This is for all the high-powered mamas. The ones with a double (not-so-secret) identity: kick ass employee and Supermom.
You know who you are. We know who you are. We’re rocking the same cape, with no time to waste—jobs to be done and little humans to keep happy, healthy and growing into the world-changers we know they’ll become.
That’s why it’s so important to know the ins and outs of pumping because while everyone says there’s no use crying over spilled milk, they haven’t spent hours hooked up to a breast pump making it!
Here’s what you need to know to keep that pumped milk preserved and safe for your little one.
Consider this our nod to you, pumping in that back office, and multitasking like a boss.
Breast Milk Guidelines: The Gist
Pumping at work is a bit of an adventure, even if you are lucky enough to work for a progressive company that supports your commitment to breastfeeding. Even with support, keeping a pumping schedule and storing your milk can get pretty confusing.
And, if you travel for work? It gets even more complicated. There are lots of things to think about like cooling options, containers and how long your milk will stay fresh at a certain temperature—not to mention, finding time to pump, and figuring out how you’re going to get it all home.
Don’t worry, Supermom! The Mayo Clinic dives deep into breast milk storage guidelines, and we’re going to help break down those guidelines into easy-to-follow steps for you.
Because mamas-on-the-go have to have each other’s
Keep it Clean
First things first: clean hands and equipment are key to keeping your pumped milk safe. This is rule one when it comes to pumping guidelines. It may take a bit of time and investment, but it’s worth it to ensure your baby is getting milk that’s safe to drink. If you’re not sure how to keep your pump or pump parts clean, contact the pump manufacturer—they’ll make sure you know what needs to be done.
And FYI: According to The American Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), keeping everything clean and pristine can actually extend the shelf life of your refrigerated breast milk by several days.
Breast milk should be stored in BPA-free containers specifically designed for breast milk storage. Regardless of how easy and accessible conventional food and drink containers may be, their cooling capabilities aren’t the same as those for breast milk.
There’s no use putting your ta-tas through all of that hard work, just to throw the milk into a sub-par container.
Keeping it Fresh
Your milk’s freshness is a function of its temperature over time. Breast milk storage guidelines outline the duration of milk’s freshness at different standard temperatures – room temperature, refrigerated and frozen. These guidelines may vary slightly depending on the source. According to the ABM, freshly expressed breast milk is good for about four hours at room temperature.
The age and health of your child should also be considered. If your child is a newborn, was born preterm, or is sick or hospitalized, storage options for breast milk may vary.
Brrrrr, It’s Cold In Here!
Make sure to store your breast milk in the back of the fridge where temps are likely to be the coldest. Kept cold and under ideal conditions, your breast milk can last in the fridge for up to five to eight days.
Don’t stress if you don’t have access to a refrigerator – an insulated cooler will do the trick. Just be aware that the shelf-life of your milk may be reduced if temps are inconsistent.
Psssst, one more thing: Like all liquids, breast milk expands when frozen. So, if you’re packing milk into the freezer, make sure you give it a little room to expand.
Let’s Talk About Milk, Baby!
Frozen milk, that is.
You can deep freeze breast milk for up to a year, though six months is your best bet. Also, keep in mind, your breast milk’s nutritional composition changes as your baby grows. What you pumped when your baby was a newborn may not be as perfectly suited to his or her needs a few months down the line.
Don’t worry if the color and smell seem different after thawing; this is a perfectly normal part of the freezing process. If your little one seems less enamored with your thawed milkcicles than your fresh milk, you may want to reduce the time between freezing and thawing. This is also beneficial because vitamin C and other vital nutrients dissipate the longer milk is stored frozen.
The Big Thaw – Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
The best way to thaw your frozen milk is to move it from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before you plan on using it. If you can’t wait that long, you can run your stored container of milk under warm water or leave it in a bowl of warm water to thaw.
There are some really common thawing mistakes that you’ll want to avoid—like attempting to thaw your milk in the microwave or on the stove. There are some experts that believe this rapid heating may counter the powerful antibodies your breast milk naturally contains. Rapid heating also increases the chances of hot pockets within the milk that could potentially burn your baby’s sensitive mouth.
You’ll also want to avoid the temptation to keep any remaining thawed milk past 24 hours. We know, we know—it’s tough to toss liquid gold! But experts believe that the shelf life of thawed breast milk expires 24-hours after the last ice crystal thawed. Full disclosure: More research needs to be done on this and whether or not thawing and refreezing is safe. Until new research comes to light, save yourself the stress of worrying about it and toss thawed milk that has expired.
When in doubt, contact your lactation consultant or your local La Leche League—they can help with any storage questions you may have.
This doing-it-all stuff and doing-it-right is tough especially on limited sleep, but there’s no better mom for the job than you! Be kind to yourself, Supermoms.