It is a common fact that breast milk is the most healthy food source for babies. It is full of nutrients that cannot be provided by any of the baby formulas. Apart from providing the baby with nutrients, breast milk has disease-fighting properties too. It is said to prevent health problems like allergies and is also claimed to boost intelligence in babies. Breastfeeding is beneficial for mothers too. Apart from reducing the risk of breast cancer, breastfeeding is also found to promote uterus contraction and to prevent obesity in later part of the life. If it is not possible for you to stay with the baby and feed him/her at regular intervals, you may express breast milk that can be stored in the refrigerator. If you are a working mother, this will be an ideal option for you. But, the frozen breast milk must be thawed properly, before feeding the baby.
Storage of Expressed Breast Milk
Expressed breast milk is always superior to baby formula. So, if you are a working mother, who is unable to breast feed the baby at regular intervals, you may express and store it. It may also happen that some babies simply refrain from suckling the breast and in this case too, you can feed them with expressed breast milk. However, use of stored breast milk must be done in the proper manner. You can express breast milk manually or with the help of an electric or manual breast pump. Make sure to wash the hands properly before expressing breast milk.
It should be expressed into clean sterile containers that have to be labeled as per the date of storage. Plastic feeding bottles with tight tops can be used for this purpose. You may also go for disposable baby bottle liners. You may also get plastic bags specially meant for storing expressed breast milk. If the baby is in the age group of one to three months, store breast milk in two to four ounce portions. For older babies, you may increase the amount to 4 to 6 ounce portions. This will help to avoid wastage of breast milk.
If you plan to use it within five days, then store the bottle in the coldest part of the refrigerator, which is set at a temperature of 4 degree Celsius. You may also freeze breast milk for a period of two weeks. This is applicable for single-door refrigerators. In case of refrigerators with separate freezer compartment, you may store breast milk for around three months.
If you maintain a temperature of minus 18 degrees in the freezer, then, the storage period can be extended to six months. If you want to transport stored breast milk, you have to use a cool box with a freezer brick. Make sure to transfer the milk to the refrigerator, as soon as you reach the destination. However, it is always advisable to store breast milk for a short period and use it at the earliest.
How to Thaw Breast Milk
Even though breast milk is said to have antibacterial properties, improper handling may result in its contamination. So, right from expressing the breast milk, its storage and use must be done in the proper way. Even thawing breast milk must be done properly.
- Before taking out the stored bottles, check the date on their labels. Use the oldest one, unless otherwise recommended.
- In case of breast milk stored in the refrigerator, you may place the bottle in warm water for some time and gently shake (the bottle) it well before use. You may also keep the bottle beneath running warm tap water for a while.
- In case of frozen breast milk, it will be better to thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours, before use. You may also thaw frozen breast milk by placing the bottle in warm water for at least half an hour.
- Once you thaw frozen breast milk, it is not advisable to freeze it further. You have to use it within 24 hours or discard it after that time period.
- If the frozen breast milk is warmed, it cannot be stored for more than four hours inside the refrigerator. If some amount of the used thawed breast milk is left after use, you should discard it.
- In short, it is not advisable to thaw frozen breast milk at room temperature or using very hot water. You should never heat stored breast milk in a microwave or stove top. This will destroy the health benefits of breast milk.
This article is for informational purposes only. So, it is always better to consult your pediatrician or a health expert, with regard to breast milk storage and thawing. It is always better to provide your baby with fresh breast milk. You may reserve the storing method for emergency conditions. But, if breastfeeding is not possible (as in case of working mothers), you may opt for storing breast milk, rather than using baby formulas.