Breast Milk has live properties such as antibodies within it to help protect your babies immune system. Because of the importance of these special components, the storage of your expressed breast milk is critical. Below is an easy table to guide you on the correct protocol and guidelines to consider for Breast Milk Storage.
FRESHLY EXPRESSED BREAST MILK
Room Temperature(66-72 degrees F): 4 hours
Cooler with frozen ice packs (59 degrees F): 24 hours
Refrigerator (32-39 degrees F): 5-7 days
Self contained freezer (below 32 degrees): 3-4 months
Deep Freezer (0 degrees F): 6 months
Thawed breast milk that has been previously frozen can stay in a refrigerator for 24 hours only. It should never be stored in a cooler or at room temperature. It is also very important that you never refreeze thawed milk. It is best to store your expressed milk in 20z increments so that you don’t waste any residual milk after a feed. You will find that your milk is like “liquid gold” you hate to throw any of it away. However if your baby has only finished a portion of the bottle, you must discard the rest. See the post, The Breastfeeding Friendly Way to Bottle Feed for proper instructions on bottle feeding the baby as well as the appropriate way to heat up a bottle. It is not recommended that you add freshly expressed breast milk on top of already frozen milk in the freezer as the temperature difference can cause a break down in the breast milk properties. Instead cool down the milk in the refrigerator first. Ideally freeze the milk in a separate container, but if it is a small amount, it is okay to add once the temperature has reached between 32-39 degrees F.
***Special note: Expressed milk, with time, will separate upon sitting. The fat and protein properties will float to the top, and the water will separate to the bottom. This does NOT mean the milk has curdled or gone bad. It is perfectly normal for the milk to do this. DO NOT THROW IT AWAY! Simply shake the milk after warming it, it will mix well and be perfectly fine to feed to the infant.
If your milk does sit out too long, without properly being stored however, it can spoil. Just like how cows milk has a very sour smell and taste, so does rancid breast milk. Human milk that has gone bad has a very soured taste and a rather pungent odor. If your expressed milk does not smell fresh it does not necessarily mean it has spoiled, it may have to do with how the milk itself is being stored. It might be helpful to go through and evaluate what steps you are taking to store your milk correctly.
- Storage Containers: Use plastic or glass bottles that have been properly sterilized, milk storage bags designed to protect the components of breast milk.
- Temperature Correct: Make sure the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer are set correctly. Store the milk in the back of the fridge or freezer rather then in the door where temperatures are typically warmer. Make sure your door closes, as sometimes this can lead to freezer burn and result in improper freezing
- Keep is Sealed: If the storage container isn’t sealed tightly it can cause odors from other foods to seep in, interfering with the freshness of the milk. Try keeping baking soda in your fridge to minimize unwanted smells.
If you still are having a problem with your milk not appearing as fresh, it could be due to an over production of an enzyme called lipase that is naturally found in human milk, and is responsible for the break down of the milk proteins. This tends to give the milk a “soapy” taste and consistency. For protocols on how to treat this condition contact your Lactation Consultant or follow the instructions in the post: Lipase
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