BREASTMILK STORAGE: DOS AND DON’TS
If you have questions plaguing your mind about the storage of your breastmilk, pumping and the ideal time to safely store your supply, Dr Yogesh Kumar Gupta, consultant, Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Fortis Hospitals, Bengaluru, puts your worr
Safely store your pumped milk
Everyone is well aware of the importance of breastfeeding babies, for as long as possible. In an ideal situation, it is recommended to exclusively breastfeed a baby for the first six months of his life. But what happens when a mother has to resume work after her six-month maternity leave comes to a close? If she still wants to breastfeed, she’s going to require to pump and store her milk. And that’s where the questions begin. The storage of one’s breast milk can be confusing. But the thing to remember is once you start pumping, it’s important to know how to safely store your expressed milk. Consider these do’s and don’ts for the optimal way to store your breastmilk for longer.
HOW AND WHERE CAN I STORE THE EXPRESSED BREASTMILK?
It is recommended that you choose a Bisphenol A-free (BPA) container. Make sure the container is clean and has a capped glass with hard plastic. Before expressing milk, make sure that your hands are clean; always wash your hands with antibacterial soap. Alternatively, you can use stainless steel containers that are easily available, but more importantly, can be easily steralised just by boiling. Apart from normal containers, there are plastic bags available in the market, specifically designed for the collection and storage of breastmilk. However, extra care should be taken while using storage bags, as they might tear, leak or become contaminated. If using storage bags, placing them in hard plastic food storage containers can help keep them safe. Never store breastmilk in any disposable bottles or plastic bags. When you have selected an appropriate container, make sure you label it when the date. This way, you an thaw and use up the older expressed milk. Remember, take the container out
of the freezer 30 minutes prior to feeding the baby. If you notice that the milk hasn’t properly thawed, place it in a container with warm water, to bring the milk down to room temperature before use. Remember, never boil the milk as it will lose its proteins and immunoglobulins, specific antibodies that fight infections.
HOW DO I KNOW IF THAWED MILK IS OKAY TO FEED MY BABY?
The colour of your expressed milk depends on your diet, so it varies from woman to woman. It is not the prerequisite to decide if the milk has been thawed. However, the thawed milk might have a different or odd odour. Moreover, if the milk and water in the stored expressed milk separates, do not mistake it as effectively thawed. You will be required to stir it with a sterilised spoon before you feed your child.
WHERE CAN I KEEP THE EXPRESSED BREASTMILK CONTAINER?
Apart from using proper container, there are other things to be taken care of. After expressing the milk, you must store the container in freezer or in the back of the refrigerator. You can make use of waterproof labels and ink to label the containers with the date you have expressed the breastmilk. This can help your family members in identifying the suitable container when you are away from home. However, if you do not have the access to refrigerator, you can store the container in a room with AC or a cooler. One point to be noted is that, never fill the containers to the brim as the breastmilk expands when it freezes, the container might overflow when stored.
WHAT IS THE LIFE SPAN OF THE STORED BREASTMILK?
The potency of expressed breastmilk generally depends on how safely you are expressing and storing the milk. The container also plays a role in it. At room temperature: Freshly-expressed breastmilk can be
kept at room temperature for up to six hours. However, use or proper storage within four hours is optimal. If the room is especially warm, the limit is also four hours.
Insulated cooler: Freshly-expressed breastmilk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs, for up to one day.
Refrigerator: Freshly-expressed breastmilk can be stored in the back of a refrigerator for up to five days in clean conditions. However, the use of freezer-stored milk is best within three days of storage. Deep freezer: Freshly-expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of a deep freezer for up to 12 months. However, using the frozen milk within six months is ideal. Can I mix freshly-expressed milk to the stored milk? Will it spoil? Yes, you can add the freshly expressed breastmilk to the already stored milk. However, when doing so, avoid adding warm expressed milk to the already stored cool milk. In order to effectively mix the fresh and stored milk, you first need to cool the fresh milk before adding it to the stored milk. Adding freshly expressed milk to the chilled milk can spoil the mixture. Research suggests that the longer you store breastmilk—whether in the refrigerator or in the freezer—the greater the loss of vitamin C. It’s also important to note that breastmilk expressed when a baby is a newborn won’t as completely meet the same baby’s needs when he is a few months older. Also, storage guidelines might differ for preterm, sick or hospitalised infants.