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Exclusive breast-feeding is highly emphasized in Nigeria and most working nursing mothers, including the first-time moms, as well as the oldies rely on expressing their breast milk for them or a caregiver to feed their babies later. That’s great, but almost every week, I see many Nigerian nursing mothers storing their expressed baby milk in ways that seem great but unhealthy for the baby.
In this post, you will discover the right way to store expressed breast milk to preserve its nutritional values. You will also discover how long is safe to store breast milk, and how to safely carry expressed milk outdoors. We also answered some questions that new mothers ask about breast milk. Read on.
Things You Need to Store Expressed Breast Milk
To store expressed breast milk for later use, a nursing mother needs the following:
- Clean hands: Wash your hands thoroughly
- Refrigerator (fridge)
- Clean breast milk storage containers/Bags – (they are specially made to keep/ preserve the nutritional value of breast milk. Many breast pumps come with storage containers If you use any other container to store expressed breast milk, you can’t guarantee that the milk will have all it’s nutrients and that would affect your baby’s health. they usually come in transparent containers such as bottles, plastic bottles with tight cap or bags and the popular breast milk storage.
- Regular electric power supply (to avoid the milk going bad or getting infected).
3 Steps to Storing Expressed Breast Milk ( Breastmilk Storage Guidelines)
Once you have expressed your breast milk, and have the above items, here are the next steps:
- Pour the expressed breast milk into a tightly closed breast milk storage container.
- It is best to store the milk in quantities/ portions that your baby normally uses up – as any unused, warmed milk would not keep fresh if stored again for long.
- Don't combine freshly expressed breast milk with frozen or refrigerated milk, in the name of trying to defrost the frozen milk.
Label the breast milk container with the date that the milk was expressed – you can write on a paper cello tape, and then stick it on the container that has the expressed breast milk.
Put the milk in the fridge or freezer to ensure that it stays cool.
- An important baby nutrition fact that most nursing mothers don’t know: freezing is okay but refrigeration is the preferred method because it preserves the natural immunity factors in the breast milk better than freezing while the process of freezing destroys some of the antibodies in breast milk. Paediatrics health experts advice that you only freeze breast milk only when it’s the only option. Note that frozen breast milk is still healthier that formula and also and offers a baby more protection from disease (than formula milk does).
Also, if you want to store the breast milk in the freezer, allow some space for expansion, as things usually get bigger when frozen, so fill the milk storage container three-quarters full – that way it has enough space to expand.
Once breast milk is expressed, it does not require any special storage method or handling in order to be safe, and so when stored in a tightly closed container expressed breast milk is safe when stored in a common fridge/ refrigerator.
Questions New Mothers Have About Expressed Breast Milk and Breastmilk Storage
What does a normal breast milk look like? Just so you know, breast milk looks a bit different - the fat may separate and float to the top, and sometimes the milk looks bluish – that’s normal, especially when you start breastfeeding newly. When you notice this, gently swirl the milk to mix the fat back in, but Don't shake the milk.
Something else that affects your breast milk colour is your diet or medications.
What is a normal breast milk smell? Normal breast milk should not smell or taste sour, but sometimes after defrosting, it has a slightly soapy smell – that is normal and due to the change in the fats.
How Long Is Safe to Store Breast Milk? The length of time that you store breast milk varies, depending on where the milk was stored, and the condition/ temperature it was stored.
Here are the Safety Timelines to Guide You When Storing Breast Milk to Feed Baby Later:
- At room temperature for up to 10 hours (for a nursing mother who plans to express her milk daily)
- In a refrigerator for up to 8 days (if you’ll be out of town for a week, or just to keep around for daily feeding of your baby, if your breast milk does not flow regularly – pump and store enough whenever it flows)
- In a freezer for up to 3 or 4 months (consider doing this if you’ll be travelling out of town for long, without your baby)
- In a deep freezer for up to 6 months (If you’ll be travel out of town for long, without your baby)
Note: Medela and Lansinoh are some of the few producers of the recommended breastmilk storage bags and containers available in the market.