By Salomé Scholtz – Registered dietician,
As a first time mom I faced two huge problems associated with returning to work. The first of course being: how will I be able to be away from my precious Emily for more than 10 minutes and the second: trying to figure out how I will be storing my breastmilk? I realised that the only problem I really had control over was the storing and thawing of my breastmilk, unless I hid Emily in my purse (hey at the time this seemed like a legit option!), both problems solved! So as the time to return to work drew closer the research began. There were thousands upon thousands of websites supplying tips and tricks on how to store your breastmilk, which only further confused an already confused first time mom. So I am going to save you some time and spare you your sanity by providing you with the best tips and tricks that I came across during my BIG search.
You can store you breastmilk to keep it fresh in a number of ways:
- At room temperature (no more than 25 °C), for up to six hours.
- In a cooler box, with ice packs (or frozen bottles of water), for up to 24 hours.
- In a fridge (at 4°C or colder) for up to 5 days. Your breastmilk should be stored at the back of the fridge, where it is coldest, away from meat, poultry, eggs, or uncooked foods.
- In the freezer (at minus 18 °C or colder) for up to four months.
Tips and tricks
Whether you choose to refrigerate or freeze your milk, you should do the following:
- Always use sterilised containers – whether you choose plastic bottles or plastic breastmilk storage bags.
- Keep your breast pump clean and always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling any breastmilk for storage. Keeping everything as clean as possible will make it less likely that bacteria will grow in your stored milk.
- Label all your storage bottles and bags with the date and time; always use the oldest ones first.
- If you want to freeze your milk, do it as soon after expressing as possible. Leave a gap at the top of each bottle or bag, as your milk will expand during the freezing process.
- You can add freshly expressed milk to frozen or refrigerated milk, as long as the fresh milk has been chilled for at least an hour before it is added. The fresh milk portion should always be smaller than the portion of frozen milk that it is being added to.
- Frozen breastmilk should ideally be thawed in the fridge, and can be stored there for 24 hours.
- Never thaw your breastmilk in the microwave. If you are in a pinch and require a quick thaw, defrost your milk under cool, then warm running water, or place it in a bowl of warm water.
- To avoid waste and for easier thawing & warming, store milk in smaller portions.
- And one last tip – never re- freeze milk that has already been thawed.
I hope these guidelines, tips and tricks will ease the “pain” of returning to work and optimize the mining of your “liquid gold”.