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A Breastmilk Storage Guide.

Updated: Mar 14

Breast Milk Storage: Essential Guidelines for Mums.

Breast milk is truly a marvel of nature. Not only is it the ideal food for infants, providing all the necessary nutrients in the right proportions, but it also has the extraordinary ability to adapt to a baby's needs. Did you know that if a baby is unwell, the mother's body can adjust the composition of the milk to provide extra antibodies? This is just one of the many wonders of breast milk. Another fascinating aspect is its ability to change color based on the mother's diet. If you've ever noticed your breast milk turning a slight green hue, it might be due to that green smoothie or spinach you had earlier. Similarly, eating carrots or pumpkins can sometimes give the milk a hint of orange, and consuming a lot of dairy can turn it slightly yellowish. These color changes are natural and pose no harm to the baby.

With such an incredible fluid nourishing your baby, it's crucial to know how to store it right. Whether you're returning to work or need flexibility in feeding schedules, preserving the integrity and freshness of your expressed breast milk is essential. We know that this is a huge and often overwhelming subject for new mums, so here are some do's and don'ts to guide you easily through the process:

Choosing the Right Container.

Proper Labeling and Portioning.

  • Do label each container with the date and the expressed amount (add the baby's name if sending to nursery etc) using waterproof labels and ink. We love these new wash off labels, priced at 25 AED for a pack of 54 labels, plus the RMD10 discount- what’s not to love? Wash off labels.

  • Don't fill the containers or milk bags to the brim; leave some space for expansion as the milk freezes. You know that old saying “don’t cry over spilt milk”? Well, when you have expressed all that milk and it leaks out of the bag when freezing due to overfilling - you will cry. Been there, done that, trust me on this.

  • If freezing milk in bags, my number one tip is to hang them over a table or bench, let the milk hang in the bottom of the bag and you lay the empty part flat on the surface while closing, this helps keep extra air out of the bag. Then, freeze the bag by laying it down flat in the freezer, once frozen you can then stack them neatly and it takes less space!

Fresh and Stored Milk Mixing

  • Do cool freshly expressed breast milk before adding it to previously chilled or frozen milk.

  • Don't add warm milk to frozen milk, as it can cause partial thawing.

Storage Guidelines

  • Room Temperature: Up to 6 hours (optimal within 4 hours).

  • Insulated Cooler: Up to one day with ice packs.

  • Refrigerator: Up to 4 days (optimal within 3 days).

  • Deep Freezer: Up to 12 months (optimal within 6 months).

  • Note: Longer storage may result in a loss of vitamin C, and the milk composition changes as the baby grows.

  • If you happen to come across frozen milk that is too old to use, fear not, add it to the baby's bath for extra soft skin instead of throwing all that hard work away!

Thawing Frozen Milk

  • Do thaw the milk gradually, either in the refrigerator or by placing it in a bowl of warm water.

  • Don't heat the milk in the microwave or stove rapidly, as it can create uneven hot spots and may affect the milk's antibodies.

  • Note: Thawed milk might look or smell different but is usually still safe to feed your baby. If in doubt - try it yourself. It may sound weird but you will be able to tell if the milk has gone bad by simply tasting it before offering it to your child. It is also worth noting that some mums report a slightly metallic or soap like taste to the milk after it has been defrosted, this is due to the breakdown of milk fat which initiates more rapidly once the milk is expressed.

Special Considerations

  • Do make sure to always follow proper sterilization procedures for pump parts and any reusable storage products that you may use.

  • Don't re-freeze thawed milk; experts often recommend discarding it if not used within 24 hours.

  • Note: Storage guidelines may differ for preterm or sick infants, or those in the hospital.

My last top tip for you is this. Buy some empty syringes (without the needle or ones that you can take the needle off and dispose of safely), put expressed milk into them and freeze. Create a little ziplock bag or tub of frozen milk syringes to have at the ready. You can use these for so many things such as gunky eyes, cuts and even unblocking baby noses.

To see a photo of filled syringes, you can click here to see a post on the Real Mums UAE Instagram page.

You can see a demo video that I posted on our Instagram account here to show you exactly how to use them for unblocking little noses easily.

Remember, although it can sound overwhelming, breast milk storage doesn't have to be complex. By following these practical tips on choosing containers, freezing, thawing, and maintaining freshness, you can ensure that your child continues to benefit from the unique nutrients found in breast milk and there won't be any sour milk in sight. I hope this helps!

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