Storing Breast Milk: Safely and Waste-Free
Your breast milk contains essential enzymes, hormones and antibodies. These are vital for your baby’s normal growth, development and good health. Storing it safely makes sure those immune properties also help protect the milk from bacteria growth while it is being stored.
Written by our Expert Midwives, we wish to help advise all you superstar mums on how to minimise waste when storing expressed breast milk:
Our top tips on how to safely store breastmilk to reduce waste:
• To minimise waste, store expressed breast milk in small amounts.
This way, if your baby only takes a small amount, there won’t be as much waste. Storing in smaller amounts also means quicker defrosting time if your baby wants more.
• Use a clean container.
Any container will do as long as it has an airtight seal and can be sterilised and labeled easily. You may also choose to use disposable single-use breast milk storage bags.
• Breast milk storage bags.
These are very handy for storing small amounts of milk. You may need to double bag to protect the bag from ripping and to prevent freezer burn. You can also place the bags inside a container in your freezer to protect them.
Plastic bags take up less room in the freezer and are single-use items, so there is no washing involved. However, filling them and pouring milk out of them can be awkward.
You don’t need to sterilise milk storage bags before use.
• Hard containers.
Hard containers are made of plastic or glass. You lose fewer milk fats and antibacterial cells when you use a hard plastic or glass container. The drawback for this is that they can take up a lot of space in your freezer.
NOTE: Wash, rinse and sterilise all containers before using them for milk storage. Using a non-chemical sterilising method is best. This could include a steam steriliser or microwave steriliser.
• Safely storing breast milk
Always leave about an inch of space at the top of the container to allow for expansion. Just like water for ice cubes, human milk expands when you freeze it. Hard containers can pop open as the milk expands and bags can break.
Follow these steps to safely store your breast milk:
Step 1: Squeeze out the air at the top of the bag and fasten it an inch above the milk.
Step 2: Lay the bags down in a container in the freezer because flatter packages will thaw more quickly.
Step 3: Make sure they’re sealed well so that they don’t leak.
Step 4: Label each container with the date.
Step 5: Use the oldest milk first.
Step 6: Keep all your hard containers of milk together inside a larger plastic box.
Step 7: A large lunch box is ideal for storing the oldest milk at the front.
Step 8: How long to store breast milk
You can keep stored milk:
• Sealed outside of the fridge for up to 4 hours in temperatures less than 20 degrees
• In a fridge for up to 5 days – place it on a shelf and not inside the door
• In a fridge freezer for 3 months
• In a deep freezer for up to 6 months
• Previously frozen milk
• Previously frozen breast milk can be kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours after thawing. (This means that you can thaw the milk for all your baby’s feeds overnight in the refrigerator if you wish. This can make it faster to prepare when your baby is hungry.)