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Breast milk is an elixir of life for the newborn babies. It provides appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, and hormones. It also holds antibodies and lymphocytes which could help the baby resist infections. But when the mother has to be away from the baby for a longer duration (maybe because your baby was in special care or you are about to join your work again), it is difficult to manage. So, here are the tips to effectively express and store the breast milk.

Containers to store BreastMilk:

All the containers or parts of the containers (or the breast pump) which could come in contact with breastmilk should be cleaned and sterilized. Hands should also be washed thoroughly before expressing or handling the breast milk. The containers which are BPA-free or capped glass or hard plastic or special milk storage bags could be used to express and store breast milk. But since the storage bags could tear or leak and become contaminated easily, it is always best to place the bags in a hard plastic container with a tightly sealed lid.

Best ways to store breastmilk:

• Always label each container with the expressed date and quantity using waterproof labels and ink. If the milk is stored in child care facility, make sure to add the baby’s name on the label.

• Store the breast milk containers at the back of refrigerator or freezer as this is the coolest place. In case of unavailability of the refrigerator or freezer, store the milk in insulated cooler temporarily.

• Use the oldest of the breast milk first.

• Freeze and store the breast milk in small quantities – such as the quantity required for one feeding.

• Breast milk expands as it freezes, so it is best to avoid filling it to the brim.

• Breast milk in smaller amounts defrosts quickly. Also, it helps in avoiding unnecessary wastage of stored breast milk.

Storage guidelines of breast milk:

Duration of storing the breast milk varies with the storing methods.

• Room Temperature Storing: Freshly expressed breast milk remains intact for up to six hours at room temperature. However, it is always best to use the milk within four hours.

• Insulated cooler with ice packs: Freshly expressed breast milk could be stored for up to one day.

• Refrigerated: Breast milk could be stored for up to five days if stored at the back of the refrigerator, at the temperature less than 4 degrees Celcius and in clean conditions. However, the optimal time period is three days.

• Freezer compartment in Refrigerator: Freshly expressed milk could be stored up to 2 weeks.

• Deep Frozen: In deep frozen condition, breast milk could be stored up to twelve months. But the optimal time period is six months.

Thawing the Frozen Breast Milk:

Always thaw the oldest milk first. Thawing might take up to 12 hours. The breast milk should be placed in the refrigerator a night before the milk is intended to use. For quicker thawing of the breast milk, place the frozen breast milk container in a bowl of warm water or hold under warm running water and gradually increase the water temperature. Never keep the milk at room temperature to thaw. The thawed milk could be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Do not refreeze.

Warming the Thawed Breast Milk:

Place the thawed breast milk in the container containing hot water or use a bottle warmer. Never heat the breast milk in the microwave or the stove as this could the kill the antibodies present in the milk.

Adding Fresh Breast milk to frozen breast milk:

Though freshly expressed breast milk could be added to refrigerated or frozen milk, it is still advised not to do as the fresh breast milk which will be of mother’s body temperature could partially thaw the frozen milk. But in case of emergency, the fresh breast milk temperature could be reduced to the temperature of chilled or frozen breast milk and then added to the stored milk. 

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