How to Properly Handle and Store Breastmilk
As a stay-at-home mom, I am lucky that I don’t have to worry too much about breastmilk storage. Although I did obsess over building a huge stash of frozen breastmilk in the freezer for emergency purposes, I did not have to be concerned about proper breastmilk handling and storage on a daily basis. And honestly, Zoe did not give me a choice anyway – she refused to accept milk from any other source except straight from the tap. Therefore, I am excited to have our friends at Breastfeedo.com educate us about proper breastmilk handling and storage. After reading the guest post, I must applaud all pumping moms out there – YOU RULE!
According to The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee, the next instructions are limited to the full term babies at home. The preterm babies have another protocol regarding breastmilk storage.
1-Wash your hands with soap and water or hand cleanser with 70% alcohol.
Bacteria can easily transmit from your hands to the breastmilk while pumping process which may affect:
- The protein content
- Level of bacterial growth
2- No need to sterilize breastmilk storage containers before pumping. Just clean with soap and water or by boiling water within the glass container.
And remember that sterilization is needed in the case of preterm babies “intensive care unit” where their immune system is affected.
Besides, boiling the water or using a soap with hot water is a kind of sterilization which is enough for full-term healthy baby according to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol “This protocol is used in storing breastmilk in Milk banks”
Also, there is no need to wash your breast and nipple.
3- There are 3 types of containers:
- Plastic bags “ One use”
- Glass or plastic bottles
- Ice tray
Ordinary plastic bags are not suitable for the storing process because:
- It is not tightly sealed
- it cracks under the low temperature
- It is not pre-sterilized
BREASTMILK STORAGE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
If you are planning to consume the milk within hours, follow the next recommendations:
- Breastmilk can stand up to 3-4 hours at room temperature 90 F = 32 C “Hot weather”
- 6 to 8 hours at room temperature = 79 F = 26 C
You may buy a room thermometer to accurately detect the temperature.
BREASTMILK STORAGE ON THE GO (OUTDOOR)
Using an ice pack cooler “there are some designed for breast milk”, you have 24 hours at the temp. 59 F = 15 C
In that case, avoid the recurrent opening of the cooler to maintain the low temperature as much as you can. Plus, keep the gel packs attached to the milk containers for the same purpose.
BREASTMILK STORAGE FOR DAYS
In the refrigerator, 4-8 Days at 40 F = 4 C
- The majority of breastfed babies accept the refrigerated milk without warming. If not, warm under tap water or use a bottle warmer.
- Regarding breastmilk storage, it is better to refrigerate than to freeze regarding the component integrity.
For weeks and months
Freeze breastmilk at 0 F = -20 C for 3 months
Or 6-12 months at -4 F = -20 C
All vital components of breastmilk could withstand safely for 3 months freezing like:
- protein, fat
- enzymes, sugars
- Immune factors
- Breastmilk storage containers should be stored deeply in the freezer
- Good sealing is a must to keep the milk away from contamination.
Actionable tips to ease the process
The smaller the size, the lesser the time needed to thaw the milk. Store breastmilk in small quantities would help you to:
- Avoid the waste
- Quickly dissolve the frozen milk
So, apply one of the next tips:
- Store 2 to 4 oz per bag
- Pour the milk into ice tray to get 0.5 to 1 oz portion size “very fast thawing”
The breastmilk tends to have blue or yellow color depending on the percentage of fat content to the other component, where:
- The fat content is responsible for the yellowish color
- The watery/sugary content is responsible for the blueish one.
That color change is not related to the quality of your milk and it is completely acceptable for your breastfed baby.
Foremilk is the breastmilk which is rich in lactose
Hindmilk is the breastmilk which is rich in fats
Foremilk is obtained at the beginning of baby suction while the hindmilk comes after and both have different colors.
Breastmilk consists of 88% water and 3-5% fats. After thawing the frozen milk, you may see:
- Flakes and particles
- Milk has separated into 2 layers
Note that breastmilk is not homogenous like cow milk, and both of the previous changes are normal. All that you need to do is to swirl to remix this amazing mixture again.
Strong shaking is not recommended where it may destroy some important component of breastmilk.
The thawed milk may taste sour or rancid which is ok. This change is due to the enzyme found in the milk called Lipase. This enzyme is responsible for digestion of the fatty content of breastmilk for premature babies.
Naturally, lipase activity is enhanced by freezing and it starts to act on breastmilk fat content which is the main cause of that rancid smell.
Fortunately, most of the breastfed babies accept that taste.
If not, try to scald the milk before freezing to break the lipase enzyme.
But wait a minute, scalding the breastmilk may destroy some important heat sensitive ingredients, Right?
If your baby refuses the thawed breastmilk due to lipase hyperactivity, formula feeding would be the option.
So, it is a risk/benefit ratio which means:
Even if some breastmilk ingredients were lost due to scalding, the breastmilk quality still much superior if compared with the best formula brand in the world.
You can check how Rebekah scalded all of her breastmilk before baby use.
Do you have any questions when it comes to breastmilk storage? Any tips we didn’t cover?