Expressed breast milk is the best food for your baby to have when you’re not there. So how do you store and use your milk safely?

Expressed milk keeps most of its health-giving benefits.  So if you have to miss a feed, it’s far better for your baby than any type of formula. But good hygiene is vital to ensure that stored milk is safe for your baby. Read on to find out how to store breast milk properly.

If you have expressed breast milk, you can store it at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer. It depends on how soon you want to use it. Follow these guidelines:
how to store ( keep ) breast milk

Breast milk is better for your baby than formula. However freshly expressed breast milk is preferable to the refrigerated one. In the same time the refrigerated breast milk is better than the frozen one. That is because freshly expressed milk has the best bacteria-fighting properties. It is higher in antioxidants, vitamins and fat than the milk that has been refrigerated or frozen.

How to use freshly expressed breast milk?

Stored breast milk tends to separate into layers, with the fat (cream) rising to the top. Gently swirl the bottle to mix it before feeding your baby. Strong stirring / shaking the container can damage some of the milk’s nutritional components.

When your baby feeds on expressed breast milk from a cup or bottle, bacteria from his mouth can naturally end up in the milk. For this reason, it’s best to throw away any leftover, partly drunk milk within one to two hours of his initial feed. To avoid wasting expressed milk, it’s always a good idea to store it in small amounts.

How to store breast milk in the refrigerator?

Refrigerate your breast milk as soon as possible after expressing it.

Store your milk in clean containers or storage bags made from BPA free materials. BPA is a chemical that was previously widely used in manufacturing plastic. Its long-term effects are uncertain, therefore not recommended.

Small amounts of expressed milk may be added to the same refrigerated container, provided the milk you want to add is cooled in the fridge beforehand. Don’t add body-temperature milk to already cooled milk.

Store breast milk in the coldest part of the fridge – at the back, on the shelf above the vegetable compartment. Don’t keep it in the fridge door where the temperature is less consistent.

How to store breast milk in the freezer?

Freeze your breast milk as soon as possible after expressing it.

Expressed milk may be added to already frozen breast milk, provided the milk you want to add is cooled in the fridge beforehand. Do not add body-temperature milk to frozen milk.

For easier thawing and minimal wastage, store your milk in small portions (less than 60 ml). These can be combined after defrosting.

Check that your breast milk storage containers can be used in the freezer – some products (such as glass bottles) may crack at very low temperatures. Spectra breast milk storage bags are ideal for storing frozen breast milk as they are freezer proof, ready to be used and easy to label.

Don’t fill bottles or bags more than three-quarters full, as breast milk expands during freezing.

Store frozen breast milk at the back of the freezer where the temperature is most consistent. Keep it away from the walls of self-defrosting freezers.

To be able to track and manage your stored milk, in case you are refrigerating or freezing it, always label the bottles or bags with the amount and the date it was pumped.

In case your baby is in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care ward, check with his hospital care givers about milk storage guidelines. They may have stricter recommendations for cleaning and storage.

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