Breastmilk is undoubtedly the best you can give your baby in the early months in the form of nutrition. Research has proven that babies who are exclusively breastfed till six months of age have better immunity and a healthy weight gain. Doctors even recommend breastfeeding to be continued beyond six months supplemented by weaning foods. But, when mothers cannot be available with the baby due to work or other commitments, stored breastmilk comes to the rescue. In such cases, storage of breastmilk is a good option so that the nutrition is not compromised upon.
Typically, breastmilk can be expressed and stored at room temperature for 4 – 6 hours depending on how warm or cold it is. Freshly expressed breastmilk can last in an insulated cooker with ice packs to keep it cold, for a day. The same can be refrigerated for up to five days. But, if you need to store expressed milk for a longer time than this, deep freezing it is the only solution.
How long does breastmilk last in the deep freezer?
Typically, breastmilk can be frozen for up to 12 months in the deep freezer compartment. However, experts recommend usage within six months of storage. Also, the type of freezer compartment impacts how long breastmilk can be stored.
- For older refrigerators with the freezer compartment within the refrigerator, the temperature inside varies, and it is advisable to use up the breastmilk in two weeks.
- For the refrigerators which come with a separate deep freezer compartment, the temperature is less than 39 degrees F. Here, the breastmilk can be stored for up to six months.
- For separate deep freezer units where the temperature is 0 degrees F, breastmilk can be stored for up to twelve months.
Care to be taken while storing breastmilk in the deep freezer
Eventually, the bacteria will spoil the breastmilk. But this process can be slowed down by following the below steps:
- Make sure you wash and dry your hands.
- Meticulously follow the instructions on the pump you are using and clean all parts properly.
- Keep the bottles used for collecting milk clean. A good option would be to use disposable collection bags.
- Store small amounts of breastmilk in separate containers. Fill the container only 3/4th as the milk will expand after freezing.
- Label the containers with date for easy reference.
- Make sure the freezer compartment you are using is clean as well. Put the collected breastmilk in the freezer immediately after expressing.
Important Tips on Frozen Breast Milk
- Be aware that stored breastmilk loses some of its nutrients over the time.
- Place the container of frozen breastmilk in the refrigerator the night before you want to use it. Before use, thaw it by placing the container in a bowl of warm water.
- Do NOT warm the milk in a microwave or over a stove.
- If the fats in the milk have separated, do not shake the container. Gently swirl to mix the contents.
- Thawed breastmilk might look or smell different than freshly expressed milk. This does not mean that the milk has spoiled. However
- Do not refreeze thawed milk again.
Lastly, remember that the above is a guideline for storing breastmilk for healthy, full-term babies. If the baby is premature or has any medical conditions, you must check with the doctor before using stored milk.
Other Breastfeeding Advice
Check out some of my other breast feeding articles including cluster feeding, baby bottles and nursing pillow reviews. If you move on from breast milk, a baby formula dispenser could be your new best friend!