If you want to have a stash of breast milk for future use – including in emergencies – freezing it is a great way to give you peace of mind. When it comes to freezing breast milk there are a few important precautions that you need to take to ensure you keep your breast milk safe. These include thoroughly washing the containers you use, labeling the containers, and storing them in the right part of your freezer.
In this article, we are going to explain the steps you should follow to freeze breast milk. We’ll then explain the benefits and give you some general tips for how to freeze it properly.
Let’s jump straight in.
Steps to freeze breast milk
For best results, follow these steps when freezing breast milk.
- Start by washing your hands with hot soapy water. This is important to prevent any cross-contamination.
- Ensure the breast milk is at room temperature.
- Store breast milk in clean, sterilized containers. Glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids, as well as special breast milk storage bags, are all suitable.
- Fill the containers. Make sure you leave between ½ and 1 inch of space at the top of the container as the milk will expand when frozen.
- Date and label the containers.
- Place the containers in the freezer. The best place to put the containers is at the back of the freezer as this is where the temperature is most consistent. Breast milk can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months. However, it’s recommended that you try and use it within 3 months.
How to thaw breast milk
When the time comes to thaw breast milk from the freezer, follow these steps:
- Remove the container of milk from the freezer.
- Leave the container to thaw overnight or if you need it straight away hold the container under warm running water. Don’t use a microwave as it won’t thaw the milk evenly which causes ‘hot spots’ in the milk which can be dangerous when feeding your baby.
- Once thawed, swirl the container around to mix the milk.
- It should now be safe to feed your baby!
Why freeze breast milk
There are several important reasons why a mother might want to freeze milk. Most importantly, it’s a great way to have a supply on hand to ensure your baby continues to receive the benefits of breast milk when directly breastfeeding isn’t possible. Let’s discuss other important reasons.
- It’s convenient. Freezing breast milk ensures you have a supply on hand for when you’re unable to breastfeed directly. For example, when you go back to work or are away from home for more than a couple of hours.
- Peace of mind. When you have breast milk in the freezer it gives you peace of mind that you have a supply of milk on hand in case of emergency or during periods of separation from your baby.
- Extends breastfeeding time. Having breast milk in the freezer means you can extend the time your baby receives breast milk.
- Provides important nutrition. Having breast milk in the freezer to provide your baby with means you can continue to give them important nutrients that are found in breast milk. This helps aid their growth and development.
Tips for safely freezing breast milk
To help you store breast milk in the freezer safely, follow these tips:
- Be safe. Thoroughly wash your hands and all storage containers before expressing or pumping to prevent cross-contamination.
- Leave space in the containers. Leave ½ to 1 inch of space at the top of the container as milk expands when it freezes.
- Label. Label all breast milk you are going to freeze with the date it was expressed and your child’s name.
- Consult child carers. If giving breast milk to a childcare provider ask them how they want it to be labeled and stored.
- Small batches are best. Store breast milk in small batches of 2 and 4 ounces. This will prevent waste.
- Be careful with leftovers. If you have breast milk left over after a feeding make sure it’s used within 2 hours. However, if refrigerated it can be used during the next feeding.
- Store in the back of the freezer. Place breast milk at the back of the freezer. This is because the back of the appliance has the most consistent temperature.
- Don’t store for too long. For best results, try to use frozen breast milk within 3 months of freezing it. It will however be safe for up to 6 months.
- Thaw correctly. When thawing breast milk, leave it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw or run it under warm water if required instantly. Don’t use a microwave as your milk might end up with hot spots in it which can be dangerous when feeding your baby.
- Mix before feeding. Before feeding, swirl the milk around to mix the cream back into the rest of the milk.
Use within 24 hours. Once breast milk is thawed it should be used within 24 hours. Store it in the refrigerator between feeds.