Breast milk is often referred to as liquid gold. It has all the nutrients your baby needs.
However, pumping breast milk is a timely affair and as a result, you want to use every last drop without spoiling any of it.
Once you’ve engaged in a breast milk pumping session, you will want to store the breast milk in the fridge if you know that you or your partner will soon be feeding your baby.
How long does breast milk last in the fridge? Alternatively, you can freeze it to be used at a later date. But once you put your breast milk in the fridge, you will want to make sure you use it within four days for the best results.
There’s nothing worse than realizing all your hard efforts have gone to waste.
This is why we’ve prepared a guide so you can store your breast milk in the best way possible and always have some available to feed your little one.
Breast milk storage
The easiest way to pump breast milk is by attaching breast milk storage bags or mini bottles to the pump.
Alternatively, you can pump into a bottle and then pour the contents into a storage bag.
Whichever method you choose, make sure the pump and bottle are clean and sterilized. The storage bags should be brand new.
One of the advantages of breast milk storage bags is that they clearly show how many ounces are inside.
This way you can gauge how many bags to thaw or warm and not waste any liquid gold.
You can find many smaller bottles that have screw-top lids on them. This hard plastic or glass bottles are durable which means less risk of tearing. Just make sure the bottles are also freezer-safe.
Breast milk can be stored in the freezer for six months although up to 12 months is acceptable as long as the proper procedures are followed.
First, ensure your breast pump and any accessories used are properly cleaned and sterilized. Use a new, BPA-free breast milk storage bag or bottle.
Not only do bags show how much liquid is inside, but they are also freezer-safe.
Label your breast milk bags or bottles so you know exactly when they were placed in the freezer.
Place your breast milk in a deep freezer or at the back of a kitchen freezer. Similar to the refrigerator, don’t leave the milk on the door of the freezer.
If you plan on freezing a lot of breast milk, it helps to have a smaller container that will fit in the freezer to place all of your milk.
The more organized you can keep your frozen breast milk, the likelier you are to use it in the allotted timeframe and not waste any.
Breast milk can be left at room temperature for four to six hours. However, err on the side of caution when at all possible.
If breast milk sits out too long, the possibility of bacteria growing becomes too high.
If your baby ingests it, there could be terrible consequences, including stomach issues such as diarrhea and vomiting.
Some people may use an insulated cooler if they are traveling or plan to be out all day with their baby.
In this case, pack the cooler with as much ice as possible. Your breast milk will last one day in this manner.
Once you have expressed breast milk, think about if it will be used in the next few days. If so, it can be placed in the fridge.
Place the breast milk in the back of the fridge where it is coolest. Don’t place it on the fridge door as the temperature will fluctuate too much and possibly spoil the milk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that breast milk can be stored in the fridge for four days. However, the sooner you use it, the better.
If you are expressing breast milk daily, make sure the bottles or bags of breast milk in your fridge are rotated so the milk doesn’t sit in your fridge for too long.
- Always label and date your breast milk
- Always use clean equipment
- Always use containers that are BPA-free
- Always use containers that are freezer-safe
- Don’t use breast milk that has been on the counter for too long
- Don’t store breast milk on the fridge door
- Don’t use the breast milk if you suspect it has gone bad in the slightest
Breast milk storage containers
You can use either glass or plastic bottles to store breast milk. There are many brands that market bottles, so find one that works for both you and your baby.
Bottles have the convenience of having liquid measurements on the side. This way you know exactly how many ounces are inside.
Look for bottles that can be attached directly to your breast pump. They will usually be the same brand.
The best bottles will come with screw-top lids as well as nipples so that they can be interchangeable. This means you can take a bottle of breast milk out of the fridge, warm it, and feed your baby, all with the same bottle.
This eliminates the need for extra cleaning or sterilizing and makes life for new parents much easier.
Plastic bags are a convenient way to store breast milk. They are readily available at any baby store and are quite inexpensive to purchase.
Some breast milk bags can be attached right to your breast pump while with others you will need to pour the milk into them from a container.
You can store plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer and be content knowing they are BPA-free.
How do I thaw frozen breast milk?
The best way to thaw frozen breast milk is to place it in the refrigerator overnight. This will allow the milk to thaw gradually at the right temperature.
If you are in a rush, you can place a package of breast milk in a bowl of warm water. Alternatively, you can hold the bag under running warm water.
Never leave breast milk out at room temperature as this will allow bacteria to grow and spoil the milk. Also, don’t microwave breast milk as it can scald the milk and make it inedible.
How to warm your stored breast milk
Some babies are pretty picky about the temperature they consume breast milk and will prefer it to be the exact temperature as if it came straight from the source.
You can warm stored breast milk up by placing a package of breast milk in a bowl of warm water.
Use a thermometer to check that it is at body temperature, which is 99 degrees Fahrenheit or 27 degrees Celsius.
If you are nervous about getting your breast milk to the right temperature, you can always use a bottle warmer.
This machine is easy to use and will allow you to heat the breast milk to just the right temperature.
Before feeding your baby, always test the temperature of the bottle by dabbing a few drops on the inside of your wrist.
This is a sensitive area. If the milk is too hot you will know right away.
Test every time you feed your baby to prevent accidentally burning your baby.
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How do you know if breast milk is bad?
Breast milk will naturally separate after pumping. Water will go to the bottom while fat will float to the top.
If you can gently swirl the milk so that it becomes one consistency, the milk is useable. If it still has chunks in it, the milk has gone bad.
You can also try smelling your breast milk, but remember that all breast milk smells differently, especially depending on what you have eaten.
If your breast milk smells especially different than normal, you might want to err on the side of caution and get rid of it.
Can I freeze breast milk immediately after pumping?
Yes, you can freeze breast milk right after pumping. In fact, if you know you won’t be using that pumped breast milk within the next few days, it’s best to place it right in the freezer so that it remains as fresh as possible.
What happens if baby drinks spoiled breast milk?
If your baby ingests a small amount of spoiled breast milk, there won’t be any major concerns.
However, if your baby has consumed a whole bottle of spoiled breast milk, there may be some serious effects.
Your baby may experience vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. This can last about 12 to 24 hours.
If any symptoms escalate or continue after 24 hours, call your pediatrician immediately.
What can you do with spoiled breast milk?
Even though you can’t ingest spoiled breast milk, you can still use it in a number of helpful ways.
Breast milk has a soothing effect and even spoiled milk can be used on the skin, especially for diaper rash.
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You want to use every last drop of the liquid gold that is breast milk. To do so, store it properly and use it within the recommended guidelines.