Ideally, breastmilk that has been expressed and stored should only be heated once before a feeding. If you have warmed a bottle of breastmilk that was not touched by your little one, it should not be re-frozen and must be consumed within 2 hours of being thawed.
It’s undeniable that there are benefits to feeding your baby breast milk. It’s filled with antioxidants and helps strengthen their immune system.
With so many benefits from this liquid gold, it’s essential to understand the proper way to store pumped breast milk, if it is safe to reheat, and how to tell if it’s still good.
Beginning the Storage Process
If you are a mom who is returning to work, you might be wondering how to store freshly pumped milk.
What Should I Use to Store Breastmilk?
Be sure to have food-grade glass containers or plastic containers that do not contain BPA. There are also plastic bags on the market designed specifically to store freshly expressed breast milk.
When storing milk in the refrigerator, bottles, cups with a tight lid, or commercial milk storage bags are acceptable containers. These will often have fill lines to help eliminate overfilling and leaks. Regular plastic bags are not suitable for storing breast milk.
What Is Important To Include on The Label?
Label the container with the date you expressed the milk. If your baby is going to daycare, include their name on the container too.
What Should I Do When I Pump And Am Not At Home?
Get the freshly pumped milk to a cool storage place as soon as possible. It can be placed in a cooler with ice packs if you’re not at home or placed in a freezer for future feedings.
Keep it stored in the size portions you will be serving your baby to help reduce wasted milk.
Guidelines for Using Stored Breastmilk
If you don’t think you’ll use it within four days, you should always freeze breast milk. Otherwise, it can be stored by following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Freshly Expressed or Freshy Pumped Breastmilk
Fresh milk is safe on a countertop if the temperature is 77 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for up to four hours. It can remain stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.
If the milk is immediately frozen, it can last four to six months in a freezer. Putting it in a deep freezer can extend it for an additional six months.
Previously Frozen and Thawed
Frozen breast milk can be a working mom’s best friend. It’s an easy way to keep providing the baby with its benefits while at daycare or the babysitter.
It can be thawed on a countertop within one to two hours and kept in a refrigerator for 24 hours (1 day). The CDC advises against refreezing human breast milk once it has thawed.
Baby is Finished Feeding, and There is Leftover Milk
If your baby did not finish their bottle of breast milk, it’s not a total waste. The milk can be stored in the refrigerator and given to the baby again within two hours.
Anything longer than that runs the risk of being contaminated with bacteria from the baby’s mouth. If this is a reoccurring problem, offer smaller portions. If the baby still seems hungry after eating smaller servings, offer another bottle of breast milk.
How Do I Thaw Frozen Breast Milk Safely?
Start by choosing the oldest container first. The longer it remains frozen it has the potential to lose quality. If you dated each one as you pumped, knowing which one is the oldest will be easy.
The easiest way to thaw the frozen breast milk is to let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. A second method is to heat a container of water in the microwave. Let the milk rest in the heated container until it has reached a lukewarm temperature.
Putting it directly into the microwave can destroy the nutrients within the milk while creating hot spots. Hot spots can burn the baby’s mouth.
The last method is to run lukewarm water directly over the container until it has thawed.
Use the milk within 24 hours after thawing. Meaning it is no longer frozen, not from the time you placed it in the refrigerator. Once the milk has reached room temperature, there is a two-hour window for use.
Is There Something Wrong with My Milk?
Many mothers panic when the refrigerated milk varies in color, but there’s no need to panic.
The color of the milk will change as the nutrients change to meet the baby’s needs. The mothers’ diet affects the color of the milk too.
Consumption of foods with large amounts of dye will alter the appearance of the milk but usually isn’t something that should cause concern.
A change in smell or taste is common too. Lipase, a naturally occurring enzyme in breast milk, breaks down into fatty acids.
Taste can range from soapy to metallic. The baby may refuse the bottle because of the flavor, but it isn’t harmful.
How Should I Feed the Thawed Breastmilk?
Although people talk a lot about warm milk, feeding cold or room temperature breast milk is also a popular choice.
If you choose to serve it warmed, make sure it remains sealed while being warmed up. When it has reached the desired temperature, test it before placing the bottle in the baby’s mouth.
Test the temperature by placing a few drops onto the inside of the wrist. If it is too hot for you, it will be too hot for your baby.
Milk Separation is Normal
You may notice that the milk has separated, and the fat has risen to the top. The fatty layer can appear thick or thin and is another typical characteristic of breast milk.
When you’re ready to feed your baby, swirl the container together, and the milk and fatty layers will combine.
Sometimes thicker layers may stick to the side of the bottle or bag. Running the sides of the container under warm water will help these layers easily combine.
How Do I Reheat Breast Milk?
If the bottle was already used for one feeding but only partially eaten, the two-hour rule applies.
The same rule pertains to a heated bottle that was not in the baby’s mouth. In either case, the bottle can be fed at room temperature or reheated one time.
The best method is to microwave a bowl of water and set the container inside or use a bottle warmer.
Can I Refreeze Thawed Breast Milk?
To say it directly, no. Once it has unthawed, refreezing it could increase the growth of bacteria and break down some of the nutrients.
However, if it is frozen partially, it might be possible to return it to its frozen state. If the container has ice crystals in it, the milk hasn’t fully thawed and can return to a freezer.
How Can I Tell When It’s Gone Bad?
Remember that fatty layer that separates from the milk? If the two layers combine without any problems when swirled, the milk is safe for the baby.
A stringy appearance or clumps are signs that the milk has spoiled, and like cow’s milk, it will have a foul stench.
The quickest way to determine if it is still safe is to taste it. If it has gone sour, your taste buds will immediately let you know!
Reheating Breast Milk Is Perfectly Safe- Just Do So Once
Like anything, breast milk is best when it’s fresh. The nutrient levels are at their highest, and babies will get the most benefits.
But there are times when moms produce more than babies will drink. It’s a gift that mothers can provide containing essential vitamins and minerals that formula can’t give as efficiently.
Freezing breast milk means that mom will always have some on hand whenever the baby is hungry. Just remember to only reheat the breastmilk once to preserve the amazing nutrition it provides.