Creating a Stash of Breast Milk
A mother of a newborn wrote to us with the following question:
“I want to build up a stash of breast milk to have on hand for if/when I manage to go on a date with my hubby or an emergency comes up. I am wondering the best way to go about it. I am worried that if I pump a bottle, I am taking away what my baby needs.”
What a great question! Moms committed to providing breast milk for their babies may want to have some milk in the freezer as an emergency back-up or for a planned night out.
How can I express milk without taking it from what my baby needs?
Breast milk is most plentiful is in the morning so women often find it easiest to express their milk then. However, you could express immediately after any feed.
Remember that a baby is always able to get more milk from a breast than a pump, so don’t be alarmed if you only get small volumes.
Women’s breasts will be quite tender in the first couple of weeks after giving birth. You may want to delay pumping until after that time.
How much of a stash do I need?
Every mom will need to decide how much she thinks she will need. Some moms never express to have extra milk on hand and that’s OK too.
We really do not know how much an individual baby will take at a given feed. Comparing your baby’s intake to a bottle fed peer would not be helpful. Studies show that breastfed babies drink less volume as they are able to metabolize it more easily. You may want to suggest that your caregiver start with small amounts in a bottle and add more as needed to avoid wasting your precious breast milk.
How long will expressed milk last?
In a refrigerator, freshly expressed breast milk will last up to 5 days. Remember to store expressed breast milk near the back of the fridge rather than on the door to keep it as cool as possible.
In a chest style deep freeze, frozen breast milk will keep for 6 months or longer. Milk stored at the bottom of the freezer will stay coldest when the freezer is opened.
A refrigerator freezer with its own door will keep your milk for 2 to 3 months.
How do I store my stash?
There are many different choices for storing your expressed breast milk. It is recommended to use either glass or BPA-free hard plastic containers. Label the milk with the date it was expressed and use the oldest first.
Since expressed breast milk is “liquid gold”, you may want to freeze it in small volumes (1 – 2 oz./ 30 – 60 ml) to avoid wasting it. Thaw only what you need.
How do I thaw expressed breast milk?
Never use a microwave to defrost or warm up your milk as it can create hot spots. Frozen milk can be thawed in the refrigerator overnight or under warm running water. Once thawed, it should be used within 24 hours. To warm from fridge temperature, run under warm water or place in a container or a pan of water that has been heated on the stove.
Keep learning by reading these posts: How To Hand Express Breast Milk and Pumping Breast Milk – Everything You Need to Know.
About the authors:
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
Download their app NuuNest – Newborn Nurse Answers and Baby Tracking for expert guidance through the first crucial weeks after childbirth.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr: joshDubya)