How to Freeze Breast Milk Safely
If you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby, I have no doubt that there will come a time when you wish to express and store your milk for future use. In which case, you need to know how to freeze breast milk safely, to ensure that your baby does not catch an upset stomach, or worse, from badly stored milk.
- Pump your milk into sterile containers and wash your hands prior to pumping.
- Do not overfill your storage containers as the milk will expand once frozen and could cause the container to split, and therefore leak when thawing.
- Breast milk should be frozen as soon as possible after expressing to reduce the amount of time that bacteria can grow in it. However, if you wish to combine milk from more than one pumping session, you should refrigerate your milk straight after pumping.
- Milk from different pumping sessions can be combined. To do so, you should cool both sets of milk separately in the fridge, and then combine them as soon as possible once they are at the same temperature and freeze.
- Do not add freshly pumped milk, which is still warm, to cold milk, as this is more likely to encourage bacteria growth in the milk.
Breast milk storage containers
The first thing to consider when freezing your breast milk is what type of storage container you will be using. Here’s a brief guide to the most popular options.
Pros: Convenient, no sterilisation required, large storage capacity per bag, easy to store in the freezer as can be lay flat.
Cons: Bags can be prone to tearing during defrosting, environmental impact of non-reusable plastic bags.
Recommended storage bags: I’ve used these Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags (£7.99 for 50 bags) over and over again and as long as you don’t overfill them and squeeze the air out of them before freezing, they don’t leak when defrosting.
Pros: Reusable, some can be attached directly to breast pumps, some can be attached directly to bottle teats, cheaper than bags if you intend to express a lot.
Cons: Need to be sterilised between uses.
Recommended storage pots: These Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Milk Storage Pots only have a 60ml capacity, but I really liked how they slot onto the top of a bottle to be used when I used them with my Tommee Tippee Manual Breast Pump. If you require a bigger storage capacity, try the Philips Avent Reusable Breast Milk Storage Cups which hold up to 180ml.
Ice cube trays
Pros: Defrosts quickly, great for newborns who only need small volumes per feed, resusable, cheap to purchase.
Cons: Very small volume per cube, need to be sterilised between uses, difficult to protect from bacteria in the freezer, prone to spillage prior to freezing.
Recommended ice cube trays: I love this Silicon Baby Food Freezer Tray with Clip-On Lid by Weesprout. When using it for breast milk, you will need to place it onto a flat tray prior to filling it because it’s silicone so it is very flexible. Aside from this, it’s a great ice cube tray which will help with future weaning purée storage too.
Using your frozen breast milk
- Your breast milk changes as your baby grows so it’s important to use the milk before your milk’s constitution changes too much. The major changes in your milk happen when your milk first changes from colostrum to normal milk, and then again once your baby starts to wean onto solid food. At these times, it’s important that you don’t stockpile too much frozen milk as the nutrients that your baby will need may not be the same in the future.
- Use the oldest milk first and maximum freezer storage times should be as follows according to the kellymom.com website
- When defrosting milk frozen in storage bags, place the bag into a additional sterilised container in case the bag has split during freezing. Then if the milk leaks from the storage bag, you won’t have to waste the milk.
- Defrost breast milk in the fridge if possible within the time needed for your baby’s feed. Depending on the volume of milk, this can take up to 12 hours. Defrosting slowly in the fridge results in less bacteria growing in the milk.
- If you need the milk more quickly, then defrost it by running under cold water, gradually increasing the temperature and then placing into a bowl of warm water.
- Only warm the milk to the minimum temperature that your baby will drink. This is to avoid heating your milk for a prolonged period of time, which can assist bacterial growth.
- Feed to your baby within 1 hour of when they first start the bottle, and then throw any remaining milk away.
- Do not refreeze defrosted breast milk.
It’s common sense…
Hopefully you’ve noticed a theme during this post – most of what I’ve written above is common sense and the same kind of rules you would follow if you were preparing food to store in the freezer. The main difference with breast milk for your baby is to ensure that you use sterile containers and do everything possible to eliminate the risk of introducing bacteria to your baby before or after freezing.
If you have any other questions on the storage and usage of breast milk, please comment below. If you like this article, please share with your friends and come back soon for more!