If you are unable to breastfeed your newborn directly for any reason, it is important to express milk during the times your baby normally would feed. This will help you to continue making milk. Here are some simple breast milk storage guidelines:
- Before expressing or handling breast milk, wash your hands with soap and water. Apply a warm and moist compress to your breasts and gently massage your breasts and nipples. Sit quietly and think of a relaxing setting and visualise the milk flowing down.
- Store the expressed milk in a clean, capped glass or hard plastic, BPA-free container. You can also use special plastic bags designed for milk collection and storage, but breast milk storage bags might tear, leak and become contaminated more easily. It is advisable to place the bags in a hard plastic food storage container with a tightly sealed lid. Don't store breast milk in disposable bottle liners or plastic bags designed for general household use.
- Wash all the collecting bottles and breast pump parts that touch your breasts or the milk. Use hot, soapy water or a dishwasher and rinse carefully. Air dry on a clean towel. If your baby is premature or ill, you would have to sterilise your pump parts.
- Using waterproof labels and ink, label each container with the date you expressed the breast milk.
- Place the containers in the back of the refrigerator or freezer, where the temperature is the coolest. If a refrigerator is unavailable, use an insulated cooler. Breast milk expands as it freezes, so don't fill containers to the brim.
- Breast milk that is freshly expressed should be ideally used within 4 hours. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to one day, in the back of a refrigerator for five days and in the back of a deep freezer for 12 months.
- You can also add freshly expressed breast milk to the refrigerated or frozen milk you expressed earlier in the same day. However, thoroughly cool the freshly expressed breast milk in the refrigerator or a cooler with ice packs before adding it to previously chilled or frozen milk. Don't add warm breast milk to frozen breast milk because it will cause the frozen milk to thaw partially.
- Always thaw the oldest milk first. You can place the frozen container in the refrigerator the night before you intend to use it. You can also gently warm the milk by placing it under warm running water or in a bowl of warm water. Don't heat a chilled bottle in the microwave or very quickly on the stove. Discard thawed milk that isn't used within 24 hours.
- The colour of your breast milk might vary, depending on your diet. Also, thawed breast milk might seem to have a different odour or consistency than freshly expressed milk. It's still safe to feed to your baby.