Storing and Using Pumped Breast Milk
Breast milk is one of the most nutrient rich items your infant can consume. This "liquid gold" is full of antibodies and has proven to have great long term benefits for your little one. It's important to ensure that you breast feed your newborn as much as possible; even if you think you're not producing enough milk. It's also important to remember that the more your infant breastfeeds or the more often you pump in between feedings, the more milk your body will produce. Although breast feeding can sometimes be frustrating, it is one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences of motherhood.
If you are a working mother, just want to increase your milk production, or whatever your reason may be, you may benefit from using a breast pump. Breast pumps are usually available to rent or purchase, are not too expensive and quite easy to maneuver. And now that you are producing more milk than your little one can take in, it's time to store that liquid gold for future consumption.
Always wash your hands before handling any breast milk. Pumped milk should be stored in a glass bottle, BPA-free plastic bottle or in breast-milk storage bags.
Personally, I liked to use the storage bags, although I did learn from experience that every once in a while, you may come across a faulty bag that has a hole and you end up losing a good amount of that precious milk that you diligently pumped. And so it may be a good idea to store those bags in another container just so you don't end up with a refrigerator full of breast milk. Always remember to date (and time, if you so wish) each bag with a Sharpie.
• Breast milk stored at room temperature is good for 4 to 6 hours. Try to keep the milk as cool as possible.
• Breast milk stored in an insulated cooler bag is good for 24 hours. Keep the milk in constant contact with the cooler.
• Breast milk stored in the refrigerator is good for 3 to 8 days. It is normal for breast milk to separate, so gently swirl the milk before each use.
• Breast milk stored in a freezer separate from the fridge is good for 3 to 6 months.
• Breast milk store in a deep freezer is good for 6 to 12 months.
Always use the earliest dated milk first and avoid mixing milks from different pumping sessions.
Thawing the milk is just as important. Milk from the fridge should be warmed by holding it under warm running water or placing it in a container of warm water. NEVER microwave the milk or heat it directly on the stove. Some babies are okay with drinking the milk directly from the fridge, so that's also an option. Milk from the freezer should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight and then warmed as mentioned above. Do not refreeze milk that has been thawed.
Again, breast feeding is so beneficial to your little one that even just a few weeks of breast feeding can have enormous positive effects. There is a wealth of information available regarding breast milk handling and storage. Ask your healthcare provider if you have any concerns. References for this blog include La Leche League International (LLLI) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Remember, if you are unsure about guidelines regarding storage of expressed breast milk, it's always better to err on the side of caution than be sorry.
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Take Care and happy pregnancy!
- Anita Koppuzhayil