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Breast milk is the best for your baby. Every drop of it is individually tailored to the needs of your baby. Thus, in the first year of life, the need for almost all nutrients, with the exception of vitamins D and K, is fully covered.
The composition of breast milk varies from woman to woman and it changes during breastfeeding. Many new mothers can only give their offspring a few drops of milk, depending on their physical constitution.
Other moms, on the other hand, are lucky enough to have a body that produces more of the valuable fluid, so they can pump and even store excess milk.
As a result, they benefit from more flexibility in everyday life and can therefore spend even more time with their offspring.
You can find out which containers are best for storing breast milk, as well as everything else you need to know about proper storage and the shelf life of the precious liquid, in this article.
Storing Breast Milk: This Is What It’s Useful For
Imagine you’re using public transport to get from A to B and suddenly your little darling feels a pang of hunger.
Instead of putting the baby to the breast, you can quickly reach for the bottle into which you have previously filled your expressed milk.
Your baby can lie comfortably in your arms or in the stroller while you feed him – whatever the situation calls for and whatever seems most comfortable to you. Of course, the everyday life of a small family holds many other challenges and surprises in store.
If you take advantage of the possibility to pump breast milk, you will benefit from many additional little “freedoms”. In any case, it is important that the breast milk is stored safely and hygienically.
You can freeze it, defrost it if necessary and give it to your baby to drink.
This article tells you which containers are best suited for storing breast milk, as well as everything else you need to know about proper storage and the shelf life of this precious liquid.
Breastfeeding is a fundamental ritual for mother and child. Breastfeeding provides the baby with essential nutrients, laying the foundation for healthy development.
The child’s immune system is sustainably strengthened by the milk from mother’s breast and, on top of that, the breastfeeding process promotes the bond between you and your offspring. There is hardly a more beautiful way to show your baby your love.
But there are still many mothers who do not want to or cannot breastfeed their baby.
The reasons for this can vary: whether it is due to discomfort and fear or because there is too much burning or pulling in the breasts.
Pumping milk is a good way to supply your offspring with valuable breast milk anyway.
The Composition Of Breast Milk
Breast milk consists largely of water and a composition of high-quality fats, such as phospholipids, triglycerides and fatty acids.
Breast milk also contains proteins, vitamins A, B and E, hormones and enzymes, as well as lactose, carbohydrates, minerals, trace elements and several immunoglobulins.
Zinc, lysozyme and lactoferrin are also valuable components.
How To Store Breast Milk
If you want to store your breast milk, you should use a sealable glass or plastic container. Polypropylene (PP) containers are the most suitable models.
Classic polycarbonate containers or bottles made of hard plastic are not recommended for storing breast milk, as some of these products may contain bisphenol A.
Researchers have been working for some time to find out whether this substance can cause hormonal changes in the child’s organism.
If you want to be on the safe side, you should therefore resort to other alternatives. For example, you can buy special breast milk bottles or pouches in well-stocked stores.
These are pre-sterilized and are characterized by high stability. Conventional frozen or ice packs, on the other hand, are not suitable for storing breast milk.
On the one hand, because they usually do not have the required stability, and on the other hand, they are not pre-sterilized. The risk of germs and bacteria settling on the surface is too great.
Hygiene Is The Be-all And End-all When Storing Breast Milk
If you decide to use breast milk bottles, it is sufficient to clean them with boiling water before storing the milky liquid and thus rid them of possible germs.
In fact, the high water temperatures have a disinfecting effect and kill bacteria and other germs.
Add a few drops of detergent to the water so that lime and possible grease residues are also completely removed by the washing surfactants.
After cleaning, rinse the container again thoroughly and check whether the water is really 100 percent clear.
The Correct Procedure For Storing Breast Milk
If there is still milk in your breast after breastfeeding, you can pump it directly after feeding your baby. To do this, use a breast pump that pumps particularly gently.
This is extremely important when:
- You suffer from inflamed nipples.
- Your breasts hurt.
- You breastfeed your child frequently and the areola is therefore irritated.
- Your baby is already teething and your nipples are strained accordingly.
Experience has shown that cheap breast pumps express milk very forcefully. This causes additional breast pain and can strain the breasts even more.
You are therefore better off using high-quality breast pumps that allow you to individually adjust the intensity of the milk pumping.
Note: When choosing a breast pump, you can choose between a manual breast pump, a simple electric breast pump or a dual electric device.
The manually operated pump is recommended if you suffer from irritated or red nipples. It allows you to express milk gently and carefully, because you can determine the suction force with each pumping stroke.
Before expressing milk, you should put the cleaned and sterile container in which you want to store the milk to one side, ready to hand. The milk is pumped out with the help of the breast pump and then fed into the container provided.
Make sure that there is still some space left in the rim area of the container. This is important because the milk will expand somewhat during freezing. If the container is full to the brim with milk, some of it will certainly leak out.
It is also possible that the pressure created during expansion will deform the bottle.
