Breastmilk storage and usage

Guidelines for storing breastmilk safely for later use.

So you’ve decided to breastfeed! Congratulations! This is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your baby and provide the best nutrition possible for him or her. When considering breastfeeding there are guidelines to remember to help ensure you feed your baby safely.

Did you know that it is safe to leave breastmilk on the counter for up to eight hours as long as it has been sanitarily expressed? Breastmilk can safely stay at room temperature, up to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, for up to eight hours. However, to maintain the quality you may want to keep it in a cooler.

You must never reuse breastmilk if the baby has already drunk from the bottle. Bacteria from the baby’s mouth can stay on the bottle and contaminate the rest of the milk. If the baby has not drunk from the bottle, you can refrigerate the milk and it can be used safely for up to one week. If the milk is not going to be used within a week, freeze it. Frozen milk will keep for three to six months depending on the temperature of your freezer. Your freezer should be held at zero degrees F. Do not place the breastmilk on the freezer door as this spot of the freezer is usually warmest and there is less control over temperature as the freezer is being opened and closed. After thawing, do not refreeze breastmilk and use thawed breastmilk within 24 hours.

Expressing milk. Michigan State University Extension recommends that you wash your hands with soap and hot water before expressing breast milk. If water is unavailable use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol. Breasts and nipples do not need to be washed prior to expressing.

How do I store my breastmilk? When storing milk use breastmilk bags, BPA free containers or hard sided plastic or glass containers with well-fitting tops. Always clearly label with the date and include the baby’s name if giving the milk to a childcare provider. Leave an inch or so headspace in the bags or bottles to leave room for when the liquid expands as it freezes. Check the date on the label and use the oldest milk first.  

Using breastmilk. Breastmilk does not need to be warmed prior to feeding a baby. It can even be served cold! In fact, if you microwave breastmilk you can kill off the beneficial bacteria that build your baby’s immune system! Microwaving also creates hot spots in the milk which can scald a baby’s mouth when drinking. If using frozen breastmilk be sure to thaw safely. You may do so by warming the milk container in a bowl of warm water, holding it under warm running water or putting it in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure to swirl the milk after thawing. Do not shake it. Next, test the temperature on your wrist to make sure it is warm, not hot. Now it is ready to feed to the baby. 

With breastfed or formula fed babies, sometimes symptoms of foodborne illness can occur.

If your baby has any of the following symptoms; bloody diarrhea, prolonged high fever, not taking fluids, dry diapers for more than three hours and not being able to keep anything down due to vomiting, take him or her to a doctor immediately.

Keeping your family safe from foodborne illnesses is very important at any age. If you would like more information about food safety, contact your local MSU Extension office or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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