As a mom, we only want what’s best for our baby, so if at all possible most of us will give breastfeeding a try. That precious moment every time we hold and feed our baby is indeed priceless, right? However, for a lot of moms there comes a time when we have to go back to work or do something important which involves time spent away from our baby. When this time comes, we need to ensure we leave enough breast milk for our baby. This is when breastfeeding storage bags come to the rescue! As a breastfeeding mom, I figured out knowing more about these storage bags makes it a lot easier to feed my baby with my nutritious milk anytime, anywhere.
So how do we use breastfeeding storage bags? Here’s a quick guide:
- Wash your hands and express your breast milk by hand or using a manual or electric breast pump
- Pour in the breast milk you’ve collected into the storage bag
- Remove excess air, then seal
- You can either freeze the breast milk for longer storage life or simply refrigerate if it is going to be consumed within a few hours
- Thaw the frozen breast milk
- Pour the contents into a clean sterilized feeding bottle
- Offer the thawed breast milk to your baby cold or warm depending on your baby’s preference.
Looks pretty simple, but since we are talking about milk here (one which took effort and time to collect), we might as well know more about the proper storage of breast milk. We wouldn’t want it to turn sour and just end up to the thrash, do we? So let’s dig in deeper about what experts recommend regarding breast milk storage and preparation.
Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk
There are different factors that can affect how long your breast milk can be stored safely. This includes milk volume, room temperature, when milk is pumped, the fluctuations in the refrigerator and freezer temperature, as well as the cleanliness of the environment.
Following the proper guidelines is essential to make sure that the expressed milk will remain safe and healthy for our baby. Let’s take a closer look at what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends for breast milk storage and preparation.
- Freshly Expressed Breast Milk
Freshly pumped breast milk can sit up to 4 hours in room temperature (77°F/ 25°C or colder), up to 4 days in refrigerator (40°F/ 4°C) and within 6 to 12 months in the freezer (0°F/ 18°C or colder).
- Thawed/ Previously Frozen Breast Milk
For thawed breast milk, make sure you have it consumed within 1-2 hours at room temperature, or within 24 hours or 1 day when refrigerated. Thawed breast milk is not recommended to be frozen again.
- Left-over Breast Milk from a Feeding
If your baby hasn’t finished a bottle and you plan to offer it back, make sure you have it consumed within 2 hours after he finished the 1st feeding. After that, you need to discard any left-over milk.
Do’s and Don’ts for Breast Milk Storage and Preparation
The pumping, storing and feeding techniques will take some time to get familiar with. But if we want to keep the nutrients and offer safely expressed breast milk to our baby, here are some tips to instantly make you feel like a Pro!
Expressing Breast Milk:
- Always wash your hands with soap and water before expressing milk. If not available, you can alternately use at least 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Check your pump kit and tubing for molds
- Do not use moldy tubing and replace it immediately
Storing Breast Milk:
- Immediately label your breastfeeding storage bag with the date it was expressed
- If you intend to use the pumped breast milk after 4 or more days, freeze it immediately to protect its quality
- Freeze only 2 to 4 ounces of breast milk per storage bag so that it can be consumed in a single feeding and will avoid any wastage
- Make sure there is about one inch of space left within the bag to give enough room for the breast milk to expand while being frozen
- Practical moms store the bags lying flat in the freezer to maximize the space. Storing upright is also okay, but it will be hard to place other bags or items on top of them, and there will be empty spaces below. To freeze flat, lay them down on a cookie sheet. You can then remove the sheet after the storage bags have frozen flat
- If you plan to travel, place the frozen breast milk within an insulated container with ice packs. This is good for 24 hours only, and you will need to either use it right away or transfer the breastfeeding storage bag in a refrigerator or freezer after you arrive at your destination
- Do not store breast milk at the door of the refrigerator or freezer because the opening and closing of the door may affect the temperature
Thawing Breast Milk:
- Thaw old breast milk first. First in, first out basis
- You can thaw it by placing the storage bag in the refrigerator, placing it under running lukewarm water or putting it into a container filled with lukewarm water
- When thawing in the refrigerator, use the breast milk within 24 hours. Count after it was completely thawed or no longer frozen and not from the time you took it out of the freezer
- When the breast milk is brought from the freezer into room temperature, use it within 2 hours
- Do not re-freeze thawed breast milk
Warming Breast Milk:
- Keep your breastfeeding storage bag sealed while warming
- To warm the breast milk, you can either place the bag inside a container filled with warm water or run warm water over the storage bag
- Test the temperature of the breast milk before giving it to your baby. Drop some milk on your wrist to make sure it is warm and not too hot for your baby
- Fats may separate while you store your breast milk. Gently swirl the bag to mix them up
- Do not use hot water for warming because it may destroy the nutrients within your breast milk
- Do not heat the breast milk directly in a microwave or on a stove
Choosing the Right Breastfeeding Storage Bag
Storage bags for breast milk are unquestionably a handy tool for every breastfeeding mom, so the next question will be which storage bag is the best for me to buy? The answer mostly depends on your needs and your budget. Here are some tips in choosing the right breastfeeding storage bag to suit your needs.
Quality is the best policy
If you’re not a first-timer, you may also have gone over the idea of bagging and re-bagging your milk container, just to make sure it won’t leak out. I have been guilty of that idea too, especially when I think about carrying it within my diaper bag. So my first tip would be to select quality products that will leave you worry-free from milk leaks. Anyway, this is our primary purpose of buying storage bags, isn’t it? Go for the varieties with double zip seals like the NUK Seal ‘N Go, Dr. Brown’s and Lansinoh milk storage bags.
Go for convenience
Some brands provide an all in one system where you can pump directly into a storage bag. When you are ready to feed baby simply attach the nipple to storage bag and feed the baby after thawing your breast milk. Wait, is there such a thing? Yes, there is! Check out the Kiinde twist cap breast milk bag.
Gather personal testimonies from your circle of friends
Those who have tried and tested different types of these products would definitely have the best inputs with regards to selecting the best storage bag for your needs. Ask other moms in your circle of friends who have been there already
Try a few brands until you find the right one for you
Sometimes, you’ll need to try out several brands until you finally find what suits you. However, with the right advice, you can end up with the breastfeeding storage bag you’re comfortable with on your first buy!
Read reviews and compare
It is also a good idea to read other parent’s reviews so that you’ll have a good idea about the pros and cons of each breastmilk storage bag variety. This would also work with checking on the brands that can fit in your budget.
Can I reuse breast milk storage bags?
No, it is not recommended to reuse the bags. Breastmilk storage bags are pre-sterilized and are designed for single use only. Throw a used bag immediately after use.
Can I pump directly into storage bags?
Yes, there are varieties which offer the feature of pumping directly into the storage bag, like the Kiinde and Medela milk storage bags. However, you will need to have the breast pump, storage bag and other necessary paraphernalia bought from the same brand so that you can perfectly attach them together. You can then pump, seal and go!
Can I use sandwich bags to store breast milk?
The CDC advises never to use plastic bags or bottles that are not intended for storing breast milk. Should you need to use an alternative if your storage bags run out, then you can use clean food-grade containers with tight-fitting lids made of glass or plastic. Select those that are BPA-free.
Overall, these storage bags are a nice way to gear up a breastfeeding mom-on-the-go who would want to offer safe and nutritious breast milk for her baby.