breast milk storage and freezing guidelines

I would definitely recommend keeping a reserve of breast milk on hand even if you do not plan to return to work or you plan to solely breastfeed your baby. Life is full of twists and turns and you want to be sure you can breastfeed your baby. If your plan is to simply switch over to formula it is best to transition while using some bottles of breast milk, as well. Here the guidelines you need to know for proper breast milk and formula labeling and storage.

How to Label Breast Milk or Formula

When storing the breast milk or pre-made formula you will want to make sure it is clearly labeled with the date (possibly time) and whether it is breast milk or formula. Be sure to write the date and time on the storage bags/bottles. Breast milk is richest in fat in the morning (after a good night’s sleep), so you may want to save the morning pumped milk to give to the baby before bed to help the baby sleep longer (Hogg 117).

Labeling enables the older breast milk or formula to be used first. When freezing breast milk in storage bags, label date and amount.

Pumping and Storing Breast Milk

Here are a few helpful guidelines:

  • Be sure to wash your hands before pumping.
  • Containers must be properly sanitized.
  • Transfer breast milk to especially designed storage bags.
  • Store milk in 1- 2 oz. amount at first. Over time this amount will increase.
  • Leave an inch at top of bag to allow for expansion.
  • Mark each bag with date and amount. Mark them a.m. or p.m.

Preparing and Storing Formula for Bottle Feeding

In the refrigerator, formula that has been prepared from powder can last up to 24 hours. Ready-to-use formula or concentrated liquid formula can last in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Label the formula with time and date to ensure its quality.

Cleaning the equipment

  • Wash hands thoroughly with warm water and dry with paper towel.
  • Clean the bottle nipples with clean bottle brushes.
  • Rinse the equipment in safe, clean water.

Sterilizing the equipment

  • Place the recently cleaned equipment in to a pot of water.
  • Be sure to cover all equipment.
  • Put a lid on the pan and bring to a rolling water. Remove pot from burner.
  • Air dry completely or dry with clean paper towels.
  • Store bottles covered, with nipples attached.

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Should You Use Fresh or Frozen Breast Milk?

If you have frozen breast milk and you need to give your baby a bottle should you use the fresh milk you pumped that day or use your frozen milk? According to LLLI, “refrigerated milk has more anti-infective properties than frozen milk.” Based on that, ideally, you would want to always use the current refrigerated milk but since your body produces milk differently for a 3 month old baby versus a 6 month old baby eventually you’ll want to use the older breast milk as well.

Breast milk may separate into layers, a milk layer and a cream layer when it is stored. As discussed in the “About Breastfeeding” article, there are three different types of breast milk, quencher, foremilk, and hind milk. Simply swirl the milk to re-combine it. According to LLLI, “thawed milk may smell or taste soapy” because of the breakdown of milk fats. “The milk is safe and most babies will still drink it.”

Warming the milk/formula

Bottles made with formula or breast milk that are refrigerated may be warmed in a bottle warmer. You can also warm the milk by running it under warm water. Never heat the milk directly on the stove. You are not to use a microwave as it “may cause the loss of some of the beneficial properties of the milk” and it “may leave hot spots in the container of milk [or formula]” (LLLI). You do not want to boil the milk.

If the breast milk is frozen, first “thaw in the refrigerator overnight or under cool running water. Gradually increase the temperature of the water to heat the milk to feeding temperature” (LLLI).

Works Cited
Eiger, Marvin S. M.D. and Sally Wendkos Olds. The Complete Book of Breastfeeding. New York:
Workman, 1999.

Hogg, Tracy and Melinda Blau. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby. New York: Ballantine, 2001.

La Leche League International (LLLI). What are the LLLI guidelines for storing my pumped milk?

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