How to Safely Store Breast Milk for Babies?
Created by Parentune Support Updated on Feb 21, 2019
Every mom today knows the importance of exclusively breastfeeding her baby in the first 6 months. For moms who are not able to breastfeed her baby directly (due to demands of work, sore nipples or other reasons), expressing breast milk, using a comfortable breast pump is a practical solution. But care is needed to express and store the breast milk safely. Here are a few simple do's and don'ts that you should keep in mind -
Breast-milk Storage Guidelines for Newborn Baby
Do's to Store Breast Milk Safely
Always Maintain Hygiene:
Before you start expressing milk, wash and clean your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Also, you may have to wash and wipe clean your breast nipples as well. Always sterilize breast pump parts and everything which the milk will touch, including the storage container, beforehand itself. Actually, boiling doesn’t always kill all bacteria, so use a steam sterilizer instead.
Boiling doesn't kill the bacteria spores which have a hard shell. But steam sterilization is able to break the shell and kills all bacteria. This ensures your little one is safe from diseases such as milk thrush (a common but painful fungal infection of the mouth, mostly attributed to un-sterilized milk drinking equipment), gastroenteritis, and some other bacterial and fungal infections.
The more you breastfeed your baby or express milk to feed, the more the hormones in the mother’s body are stimulated to produce milk. This ensures that the demand and supply balance of mother’s milk is maintained. Manual pumps are fine if you plan to express 1-2 times a day, but we suggest an electric pump for a more comfortable experience. A good electric pump should be comfortable, with fewer parts to clean, at least a 2-year warranty, a let-down mode to help start milk flow and should be a closed system. Closed system pumps have a sealing valve between the motor tube and the milk collection unit to stop any milk flow into the tube for better hygiene. An example of a high-quality breast pump which ticks all the boxes is the Philips Avent Comfort Electric Breast Pump. [Liver-chat excerpt: Foods That Foster Breast-milk Supply]
Use Hygienic Containers:
When storing breast milk ensure that the container used is properly sterilized, capped and BPA free. Also, if you have older children in the house or domestic help, instruct them too on the correct way of handling a container that has expressed breast milk kept in it.
Store Breast-milk Properly: Once breast milk is expressed, in case the baby is not consuming it right away, it needs to be stored properly. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- Minimum Handling: It is suggested that the mother stores breast milk in the container in which it is expressed (mostly a bottle provided by the manufacturer). This reduces the chances of contamination from transferring the milk from one container to another.
- Keep Breast-milk Refrigerated: In an ideal situation where there are no power-cuts or fluctuations in wattage, expressed milk can be stored up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. It is best to place the containers in the back of the refrigerator or freezer, where the temperature is the coolest. In case you do not have access to a refrigerator or freezer, store the milk temporarily in an insulated cooler or ice box. If you are in a locality with frequent power failures, then the temperature in the refrigerator also fluctuates as much. Therefore ideally, expressed milk should not be stored beyond 6 hours. But in case you feel the need to store it for longer, ensure that your refrigerator is on a power back-up and is connected to a stabilizer. [Also Read: Build your child’s immunity]
- Re-heating: Breast milk is full of antibodies and nutrients for the baby and some of it can get destroyed while heating or defrosting the milk on the stove or in the microwave. Therefore, to warm it either use a bottle warmer or stand the container containing breast milk in a bowl of hot water and gently rotate it. Let it come to room temperature and then can be given to the baby.
- Label the Containers: If you have expressed milk more than what will be consumed by the baby in one feed, store it in separate bottles/containers, and also put the date and time of expression, so that you know till when the milk is usable. Additionally, it can be marked as per the baby’s feeding time for eg: 4:00, 6:00. This will help you or any other caretaker, to give the baby milk on time. Also, follow the rule of first expressed-first fed to ensure no confusions.
Don’ts to Store Breast Milk Safely
Never Re-use Breastmilk:Breast milk can only be defrosted once. Never try to refreeze or store breast milk once it has been defrosted. Remember breast milk is the most natural form of milk that has not gone through any pasteurization or other processes to increase the shelf life. Throw the remaining milk and wash and sterilize the container right away.
Responsible Handling: Do not let too many members of the family pitch in with the process of sterilization, warming the milk, or giving it to the baby. In case of your absence, delegate the chore to one responsible adult who you have taken through the entire process previously.
Avoid Sharing Breast Pump Equipment: If you are one of the lucky families, blessed with two or more babies at the same time (for eg: a joint family set-up) or have an older relative who insists passing on her breast pump to you, decline the offer politely and insist on buying a new set for yourself. Recycled breast pumps may have gone through wear and tear that can prove to be not-so-healthy for your little one.
Storing Instructions: Containers or bags should not be filled to the brim. Leave at least one inch of space to avoid spilling.
No Disposable Containers: Experts advice against using disposable bottle liners as they can’t be sterilized hence can prove difficult to maintain the high-level hygiene required.
Don't Leave Expressed Milk on the Countertop/without Refrigeration: In case you do not have a fridge or freezer available, e.g. in your office, use a freezer box to store expressed milk. Freezer boxes are easily available in kitchen utility stores. Given the high temperatures, heat, and humidity conditions of our country, it is suggested that expressed milk if not meant to be consumed, should be stored right away in the refrigerator. Leaving it out exposes it to the onset of degradation.
| May 17, 2016
Hi Dileep, Since the breast milk is the purest form of milk available for your child, the breast milk if not stored and refrigerated properly can get spoilt. Hence it is imperative to understand that if you need to travel at a stipulated time in your case where you have to catch the train by 1 pm then at least one hour before you would like to feed the baby. So the milk should be expressed maximum by 12 and the baby should have had that milk immediately.