Breast milk isn’t called liquid gold for nothing, and perfectly safe breast milk can go to waste if new parents aren’t confident in their breast milk storage. Moms do a lot of work to make sure their breast milk is perfect for their little one, so don’t let an ounce go to waste due to fear of improper storage. Grab those breast pumps and breast milk storage bags because the Pumps for Mom team is about to break down everything new parents need to know to become a breast milk storage master.
Check That Seal
Expressed breast milk is only as good as its seal when it goes into storage. Just like other perishable foods, exposure to oxygen and dangerous temperatures can cause breast milk to lose nutrients and become unsafe for babies to consume. That’s why one of the most essential elements of safe breast milk storage is using the right containers to make an airtight seal. Whether you prefer breast milk storage bags or want to use food-grade storage containers with tight lids that you already have in your house, the better the airtight seal, the safer your breast milk should be.
Many breast milk storage bags and containers are made of plastic, but parents should double-check the plastic used in their storage materials to make sure it is BPA free. BPA found in plastic containers can be transferred into breast milk and can impact the health of infants if consumed in large enough quantities. Although BPA is becoming more uncommon in plastic goods today, be aware of the materials used in plastic that comes in contact with breast milk, including bottles, storage bags, and breast pump tubing. Be sure it doesn’t have the recycle symbol with the number seven, as this symbol means the container may be made with BPA-containing plastic.
Grab a Sharpie
A permanent marker is about to become your new best friend in your effort to master breast milk storage. A powerful breast pump and an airtight seal in a BPA-free storage container mean nothing for your breast milk if you can’t keep track of when you expressed it. According to the CDC, breast milk can be stored in a refrigerator for up to four days and in a freezer for up to six months. But as the days run together and every breast milk storage bag starts to look the same, a clear date on the storage container can help parents keep track of when breast milk was expressed. If you don’t think you can use your expressed and refrigerated breast milk within four days, freezing breast milk is an easy, safe, and longer-lasting option.
Thaw with Care
If your freezer is packed with breast milk and your little one is powering through your stock of refrigerated breast milk, there are some additional tips to keep in mind so you can safely thaw your breast milk. Just like in the fridge, you should use your frozen breast milk based on “first in, first out.” Breast milk can degrade over time, so it is better to use the breast milk that has been in the freezer the longest, as long as it was expressed within the past six months, rather than using the breast milk that was most recently added in the freezer.
Many parents wonder how to thaw frozen breast milk, and unfortunately, the simplest answer is not the right answer. Although it may seem easy to toss frozen breast milk in the microwave to thaw it, a microwave can cause hot spots that can burn a baby’s mouth and destroy essential nutrients found in breast milk. To thaw breast milk safely, it is best to either let it thaw in the fridge overnight, set it in a container of warm or lukewarm water, or run it under lukewarm water. Breast milk should be used within two hours of bringing it to room temperature or warming.
When It’s Time to Feed
After you have thawed frozen breast milk or have grabbed recently expressed breast milk out of the refrigerator, you do not have to warm it. Similar to formula, there is no health reason to warm breast milk unless your little one shows a preference because breast milk can safely be given to infants cold, room temperature, or warm. You may want to swirl the breast milk around after it has thawed because the fat can separate during its time in the freezer or fridge. Discard the thawed breast milk after two hours if your little one can’t finish their bottle.
Don’t let an ounce of your breast milk go to waste. By following these breast milk storage tips, you can keep your expressed breast milk safe and nutritious for your little one. Breast pumping is not easy and neither is breast milk storage, but you’ve got this, mama!
Whether your freezer has already been overtaken by breast milk storage bags or you are still preparing for your little one on the way, it’s never a bad time to get your breast pump through insurance. Pumps for Mom offers top-of-the-line breast pumps through insurance, and our simple qualification form makes it easy for moms to see which breast pumps are completely covered by their insurance and which pumps may require some payment out of pocket. Motherhood and breastfeeding are tough enough–let Pumps for Mom take care of your insurance covered breast pump.