Breast Milk Basics

Breast milk Basics

To a first-time mom, there can be a ton of questions about breastfeeding and breast milk.  Why should I breastfeed?  How do I store breast milk? How long is breast milk fresh? And the list goes on. Find your breastfeeding questions answered here.

Why and when is it safe to breastfeed?

Breastfeeding is beneficial to both baby and mom, although do not get discouraged if you are not able to, not everyone can! Some of the benefits of breastfeeding for babies are:

  • Ear infections
  • Stomach viruses
  • Respiratory infections
  • Atopic dermatis
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Type 1 and 2 diabetes
  • Leukemia
  • Necrotizing entercolitis(a gastrointestinal disease in preterm infants) -1

For moms breastfeeding is associated with

  • Lower risk of:
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Breast cancer
    • Ovarian cancer
    • Postpartum Depression -1

Breastfeeding while sick is usually ok, common illnesses like a common cold, flu and diarrhea cant be passed through the breast milk and the breast milk can actually contain antibodies to help baby fight against the illnesses. The times when it is not advised to breastfeed your baby is:

  • If the mother is infected with HIV or AIDS
  • If you are taking antiretroviral medications
  • If you have untreated, active tuberculosis
  • If you are infected with human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II
  • If you are taking prescribed cancer chemotherapy agents (antimetabolites, and others that interfere with DNA replication and cell division)
  • If you are undergoing radiation -1

You can have sex while you are breastfeeding, just be aware that you may leak while having sex, so you can feed baby before sexual activity.  Also breastfeeding can delay the return of your period, but you can still get pregnant during this time; talk to your doctor about safe forms of birth control.

Breast milk storage tips

Expressed breast milk should be stored in clean capped glass or plastic container specific for breast milk.  You can also store it in the special plastic bags specifically designed for breast milk. –2

Always label the container with the date that you expressed the breast milk. -2

Store the breast milk at the back of the fridge or freezer where the temperature is the coldest. -2

You can add freshly expressed breast milk to previously frozen or breast milk store in the fridge, just make sure you cool the new breast milk before adding it to the cooled, thawed milk.  Never add recently expressed milk to frozen milk and try and refreeze. -2

Freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature (66-78° F) for up to 6 hours.  If you do not plan on using the milk during that time, you are somewhere where the temperature is warm transfer the the milk to the fridge, freezer or an insulated cooler. –2

Store freshly expressed milk in a cooler with icepacks for up to one day.  Always transfer the milk to the fridge or freezer. –2

Store freshly expressed milk in the back of the fridge for 5 to 8 days. –2

Store freshly expressed breast milk in a standard freezer for three to six months and in a chest freezer for six to 12 months.  Remember to always store the milk in the back of the freezer. –2

Only store about 4oz in each container to avoid waste. –3

I love this Milk Tray where you can freeze 10z servings of breast milk to add if baby doesn’t get completely full.  They are great to freeze then transfer to a plastic storage bag for easy access.

Previously frozen, thawed milk should only be stored in the fridge for 24 hours. –3

Never re-freeze thawed milk. -3

Thawing frozen breast milk

Thaw the oldest milk first, by placing the container in the fridge the night before you need it.  You can also place the frozen container in warm water to thaw it quicker.  If there is solid milk collected on the container, simply swirl the it to mix all of the milk together, never stir or shake the milk.  -2

Never thaw frozen breast milk at room temperature, that allows bacteria to grow.  -2

Do not heat breast milk in the microwave, some parts may be too hot for baby. Also some research suggests rapidly heated breast milk could loose some of its nutrients. –2

How to warm breast milk

From the freezer, thaw in the fridge overnight or heat frozen breast milk in cool tap water until defrosted and then in warmer water.

From the fridge thaw in warm water from the tap or heated on the stove. –3

 1 -“Breastfeeding Fact Sheet.” Womens Health. N.p., 16 July 2012. Web. 12 July 2014.

2-“Breast Milk Storages: Do’s and Dont’s.” Breast Milk Storage: Do’s and Don’ts. Mayo Clinic, 6 Apr. 2012. Web. 12 June 2014.

3-“What Are the LLLI Guidelines for Storing My Pumped Milk?” LLLI. N.p., 28 July 2012. Web. 12 June 2014.

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