to freeze and heat milk? Don’t worry, if you follow the simple guidelines that we leave you below, you can store your milk easily and guarantee its quality.
How To Store Breast Milk?
If you are not going to use it now, remember that the best is refrigerated milk. But if you won’t be using it in a few days, you’ll need to freeze it. Although by storing milk you will be losing some properties of fresh milk, it will always be much better than formula milk.
To preserve milk in optimal conditions of quality and safety, it is important that you always keep these points in mind:
- Remember to wash your hands well before doing the extraction.
- Always make sure to sterilize the extraction and storage containers before using and storing the milk.
- Store your milk in the fridge or freezer immediately after you express it.
- Do not store the milk on the shelves of the refrigerator door, as this is where it will be least cold.
- Mark the bags or containers where you are going to store the milk with the date and time of expression. When you go to use it, always start with the oldest ones, to renew the stock.
- NEVER refreeze milk that you have thawed.
How Long Can I Keep The Milk At Room Temperature?
Milk at room temperature (19-22 ° C) can last in good conditions for about 6-8 hours, as long as you have strictly followed the hygiene and disinfection guidelines for the extraction that we will see a little more below.
Keep in mind that the higher the ambient temperature, the less time the milk will hold. So, if it’s summer, try to keep it always refrigerated or use it as soon as possible.
How Long Does Breast Milk Last in The Fridge? and Frozen?
The storage time of your milk will depend, essentially, on where you keep it:
- Freezer (-18 ° C): 4 months
- Refrigerated (4 ° C): 8 days
Remember that it is essential that you store the milk in the fridge or freezer immediately after it has been expressed, especially if it is summer or you live in a warm country.
If you don’t, you run the risk of spoiling, losing its nutritional properties and even being harmful to your child.
Storage times may vary for premature or sick babies. In this case, always follow the guidelines of your doctor or lactation consultant.
How To Store Breast Milk in Fridge?
To optimally preserve milk in the refrigerator, be sure to follow these guidelines:
- Put the milk in the fridge right after pumping.
- Store milk in specific containers or bags to store breast milk to ensure that they do not contain toxic substances such as BPA (Bisphenol A) and that the milk will be well isolated. In this way, you will avoid it could be contaminated or spilled inside the refrigerator.
- If you use containers, make sure they have been previously sterilized. If they are bags, use a new one each time.
- Once stored, do not add hot milk to the one that you already had previously refrigerated.
- Avoid mixing freshly refrigerated milk with milk that has been in the fridge for several days.
- Always use the milk that has been in the fridge the longest first (that’s why it’s important to label the containers with the date of expression).
- Store the milk in the back area (near the bottom of the fridge), as this is the part with the lowest temperature. Do not put it on the door shelves, where the temperature is usually higher.
- Remember to consult the conservation tables and never store the milk for longer than recommended.
How To Freeze Breast Milk?
If you need to keep the milk for weeks or even months, you will need to freeze it. To do it correctly, do not neglect these points:
- Store the milk in the freezer immediately after pumping.
- Always use containers or bags suitable for the conservation of breast milk that keep the milk well isolated and that do not contain substances harmful to your baby such as BPA.
- Never use glass containers or those that do not close hermetically to store milk in the freezer to prevent them from bursting or the content from spilling.
- Keep in mind that when a liquid is frozen, it increases slightly in size, so you should never fill the container/bag to the maximum (at most ¾).
- Label the containers with the date of extraction and the amount they contain and always use the oldest ones first.
- Store milk in small amounts (less than 60 mL per container). In this way, it will defrost more quickly and you will avoid having to throw away the excess part. Once thawed, you can mix the contents of several containers, as long as they have a similar temperature.
- Do not add hot milk to a container containing already frozen milk.
- Store the milk in the back of the freezer. This is where the temperature remains most constant.
- Remember to consult the conservation tables and never store the milk for longer than recommended.
How To Warm Breast Milk From Fridge
The benefits of breastfeeding are widely studied and proven.
If You Have The Milk In The Freezer
Put it in the fridge the night before using it. You can also defrost it by putting the bag or container in warm water (max. 37 ° C) until the milk has completely liquefied. Do not thaw the milk by leaving it at room temperature.
