Whether you’re going back to work, or getting some well-deserved rest and letting your partner feed the little one, for many new mums expressing breast milk is a safe and convenient option for feeding baby. We’ve put together an easy guide to storing your expressed milk so that you can make sure your little one never misses a feed.
Once you’ve expressed your milk, you can store it for varying amounts of time. For short term storage, for example in the refrigerator, you can keep the milk in the plastic bottle that comes with the pump, or you can transfer it to the bottles you use for individual feedings. You can store expressed breast milk in the fridge for up to 8 days, meaning you don’t need to worry about thawing it ready for feeds. Pumping is a great option for many mummies that work. If you express whilst at work, you can keep the milk in a fridge or cooler bag with ice packs in, ready to take home that evening.
Breast milk can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months, although it’s best to use it by 3 months. Put the expressed milk into breast milk storage bags (some bags attach directly to the pump making this even easier) and seal them carefully. Milk storage bags are great as they stack easily in the freezer, meaning you won’t run out of space! It’s best to keep frozen breastmilk in the middle of the freezer, as the temperature is steady there. Milk stored at the edges risks being partially thawed and having to be thrown away. Remember not to fill the bag or bottle all the way to the top as it will need at least an inch of space to fill as it expands in the freezer. Always mark the date on the bag – It’s so frustrating to have to waste expressed milk because you’re not sure when it was frozen. Whoever said ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’ clearly had never expressed!
When you’re ready to use the frozen milk, just thaw it out in the fridge (usually overnight or for 12 hours) or run the bag or bottle under lukewarm water if you need it right away. It’s best not to microwave it as this can denature the proteins and create areas of boiling hot milk in the bottle. Once you’ve transferred it to the bottle, stir the milk gently to make sure it hasn’t separated. Once you’ve thawed the frozen breast milk, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours after it’s fully thawed. It’s not recommended that you refreeze it. It’s best to use the oldest milk from your supply when you need it, even if it is weeks or months old, to make sure that it doesn’t go off. You can always combine freshly expressed milk with some frozen milk, just make sure to cool the expressed milk before mixing it in.