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What is the Proper Way to Store Breast Milk?

Article Details
  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 24 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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If a mother decides to pump and store breast milk, there are guidelines that should be followed. For example, it is important to know how long it is safe to store the breast milk. In addition, some people prefer to store breast milk in plastic containers or liner bags, while others store it in glass containers. Also, there are techniques and guidelines for thawing frozen breast milk. It should be noted that babies who are critically ill may require different breast milk storage techniques.

After a mother expresses her breast milk from her breast, if it is not used immediately by the baby, she may need to store it. Interestingly, breast milk can be stored at room temperature, refrigerated, or frozen solid. Each method of storage requires the milk to be handled differently.

Room temperature breast milk can be stored for six to ten hours. If it is stored in the refrigerator, it is usually good for several days. If a mother chooses to store breast milk inside the freezer portion that is actually located inside the refrigerator, it is usually safe for two weeks. In the alternative, if the freezer portion of the refrigerator has a separate door, it should be safe to use for three to six months. In addition, people who own a deep freeze kind of freezer typically may use the milk for six months to a year.

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Once the breast milk is thawed, it is normally safe for only one day inside the refrigerator. If milk is going to be kept inside the refrigerator, it should be stored toward the rear, where the temperatures are consistently the coolest. The antibodies in breast milk do wonders to fight the build-up of bacteria, but when it is frozen, thawed, and warmed up, it looses much of its anti-bacterial properties.

One way to freeze and store breast milk is in a plastic container or liner bag. The container should not be filled to the top because the milk will expand as it freezes. In addition, the date should be marked on the container or bag. Liner bags may benefit from a double-bagging to prevent leaks, as well. The downside to using plastic containers or bags is that some people worry that the plastic may release chemicals into the breast milk that may harm the baby.

Many mothers store breast milk in glass containers. Again, the glass containers should only be filled partially because the milk will expand upon freezing and the expansion may cause the glass to crack. Although glass will not leach chemicals into the milk, the containers must be carefully cleaned because some reports indicate that bacteria readily stick to the sides of the glass container walls, causing illnesses in babies.

If the breast milk is going to be frozen, many people may wonder how to thaw it. One technique is to let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Another technique is to place the frozen milk container in a pot of warm water, changing the water in the pot as it begins to cool off. A third technique is simply to run the container of frozen milk under a warm stream of water from the faucet. It should be noted that once the milk is thawed, it should not be refrozen.

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