Once thawed and tempered, use the milk within 2 hours. If you have thawed it in the fridge, don’t leave it there for more than 18-20 hours (and never more than 24 hours) to guarantee its quality. Otherwise, you will need to discard it and thaw another container. NEVER refreeze milk that you have already thawed.
If You Keep The Milk In The Fridge
To heat the milk you can use the homemade method of putting the container in warm water for a few minutes. However, if you are clueless or practical like me, it is much more comfortable to use a bottle warmer, which will ensure that all the content is heated evenly to the ideal temperature for your baby.
Even if you’re in a hurry, never use boiling water or the microwave to defrost or heat milk. Many of the nutrients in milk are highly sensitive and in the way, you would destroy them, they and the milk would lose many of its properties. On the other hand, even worse, you could burn your child.
To ensure a homogeneous temperature and mix the 2 layers if the milk has separated, gently shake the container before feeding your baby. Avoid moving the container with too much force so as not to spoil the most sensitive components of the milk.
Choosing The Right Breast Pump
Within the world of breast pumps, we can basically differentiate between manual and electric.
The choice to buy one or the other type should be made based on the use that you are going to give it and the frequency with which you want to use it.
- If it will be daily, your best option is an electric breast pump.
- If you do not want to spend a lot and you are going to use it sporadically, for example, to go out one afternoon for a drink, possibly with a manual one you will manage perfectly.
If you want to know more about how to choose your breast pump easily and what are the best devices of the moment, I recommend that you take a look at this guide to choosing an electric breast pump and the guide to buying a manual breast pump.
- Is It Normal For Stored Milk To Separate Into Two Layers?
Yes, it’s normal. Your milk contains a large proportion of lipids (fat) and these are hydrophobic, that is, they are not very water-friendly and prefer to separate into their own layer. It is exactly the same thing that happens when you mix water with oil.
But that visual change does not mean that your milk has lost properties or has gone bad.
For the milk to return to its original uniform state, you just have to gently shake the container before feeding your little one, as we have explained above.
- My Child Has Not Finished The Milk, Can I Reuse It For The Next Feeding?
No, if there is milk left over from the feeding, you should discard it if you don’t use it within 1-2 hours.
Keep in mind that, by drinking from the container or bottle, your child is passing bacteria from his mouth to the milk so, to guarantee his safety, this milk can no longer be stored.
- The Milk I Have Stored Has a Strange Smell, Is This Normal?
Sometimes you may notice that your stored milk has a slightly different smell. Don’t worry, it’s normal. If you have religiously followed the extraction and storage guidelines that we have given you, your milk should be in good condition.
However, if the smell is very strong, there is a significant color change or lumps appear in the milk, it is better to get healthy and throw it away.
If you have doubts, it is best to consult with your doctor or lactation consultant.
- How Do I Store My Milk If I Pump Outside The Home?
If you are pumping, for example, at work or at daycare, it is important that you carry an insulated bag or cooler with ice packs inside and that you put the milk away immediately.
To avoid spillage with movement, it is important that you use airtight containers or milk storage bags.
Instead of ice, I like to use those containers with a blue liquid that freeze in the freezer. In this way, you can reuse them many times and they are more comfortable because it will not fill all of water when the ice melts. Of course, never put the blue liquid directly in contact with the milk, as it is toxic.
- Is It Better To Store In Containers or Bags For Breast Milk?
Both options are good and it will depend a little on whether convenience and speed or your pocket and the environment prevail.
In my case, I prefer the containers because I can reuse them as many times as I want (sanitizing them well each time, of course). Above all, I try to use as little single-use plastic as possible to take care of the environment and guarantee that my children will see more than plastics in the sea when they grow up.
If you opt for the containers, these should be plastic if you will use them to store the milk in the freezer. If you are going to keep the milk in the fridge, it can be either plastic or glass.
In either case, make sure they have a tight-fitting lid. And better than they are for food use to ensure that they do not contain possible toxic components such as BPA. It will also give you extra comfort that they have a wide opening since they will be easier to clean.
If you use bags, I advise you to be specific for storing breast milk, to ensure that they close well and that they are strong so that they cannot be punctured easily (there is anything worse than filling your fridge or freezer with milk!).
There are specific bags for some extractors, such as the Philips Avent Comfort. The good thing is that it is easier to transfer the contents of the extractor to the bag but they are somewhat more expensive.