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Storing breast milk
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Breast milk is the perfect food for babies. And because of that, many women will pump and store to give to their baby at a later date. I'm Dr. Alan Greene and I want to share with you a few tips about that.
First, how long can you store breast milk? Well it turns out that it stores remarkably well. At room temperature, it only lasts for about 4 hours or so. But just a bit below room temperature, say in a cooler with an ice pack in there, it will last for at least 24 hours. In the refrigerator, it will last for a full 8 days and be just as fresh as the day you started. And in the freezer it will last for 3 or 4 months. But if you think you'll be using it in the next week or so, keeping it in the refrigerator is probably the best because you keep most of the wonderful properties of breast milk still intact.
If you're going to be freezing breast milk, a few tips. First is make sure the container you use is intended for freezing. If you use bag, make sure the bag says it's for freezing. Some are for rapid use. And if you use a glass bottle, again make sure it's for freezing. And if you're going to freeze in glass, you want to leave the lid slightly ajar until the milk is frozen and then screw it all the way down so you don't create too much pressure inside. Whatever container you use, you'll want to put the date that it was frozen on the there. The date it was collected and frozen. And that way you can always keep your supply as fresh as possible by going back and taking the first one in should be the first one out.
I do suggest though another important tip. Is some time after the first week or so, go ahead and pull out a bag and use it so that you can find out if there were any problems along the way. If it doesn't look right, or it doesn't smell right, talk to your lactation consultant. It can usually be fixed with just a simple extra step in the process. And it's well worth finding that out now rather than waiting until you have 3 or 4 months worth of breast milk all there at the same time it didn't turn out the way you wanted it to.
It's well worth the effort to nurse and any extra breast milk to go ahead and collect it now to give to your baby at moments when you're not nursing.
Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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