It’s pretty crazy to think that today Kenna and I are 8 months into our breastfeeding journey together and I’m about just a little less than 8 months into my pumping journey. Breast pumping was something I was extremely nervous about this time around. I pumped a handful of times when I was nursing Alea, but I stayed home with her and didn’t really need to pump. I’d pump for a bottle here and a bottle there if needed, but she despised the bottle so it was usually a complete waste. For Mckenna on the other hand, I have to pump because I work full-time!
When I first went back to work, I pumped on my way to work, in the morning, over lunch and then once in the afternoon. If weren’t counting, that’s FOUR times each day! Talk about commitment. I know how it down to 2-3 times per day. I pump in the morning at work and in the afternoon at work. Sometimes I pump again when I get home while I’m feeding her solids for dinner, it just depends on how I’m feeling. Pumping is a lot of work and takes some serious commitment. You certainly don’t want all that handwork to go to waste and not store the milk you pumped properly.
Know the Recommended Storage Times: We have a magnet on our fridge to help us keep track, but it’s so important to know how long you can store breast milk at certain temps and in certain conditions. While I’m at work, I keep my pumped breast milk in this cooler in the insulated pocket of my Sarah Wells Kelly Bag. The ice pack is still very cold and my milk still feels very cold when I take it out immediately after getting home.
It’s important to keep in mind the following storage times and/or keep them handy for your to reference. Sometimes breast milk gets left out, so it’s important to remember how long that can be without having to dump it! You breastfeeding/pumping mamas know how much it hurts to pour that liquid gold down the drain!
Room Temp: 4-6 hours
Cooler with Ice Packs: 24 hours
Fridge: 3-8 days
Freezer: 6-12 months
Freeze Flat: When I bring home milk in my storage bags or I’m moving some of our fridge stash to the freezer, I always find a spot to lay the bag of milk flat in the freezer. Freezing the bag flat helps the milk thaw out so much faster when you do actually need it. Cory was pretty surprised how quickly a bag of milk unthawed when he needed to use a frozen bag in a pinch!
Develop a System: I’ve seen some pretty awe-inspiring frozen breast milk stashes on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. Stashes that you swear make the angels sing the Hallelujah Chorus every time the freezer door opens and stashes that are so perfectly organized you’d swear Martha Stewart owned the collection. I can assure you, my freezer stash does not look like that, but I feel like I have a pretty good system down. I freeze my breast milk in our main freezer until the shelf is full. Once the shelf is full, I divide the bags into gallon size Ziplock bags and note the date range and the number of ounces in the bag on the exterior of the Ziploc bag. Then the gallon bag goes in the deep freezer preferably on the bottom so the milk on top is the oldest and will get used first.
Keep Track of Your Stash: Every time a bag of breastmilk goes into the freezer, I add it to my Notes app on my phone. There, I keep track of how much milk I freeze by the month, how many ounces I send to daycare, and how many ounces total I have in our freezer stash. It may sound a little over the top, but it makes me feel better knowing exactly what I’m working with and how man ounces we have to fall back on if that need ever arises.
Freeze in a Variety of Sizes: At this point in my pumping journey, I freeze everything I pump because Mckenna gets frozen milk at daycare so we can work through the stash we have built up. (It’s currently just over 800oz!) I know Mckenna usually eats 3-4oz every feeding when she’s at daycare, so I try to freeze in the same amount. Sometimes it’s nice to have a 2oz or a 5oz on hand, though, so I try and freeze in a variety of sizes so they can take out what they need without taking out too much extra. Did you know thawed breast milk needs to be used within 24 hours?
Storage Favorites: I’ve come to find a few favorites along my breast pumping and breast milk storing journey. I’ve bought two sets of this Medela Breast Milk Storage Solution collection simply because it’s the only way I’ve found to get the Medela storage bottles with the labeling lids so you can twist the lid to show what day the milk was pumped on. This helps when storing breast milk in the fridge so you know which bottle needs to get used first. I’m also a huge fan of the Up & Up storage bags. They’re inexpensive and we’ve never had a problem with leaking.
This breast pumping and breastfeeding and breast milk storing journey has been a learn-as-you-go type process for me, but I’m so happy and thankful that my body has allowed me to embark on this journey. Pumping isn’t the most glamorous or the most exciting thing on my daily to do list, but knowing that I’m providing the best possible nutrition for Mckenna while I’m away from her makes it all worth it!
I hope you find some of these tips helpful and if this post doesn’t necessarily apply to you, I hope you share it with someone who may find it helpful!
What tips do you have for storing breast milk?