Depending on how much your baby drinks, the serving size when filling should be approximately between 60 and 100 ml. Write the filling date on the outside of the container so that you have an overview of how long you can feed the milk.
It is important that you do not mix thawed milk with fresh milk. In addition, you should avoid mixing freshly pumped, warm milk with older, cool breast milk.
How Long You Can Store Breast Milk
After expressing milk, the liquid can be stored for quite a while. To ensure that your baby always receives breast milk in the best condition, you should follow these guidelines:
If you plan to store the milk at room temperature after expressing it – which corresponds to about 21 degrees Celsius – you should not store it for more than six to eight hours.
Complete feeding is then essential. Any leftovers must be disposed of afterwards. In the refrigerator, breast milk can be stored at about +4 to +6 degrees Celsius for up to 72 hours.
Make sure that the container is deposited in the lower part of the refrigerator and under no circumstances near the refrigerator door. The lower part of the refrigerator always has the lowest temperatures.
If the bottle is placed near the refrigerator door, it will be exposed to the penetrating external heat every time it is opened.
This can affect the quality of the milk. You can also store breast milk at freezing temperatures of around -15 to -18 degrees Celsius.
It can be stored for up to six months without any problems. In general, frozen food can be stored indefinitely at -18 degrees Celsius.
The freezer is considered one of the most popular places to store breast milk because both the freezing and thawing process are very slow and therefore gentle.
Important vitamins and minerals contained in breast milk are therefore not lost. In addition, germs and bacteria cannot harm the breast milk at these temperatures.
Nevertheless, it is possible that the consistency of the breast milk may change as a result of freezing. For example, breast milk usually becomes more watery when thawed. In addition, it is possible that it smells and tastes a little different than it does directly after expressing milk.
However, there is no need for you to be unsettled by this type of abnormality. The quality of the breast milk is not affected. You can therefore feed your little treasure with the freshly thawed breast milk without hesitation.
One of the reasons for the structural changes in breast milk after freezing is the activity of the lipase enzyme. It breaks down fats into fatty acids.
Fat breakdown is beneficial for newborns because it improves the digestion process of breast milk.
Here’s What You Should Watch Out For When Thawing Breast Milk
If necessary, the lipase activity can be interrupted by warming breast milk. The ideal temperature for this is 40 degrees Celsius.
Note: After thawing and before warming breast milk, it can be kept at room temperature for up to three hours. If you store the thawed milk in the refrigerator instead, it can be consumed for up to 24 hours.
However, this is only possible if the container has remained closed after removal from the freezer. A container that has already been opened should not remain in the refrigerator for more than 12 hours.
Storing breast milk in the freezer bag also gives you more flexibility in everyday life.
While you can store the milk at room temperature for about six hours, this is possible for about eight hours in a cooler bag with cooling batteries.
The ideal temperature in the cooler bag should be between 15 and 16 degrees Celsius. The situation is different, however, if the cooler bag is exposed to summer temperatures.
When visiting the beach, breast milk should preferably not remain in the cooler bag for more than three to four hours. Exposure to sunlight can increase the temperature inside the cooler bag, thereby reducing the quality of the breast milk.
Warming Breast Milk Is Not Absolutely Necessary
If you store the breast milk in the refrigerator after pumping it and want to feed it to your baby later, you should consider the following: Take into account the baby’s body temperature and make sure that the milk is not refrigerator cold.
Certainly, it is advisable to warm breast milk in order to adjust it to the baby’s body temperature as best as possible.
However, too high temperatures when warming breast milk could destroy valuable vitamins in the food.
It is sufficient to feed the breast milk at room temperature or at a maximum of 37 degrees Celsius. This corresponds approximately to the body temperature of the baby.
Tip: After warming breast milk, it should be fed within 30 minutes. You must dispose of the milk that your little darling no longer wants to eat.
Use a bottle warmer to warm the breast milk. Warming in a water bath is also recommended. The recommended temperature of the warmed breast milk should not exceed 40 degrees Celsius.
Heating the milk should never be done in a microwave oven. The high temperatures destroy the valuable enzymes and vitamins. In addition, uniform heating is not guaranteed.
So there is a risk that your baby will be scalded by the breast milk!
Defrosting Breast Milk: Conclusion
The fact that you can store breast milk makes many things easier in everyday family life.
If grandparents, friends or the babysitter are watching your offspring because you have to go to an important appointment, you can conveniently pump the milk in advance with the breast pump.
This means that you no longer have to stay at home to give your little one the breast yourself every time. Of course, pumping milk requires a little practice at first.
And you also need to learn how to store breast milk correctly.
However, experience has shown that the right breast pump not only protects your breasts and nipples when expressing milk, but also allows you to benefit from many small freedoms when living with your baby.
Also pay attention to the correct breast care when breastfeeding.
You will be amazed at how much more time you gain by pumping milk and how easy it all is.
If you have any questions about warming breast milk or the optimal body temperature of your baby, it’s best to contact your trusted midwife or gynecologist. That way, you’ll do everything right from the start.