It is widely accepted that breast milk is the best solution for feeding your baby. It is known to offer complete and perfect nutrition for newborns, and can also provide benefits to the infant as they grow. For instance, children that were breast fed often have higher IQs and fewer allergies or minor illnesses, such as ear infections.
Of course, it isn’t always convenient to feed your baby at the times when they are hungry, and your body may not cooperate when you need it to. It may also be hard for your child to latch on in order to feed, which is capable of causing a multitude of problems for mother and child.
The good news is there is research that suggests that breast milk can be stored ahead of time and even frozen, without it cultivating harmful bacteria or becoming unsafe for a newborn to drink.
A recent study measured the values of minerals and bacteria in milk that had been frozen versus milk that had been stored in a refrigerator. The results of the study showed that milk does not lose hardly any nutrition, no matter if it has been previously frozen or not. It also concluded that milk can be frozen more than once without losing any nutritional value.
VITAMIN ANALYSIS OF FROZEN AND THAWED BREAST MILK
Vitamin A (IE/100 mL)
Vitamin C (mg/100 mL)
8°C for 4 hours
8°C for 24 hours
23°C for 4 hours
23°C for 8 hours
Additionally, the results suggested that freezing or refrigerating human breast milk does not add any additional harmful bacteria, and can stay fresh and safe to drink for months at a time. The only nutrient that was lost during the freezing or thawing process was Vitamin C, although milk is not considered to be a good choice to drink if you are trying to get Vitamin C.
The most exciting thing about the results that were found in this case is the fact that breast milk does not have to be used right away. It can be stored away for later use, instead of being wasted or thrown out. This is significant because some mothers in the past thought it was proper to discard perfectly edible milk because they thought it was no longer good if it wasn’t fresh. This now means moms can have milk readily available for their children at all times, even if their bodies are not cooperating with them whenever it is time to feed their babies.
This also means that if someone donates milk to a donor bank for other children, it will be able to stay fresher for longer. What’s more is that these findings back up the fact that breast milk, even though it is raw and unpasteurized, is a stable food source.
Of course, it is most beneficial to feed babies directly from the breast, so it is not the best idea to start pumping your milk because of these promising findings. This study was designed to offer a solid back up plan for a mom to have whenever life throws roadblocks in her way, which may keep you from being able to produce milk or be around your baby whenever they are hungry.
Frozen Breast Milk Storage
There are so many reasons why you may need to freeze your breast milk. Perhaps you are away from your baby more often than when they were an infant or you just want to stay prepared, it shouldn’t be a problem to get your little one the nutrition they need, each time they need it.
If you intend to freeze your breast milk, you must be sure to store it in containers or bags that can be safely frozen. You will want to put your expressed milk into a bag as soon as possible and freeze it right away after pumping. Be sure to put the bags somewhere where they will stay the coldest in the freezer too, so refrain from putting anything in the door.
Once stored properly in the freezer, you can keep it in there for up to 1 year. Experts suggest trying to use it within 6 months though, so do your best to accomplish this. Rotate bags, so you are utilizing the oldest milk first. It is best if you label the bags with dates, so you can be sure that you are utilizing them in a certain order.
Take care not to fill them up too high because the liquid will expand, in the same way that water does when it freezes. You can also write the amounts on the containers, so you know how much there is.
Do not save large containers full of milk, since it isn’t as salvageable after thawing or defrosting. It is better to have numerous containers of just a few ounces, to make certain that it will all get used on time.
You can pick from a couple of ways to defrost your milk safely. One way is to let it defrost naturally in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure that you don’t leave the thawed breast milk in the fridge for more than a day or so though. You want it to be as fresh as possible when you give it to your baby.
Some people like to take the frozen bags and let them thaw out on the counter for a couple of hours, but this isn’t a great idea. Not only can it cause the milk to thaw unevenly, but also it is easy to forget about, which may end up spoiling the milk.
A better way to do it is to place the bag under warm running water until it gets to room temperature. Make sure the water isn’t too hot though. It should be comfortable to place your hands in and not burn you. Moreover, you can place the bag in a bowl of lukewarm water to defrost for a few minutes.
Once milk has been unfrozen, it may only be left out for a couple of hours before you must use it. After that time, it will not be good anymore.
An important thing to remember is that thawed milk may look and smell a little bit different. It will likely smell different than fresh milk and might even separate. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not okay to drink. You can swish the bottle around a little to help mix all the layers up properly, but try not to shake it too hard.
On the other hand, if it smells rancid or you don’t feel comfortable giving it to your baby, throw it out. It will stay safe when you store and freeze it properly though. There should be no issues with it going bad or not being a viable food source when you follow the simple directions discussed.
David J. Rechtman, MD, Martin L. Lee and H. Berg, Effect of environmental conditions on unpasteurized donor human milk.