ABC OF Breast Milk Extraction and Storage

For breastfeeding moms, the good news is that breast milk can be extracted and stored for a whopping 6 months. So mothers can go about their daily activities without starving the baby. However, one nagging worry is assurance that the milk is not contaminated or spoiled before the baby can consume it.

This article highlights some of the measures mothers should take to keep the expressed milk in the best possible condition for the baby.

Keep breast milk extraction tools hygienic  

  • Have a pumping and cleaning routine
  • Thoroughly wash all pump parts and bottles before extraction
  • Use storage bottles with screw caps or storage bags to prevent drips and spills
  • Sterilize pump parts and bottles periodically by boiling them in water for 5 -10 minutes. Check the product maintenance instructions for more information

Store breast milk in the right conditions

The method used for storage determines how long the shelf life of the milk is.

  • Room temperature (25oC): 4 – 6 hours
  • Insulated coolers: up to 24 hours
  • Fridge (4oC): 4 days
  • Freezer compartment of the fridge: 2 weeks
  • Freezer (-18oC or lower): up to 6 months

Defrost breast milk to retain quality

How you thaw the milk determines the quality

  • Defrost milk slowly by putting it in the fridge a day before it is needed
  • Warm milk by placing it in a bowl of warm water
  • Consume defrosted milk within 24 hours
  • Do not microwave milk. It causes hot spots and destroys some proteins and vitamins
  • Do not refreeze milk that has been thawed


Other tips

  • Don’t store old milk with new milk, it can affect the quality of the entire milk
  • Freeze milk almost as soon as it is extracted
  • The longer you store milk, the greater the loss of vitamins
  • Label the bottles or storage bags with the date expressed so that you can track the stored time and you can consume older ones one first
  • If you don’t have constant power supply, keep breast milk in the coolest part of the fridge that isn’t frequently opened. Do not store for longer than necessary
  • Label bottles with the name of your kid if you take them to the crèche so your baby is not fed with the wrong milk

Rule of thumb – discard milk if it looks or smells funny

Mothers’ hygiene to avoid contaminating breast milk

  • Wash your breast with water when taking your daily bath
  • Wash your hands before extraction
  • Avoid substance like– deodorants, soap, perfumes, cream around the breast and nipples.  These substances can make the breast dry or damaged. Also, unless you want to wash your breast before breastfeeding or extraction, they can be a source of contamination
  • Avoid wearing tight bras or bra pads with unbreathable lining or plastic ones. This can keep the breast wet and cause bacteria to fester
  • Wash nursing bras often
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