Top Tips for Efficient Breast Milk Storage
Parents have many reasons to build up a milk reserve. Maybe you’re headed back to work or want to give your partner the opportunity to help out with feedings… or maybe you just need an evening out! No matter your motive, stashing away milk is always a good idea. Here are some tips for safe, effective breast milk storage.
How much breast milk should I store before going back to work?
This one requires some simple math. To get a rough estimate of how much milk to store, start by figuring out how many feedings you’ll likely miss in a day. For example, if you’ll be gone from 8:30am to 5:30pm and your baby usually eats four times during that window, you’ll miss four feedings. Take that number and multiply it by three to four ounces (the average amount babies between one and six months old eat at a time). So in this instance, you’ll need 12-16 ounces stored per day. If you want your baby to have access to five days’ worth of milk while you’re away, you’ll need to store between 60 and 80 ounces.
How to store breast milk
According to the CDC, you should always use breast milk storage bags or clean, glass or plastic food-grade containers with snug-fitting lids to store expressed breast milk. Be sure to avoid bottles that contain BPA. Never store breast milk in plastic bags or disposable bottle liners that aren’t intended for storing breast milk. Before you pop your milk in the fridge or freezer, clearly label its container with the date it was expressed so you can use the oldest batch first. And don’t stash it in the refrigerator or freezer door: doing so would expose your breast milk to temperature changes that could impact its quality. Finally, if you’re freezing your milk, leave at least an inch of space at the top of each container (breast milk expands when frozen) and freeze it in two to four ounce portions — or your baby’s typical feeding size — so that you don’t waste the milk your baby doesn’t consume.
Breast milk storage schedule
The CDC breast milk storage guide recommends storing your breast milk at room temperature (77°F or colder) for no longer than four hours, in the refrigerator for no longer than four days, or in the freezer for six months to a year (breast milk starts to decline in quality after six months). And if you’re traveling, breast milk can be kept in an insulated cooler bag with frozen ice packs to preserve freshness for up to 24 hours. Once you arrive at your destination, use your breast milk right away or move it to the fridge or freezer.
With some preparation and know-how, you can build up a milk reserve for your baby. And if you need help with pumping — or anything else — Lactation Network can connect you to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who will give you the confidence and tools you need.