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Whether you’re pumping at home or at work, there are several ways you can store your milk. The most important factors in milk storage are ultimately how and when it will be used.
Bottle Storage Storing breastmilk in bottles is convenient if the milk will be stored in the refrigerator and used within 7 days. Breastmilk can be pumped directly into bottles, and then capped with a screw top lid. Some bottles also use a lid where you can add a nipple and use it to feed the baby directly. Bottles are good for short term storage, when you plan to give the milk after pumping or within 5-7 days in the refrigerator. It is easy to pour the milk into feeding bottles for daycare as well. They can be washed and reused again for pumping and storing breastmilk, so they produce less waste.
Breastpump manufacturers like Medela, Ameda, and Hygeia have bottles that you can pump directly into with lids, including lids that will take a nipple. It is good to have a few of these inexpensive bottles on hand so you can easily store milk after pumping. Healthy Horizons carries Medela Breastmilk Bottles, Ameda Breastmilk Storage Bottles, and Hygeia Mother’s Milk Storage Containers, all which can be used to store breastmilk and as a feeding bottle.
Storage Bags Breastmilk storage bags are inexpensive and easy to grab as you need them. They are particularly convenient for freezing breastmilk. It’s important that you only store breastmilk in bags designed to store breastmilk and not regular household plastic bags that may break or not be sterile. You can freeze the bags of milk laying flat to save space and stack them in the freezer for 3-6 months. It’s best to freeze milk in small amounts so you can make the exact size bottle you need without wasting milk. Freezing a mix of bags with different amounts such as 1, 2, or 3 ounce increments is useful if you typically make multiple bottles of breastmilk for a caregiver. The bags also let you write the date the milk was pumped and how many ounces are in the bag.
Some daycares allow moms to put extra breastmilk in their freezer on-site. Bags are very convenient for moms trying to build a large milk stash in their freezer. They are also handy for moms who pump at work; we recommend that moms always have a few extra bags to use in their toolkit.
Breastmilk storage bags are even more convenient to use today, as you can directly pump milk into the bag and then store it. Healthy Horizons carries the Medela Pump & Save bags which come with an adapter so you can pump directly into the bag. Ameda has the Ameda Store’N Pour bags which has an opening for pouring milk. You can also pump directly into the Ameda bag with an additional adaptor. Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags are the most popular bags and an adapter is now available to pump directly into the bags.
Freezing Milk Cubes
Another option for storing breastmilk is to freeze milk into cubes. This is particularly good if you want to freeze in half or one ounce increments. Healthy Horizons carries Milkies Milk Trays which lets you freeze up to 1 oz portions. You can make a large batch and freeze into portions that lets you grab just the right amount. The milk is shaped into bars so they will fit through the opening of any baby bottle, so you can take out the milk and place it in the bottle to thaw. When your baby starts solid foods, you can also use the trays to freeze homemade baby food.
Mixing It Up For most women, having a mix of bottles, bags, and perhaps ice trays gives them the best flexibility in handling breastmilk. Many women use a combination of fresh and frozen milk for caregivers to give to their baby so the combination of different storage options comes in handy. It’s a good idea to have a frozen milk stash for a least a few days or week for both working and stay-at-home moms in case you suddenly need to be away from your baby or are unable to breastfeed for a few days. If you have a frozen breastmilk stash make sure you cycle through the milk so it does not exceed its 3-6 months lifetime in the freezer. A good way for a working mom to do this is to give frozen milk for a caregiver to give to the baby on Monday, provide fresh milk Tuesday-Friday, and freeze the milk that was pumped on Friday. The fresh milk that is pumped to give the baby the next day can be pumped into bottles. Milk that will be frozen can be pumped directly into bags or pumped into bottles and poured into milk trays. Moms who occasionally leave the baby with a sitter can give frozen milk, and pump milk into bags or pour into trays to rotate the frozen milk stash.
Having a mix of milk storage options gives moms the greatest amount of flexibility and options. At our Healthy Horizons Breastfeeding Centers, we carry different options for storing and freezing breastmilk. Depending on your needs we can help you figure out what is the best way for you to store and manage your breastmilk. Stop by our centers to learn what options are best for you!