Breast Milk Storage

I used a few different breast milk storage options when I went back to work.They all had their good and bad points. They included bottles (I had ones that fit on my pump, but you can use glass bottles instead), breast milk freezer bags and ice cube trays.

An important point to note is that it's not always a good idea to use someone else's old bottles. Before using donated second hand bottles check whether or not they are BPA free. This is a relatively recently declared toxic substance and older bottles were not subjected to the current laws prohibiting the use of BPA in infant bottles.

I feel some important things to consider before you decide which storage system to use include:

The following are some pros and cons to consider about the various breast milk storage containers:

  • When using a breast pump, milk can be expressed straight into a bottle or a disposable plastic bag. Obviously it must be poured into ice cube trays at the end of a session.
  • Bottles take up a lot more room in your refrigerator than ice cube trays or plastic bags.
  • Milk frozen in plastic bags must be thawed before putting into a bottle to be heated as it's not the right shape to fit through the lid. This can be a problem for carers looking after a baby going through a growth spurt.
  • It takes longer to thaw a 1 ounce volume of milk which has been frozen in ice cube trays and put into a bottle in a warmer than it does to thaw milk frozen in the bottle because there is air around it (again this can be a problem for carers looking after a baby who unexpectedly needs more milk than usual)
  • Studies show that hard plastic or glass like that used in bottles or freezer trays maintains the nutritional properties of milk better than the soft plastic used in storage bags.

I had look on La Leche League and the Australian Breastfeding Association for guidelines for the storage of freshly espressed breast milk:

    4-6 hours at room temperature (up to 78°F, 26°C)3-5 days in a refrigerator (under 39°F, 4°C, to definitely achieve this place milk at back of refrigerator where the temperature varies less)
    2 weeks in freezer that is inside refrigerator (small refrigerators)
    3 months in freezer that has separate door to the refrigerator
    12 months in a separate freezer

Once thawed, breast milk should not be refrozen, but it can be kept in the fridge for 24 hours after defrosting and for 4hours after being warmed. after this it should be discarded.

What Type of Bottles and Nipples Will Your
Baby be Feeding From?

Perhaps before choosing your breast pump you should consider what the bottles and teats for the various brands are like. Some companies have better teats for newborns so if you are likely to be using this from the very early stages this is an important consideration. Generally the brands of bottles which are designed for the breast pumps have a much slower flow teat than those designed for formula.

If you aren't using your pump until the 6 month stage then it is more important to be considering how many bottles your baby will need each day and whether or not you'd like to express milk straight into these. If this is the case it is wise to choose a brand which has some cheaper bottles which have the same sized thread at the top as your breast pump branded bottles because these are likely to be a much cheaper alternative to buying name brand bottles.

What Type of Pump Will You Be Using?

When deciding which type of breast milk storage container to store your expressed milk in it is important that it is compatible with your breast pump. Obviously if you choose to store your milk in bottles they will need to be either the same brand or a compatible thread size as your breast pump. Most new mothers who haven't yet looked into the various options don't realise that they do have an option to buy bottles which are not the same brand.

This is also true of breast milk storage bags. All of the brands of breast pumps have their own disposable plastic storage bags, but of course these are all universally compatible with each other.

The same is true of the ice cube trays. Those made specifically for breast milk obviously don't attach to the pump but have the milk poured into them at the end of a pumping session so can be used with any breast pump.

How Frequently Will Your Baby be
Given Expressed Milk?

If the answer to this question is "infrequently" then you are more likely to want to maximise space in your freezer and either trays or bags will be more useful for you. If you will be pumping frequently and your infant will be consuming the milk regularly you may wish to keep the milk in bottles for ease of use each day. The amount of milk used though will mean that there will be a significant amount in your freezer or fridge at any one time and if it is small the trays may be more useful to you again.

To figure out what will be best breast milk storage option for your situation keep in mind how many bottles your baby will need each time they are away from you in the week and make sure you have room to store that plus about half as much again at least. This gives your carers some extra just in case your little one is sick or going through a growth spurt and wanting more milk than normal.

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How Much Breast Milk Do You
Plan to Have in Your Freezer?

Generally it's a good idea to have enough milk for a week and a half of your baby being in someone else's care. So if you work two days a week and your baby uses three bottles each of those days it is useful to have nine bottles in you fridge/freezer. Or perhaps you plan to move up to working five days each week and your infant would take 5 bottles each day you would want to have about thirty-five bottles in your fridge/freezer.

Obviously you will be in a constant state of flux around this number as your baby will be consuming some bottles and you will be pumping into and adding some bottles, but this extra amount gives plenty of leeway for a sick or growing baby, or a nervous dad who's heating up more milk than they need just in case…!

Whether You Will Suddenly Need
More Milk in the Freezer

When considering your breast milk storage options keep in mind what you may wish to do later. Sometimes it's easy to take the cheaper alternative initially and then eventually wish you'd spent a bit more at first because it seems like a waste to change your system when you know your baby is just going to start weaning soon anyway.

Choosing a good breast pump and easy breast milk storage is important if you plan to work full time. An old saying which is certainly true for anyone using something recently is "buy cheap, buy twice".

Breast milk storage bags, while cheaper in the first instance are really quite a lot more expensive if you plan to feed your baby expressed milk frequently. It is worth spending a little more and getting either more bottles which fit your pump (they are easier to express into anyway) or some freezer trays. If money is tight you may decide to buy one or two at a time rather than a ten or twenty, but if you can afford to, it is usually cheaper to buy in bulk initially.

Back to Breastfeeding Babies home page from Breast Milk Storage


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