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Sharp Health News

How to store breastmilk (infographic)

Dec. 15, 2016

New moms know: Breastfeeding isn't always easy. Once you get the hang of it, you can feel locked into an endless feeding schedule. By storing extra milk, you can give yourself more freedom.

But with storage comes questions: How long does breastmilk last at room temperature? Do I need a deep freezer? Does it keep its nutrients when defrosted? Mary Ann Jones, program manager for lactation at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, sets the record straight.

When it comes to breastfeeding, every woman is different. Some make lots of milk, some make a little. But if you have the opportunity to save some extra, these guidelines can help take the guesswork out of storage. The power of milk. Breast milk is full of antibodies that help protect your child from getting sick. When pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria, surround a mother, antibodies form in the mother’s breastmilk to fight them. The breastfed baby then gets instant protection. When flying, you should nurse your baby on the plane and a few days after. Planes are germy, and antibodies form in your milk based on the pathogens picked up during travel. Frozen breastmilk retains antibodies created at the time it was expressed, so it’s not quite as good as fresh milk. But it still holds onto healthy elements for your baby such as pH for the gut, some antibodies and some growth hormones. Storage Guidelines. Keep your breastmilk safe for your baby by following these recommendations regarding storage methods and times: Storing at room temperature: Term babies – 6 hours. NICU and late preterm babies – 4 hours (refrigerate as soon as possible). Storing in a refrigerator (freshly expressed): Term babies – 5 days. NICU and late preterm babies – 4 days. Storing in a refrigerator (previously frozen):	Term babies – 24 hours. NICU and late preterm babies – 24 hours. Storing in a freezer compartment (inside refrigerator):	Term babies – 2 weeks. NICU and late preterm babies – Not recommended. Storing in a self-contained freezer: Term babies – 4 months. NICU and late preterm babies – 3 months. Storing in a deep freezer (0 F or colder): Term babies – 1 year. NICU and late preterm babies – 6 months. Separation anxiety. Don’t stress if your breastmilk separates when it’s in the fridge. It’s mostly water, and without pasteurization, the fat and cream can rise to the top. Never shake breastmilk. It’s a living tissue, and shaking could disturb the cells, Instead, gently roll it. Reheating by the numbers. Rapidly reheating causes some cells to die – so your best bet is defrosting frozen milk in the fridge for 24 hours. If you need milk fast, soak it in a bowl of warm (not hot) water. Never use a microwave to thaw or warm milk. The ideal amount to freeze is 1 to 2 ounces so reheating doesn’t waste milk if your baby isn’t very hungry. Breastmilk can be reheated just once and is safe to drink one hour after heating. Once breastmilk has been warmed to room temperature, it must be used or discarded. Never refreeze thawed milk. “My favorite website to help make pumping and storing breastmilk easier is – and my favorite product is a hands-free pumping bra,” says Mary Ann Jones, program manager for lactation at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.
“Attending a breastfeeding support group is also a great place to share ideas with other moms and come up with the best plan for you.”

View the printable version of this infographic.

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