Whether choosing to freeze your breastmilk is for convenience, returning to work, or building up a stash, knowing how long frozen breast milk can last is crucial. In this blog post, we'll delve into the longevity of frozen breast milk, providing you with general guidelines to ensure the safety and quality of your liquid gold.
Understanding Frozen Breastmilk Storage Guidelines
Proper storage plays a vital role in maintaining the freshness and nutritional value of frozen breast milk. These guidelines will help you make the most of your milk:
Freshly Expressed Milk
Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. However, for optimal freshness and nutritional content, it's best to use refrigerated milk within three days of expression.
Freezing Breast Milk
When freezing breast milk, it's essential to consider the temperature and storage duration.
Standard Freezer: In a standard freezer compartment within a refrigerator, breast milk can be safely stored for up to three to six months. Ensure that the temperature remains consistently below 0°F (-18°C) for the duration of storage.
Deep Freezer: In a deep freezer, breast milk can be stored for even longer periods. It can maintain its quality for up to six to twelve months when the temperature remains consistently below -4°F (-20°C).
The choice of storage containers can impact the longevity and quality of frozen breast milk.
BPA-free Plastic Containers: Use hard-sided plastic bottles or breast milk storage bags specifically designed for freezing breast milk. Ensure the containers are clean, leak-proof, and labeled with the date of expression.
Glass Containers: If you prefer using glass containers, opt for those specifically designed for freezer storage. Leave some space at the top of the container to allow for milk expansion during freezing.
Tips for Safe Thawing and Usage
When it's time to use your frozen breast milk, proper thawing techniques are essential to preserve its nutrients and minimize bacterial growth.
There are a few safe methods to thaw frozen breast milk.
Refrigerator: Place the frozen milk in the refrigerator overnight or for approximately 12 hours before use. This gentle thawing method ensures a gradual temperature change and minimizes the loss of nutrients.
Warm Water Bath: If you need to thaw the milk more quickly, you can use a warm water bath. Place the frozen milk container in a bowl of warm water. Avoid using hot water or microwaving, as they can destroy important components of the milk.
Avoid thawing breast milk at room temperature, as it can encourage bacterial growth and compromise its safety.
Gently swirl the container to mix any separated layers of milk. Do not vigorously shake the milk, as it can denature the proteins.
Check the milk's temperature by placing a few drops on the inside of your wrist. It should be lukewarm, not hot.
Use thawed breast milk within 24 hours. Do not refreeze thawed milk.
While frozen breast milk can be stored for extended periods, it's crucial to monitor its quality before feeding your baby.
Before using frozen breast milk, visually inspect it for any changes in color or texture. It's normal for breast milk to vary in appearance, with different shades of white, yellow, or blue. If there are any unusual smells or significant changes in color or texture, discard the milk.
With these guidelines, you should still check each container of breastmilk you have thawed before giving it to your baby. Sometimes our freezers do not maintain temperature properly due to a power outage or an unforeseen event. For safety measures, always use your mom discretion to determine if what you are serving is safe and acceptable for your baby’s needs. After all, mama always knows best!