If you are going back to work, or going to be away from bay for another reason, the best advice is to plan ahead and start building up your own bank of milk by expressing once or twice a day and storing breast milk in the freezer.
In order to do this, we recommend expressing in line with your baby’s feeding pattern. First thing in the morning is often a particularly productive time.
How to Store Breast Milk
In order to determine how best to store breast milk, there are several factors to consider, the most important being when you intend to use the stored breast milk. Nevertheless, there are a couple of truths that should be considered no matter what.
- Always use a clean, sterilised container. Baby bottles work well, but you may also want to consider the Milk Storage Pots.
- Always label the container with the date and time of expression so you can use the oldest milk first.
As mentioned, those wanting to use expressed milk straight away will have different storage concerns to those wanting to use milk further down the line. Thankfully, breast milk is suitable for refrigeration and freezing. While advice varies on how to store your breast milk, as a general guideline, follow ‘The Rule of 6’s’.
- Ambient Room Temperature – 6 hours
- Fridge (0 – 4C) – 6 days
- Freezer (-18C or lower) – 6 months
If you express more than once a day, you can combine amounts in the same pot. You will notice that stored milk separates out into layers. Shake to remix thoroughly before feeding. When freezing milk, allow space at the top of the bottle for expansion. It is easiest to freeze milk in individual feed quantities of 60-125ml (2-4ozs).
Defrosting Frozen Breast Milk
To thaw frozen milk, place it in the fridge or leave at room temperature. It can also be defrosted by standing in lukewarm water. Do NOT microwave it! Even though you may be tempted or in a hurry, microwaving your breast milk can cause ‘hot spots’ and burn your baby’s mouth. It also destroys the protective properties found in breastmilk.
You should also consider the following timings for defrosted breast milk:
- If milk has been defrosted in the refrigerator but not warmed, it can be stored in the fridge (but not re-frozen) for 24 hours.
- If milk has been thawed outside the fridge, it can be kept in the fridge (but not re-frozen) for 4 hours.
- If you want to take expressed milk with you when you are out, make sure it stays cold or frozen until needed.
- Any milk leftover after a feed should be thrown away.
For more information, you may want to consider reading our advice on how to heat breast milk.