How To Properly Store Breast Milk

By in Food & Nutrition on 05 November 2008

Gone are the days when you would have to be with your baby round the clock in order to breastfeed. Breastfeeding has become very convenient nowadays because of the emergence of breast pumps. It allows a mother to give her baby the benefits of a mother’s milk even if she has to work or go somewhere else.

A breast pump is a device designed to help you express milk to make breast milk readily available anytime for your baby. There are numerous models to choose from in order to suit the needs of a modern working woman. You can choose from manual pumps to battery, or electric powered ones. Women have different preferences, but whatever you choose is fine, for as long as it works in expressing your milk.

Although it takes only 15 to 20 minutes to pump milk, time should also be allocated in properly storing it so that all the important nutrients will not be lost. In order to maintain its freshness, breast milk should be refrigerated right away after pumping. If you can not do so, it is important to know as to how long it can last in the environment that you are in. In a cool environment of below 60 º F, breast milk can last up to 24 hours without refrigeration. If the temperature rises between 66 º and 72 º F, it can only stay fresh for 10 hours. However, if temperatures go higher than 79 º F, your milk may only last for 4 to 6 hours. Ice packs are necessary at high temperatures in order to keep the milk fresh.

The quality of breast milk is best when it is fresh. It is recommended that mothers use only stored milk as a back-up option. If breast milk is frozen, it can lose to about 40% of its immune factors necessary to fight off diseases. A good amount to store in the refrigerator is a day’s supply. If this is not possible, frozen milk still has more benefits as compared to commercial formula. Frozen milk can last to several months depending on where it is stored. If it is stored in the freezer door, it can only last to two weeks. However if it is stored in a different compartment inside the freezer with a temperature of zero degrees, your milk can be kept from 3 to 6 months.

The proper way to thaw breast milk is by allowing it to stand in the refrigerator, or by placing it on a bowl of warm water. Microwave ovens should never be used to defrost milk because it can destroy some of its nutrients, and it may only put your baby at risk for scalds. Breast milk is also best stored in containers with tight fitting lids, nursery plastic bags or commercially available milk storage containers. Ordinary plastic bags and formula bags should never be used. It is also wise to store only an enough amount of milk in one container in order to prevent wastage. Two to four ounces is ideal because it may be enough for one feeding. You can adjust the amount as your baby will need more milk after each month. Any remainder milk from a feeding should be discarded and never mixed with fresh ones or saved for a later feeding.

Many commercial formulas can be found in the market, yet not one of them has ever matched the amount of nutrients that breast milk has. It may take more effort for a mother to continually breastfeed her baby, but it is definitely worth it because its health benefits can potentially be life saving.

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