Not all mothers produce enough breast milk for their babies. There are many reasons for this and these mothers should not feel guilty about not producing enough milk. However there are those who produce an abundance of milk. The question then arises on how to store the extra milk.
Make sure you wash your hand and clean your breast before expressing your milk.
• What type of containers should you use?
The best containers are clean, capped glass or screw capped hard plastic, BPA-free containers. You can also use special plastic bags designed for milk collection and storage. If you use the plastic bags, be careful as they may tear. It will be better to keep these plastic bags in hard plastic containers such as those used for food storage. Try to use smaller containers (like 3-4 oz) so that each container contain enough milk for one-feed by your baby.
Each container should be labelled with the date and time. It is best to store them at the back of the fridge to protect from fluctuations in temperature when the fridge doors are opened frequently. Use the one who was stored the longest first.
• How long can expressed breast milk be stored?
The general principle is that expressed breast milk should not be used if it is at room temperature for more than 4 hours. This is especially so in the hot humid climate of Malaysia and Singapore.
Expressed breast milk stored at the lower compartment of the fridge may be kept more than 72 hours but less if the fridge doors are frequently opened.
Expressed breast milk stored in freezer compartment of the fridge may be kept up to 2 weeks.
However if the freezer of the fridge has a separate door, it may be kept up to 3 months.
Those in deep freezer may be kept for up to 12 months. However it is best if used by 6 months as the Vitamin C in the breast milk deteriorate with time.
• How to thaw stored expressed breast milk?
Stored expressed milk should be thawed to room temperature slowly by immersion in a bowl of warm water. Stored expressed milk should never be thawed by boiling or using the microwave. Boiling and microwave destroy the proteins and other goodies in the breast milk.
• How to add fresh expressed milk to stored frozen milk?
The best way to add fresh expressed milk is by cooling the milk first, either under running water or with ice packs. Then when it is cold, it may be added to the frozen milk. This is because we do not want the outer frozen milk to thaw as rethawed milk are not healthy.
• Why are the thawed milk of a different colour?
Thawed expressed breast milk may have a different colour and odour as compared to fresh breast milk. That is normal. Some studies have showed that breast milk may have antibiotic properties. Contaminated milk will smell rancid and taste bitter.
By creating your personal ‘milk bank’ for your baby, you ensure your baby will have a constant supply of your milk even when you are busy or away for some time. Your breast milk is best for your baby because your body has tailored-made it to meet your baby’s nutritional needs.