I wake up at eleven in the evening for that late-night pumping session to build up a stash. I pump three to four times at the office to bring home milk to my little one. These were a few of those crucial tasks that a working and breastfeeding mommy must do. So how do you handle and store that precious liquid gold that you extracted from your body?
I had a few horror stories when it comes to handling breast milk. Never in a million years have I thought that I would cry over a spilled milk. If we are talking about that liquid gold, then I shed too many tears. As a first time mom, I had a lot to learn – I still do until now – and there were a few discoveries which I learned the hard way. Although I browsed through many articles on how to go about it, spoiled milk was one of those mistakes I regret the most, due to improper storage and transfer.
I was the type that produced just enough to feed my baby. I had to take many supplements to help me with my production, so every drop counts, and as days went on, I slowly learned how to avoid those mistakes. I made sure not to waste even a single drop (hence I let it go after I cry).
Here are some of my experience that I would like to share, especially for working moms who travel to and from office and help guide how to store and transfer your precious milk properly.
First in First out. Weeks before I went back to work, I pumped whenever Achan was asleep to help build my stash. At first, I used milk bags to store freshly pumped milk. I had the once in 4 ounces, which I later changed to 3 ounces since I do not produce that much. I arranged my milk according to date, even before learning about the first in first out rule, my OC self wanted to see the milk labeled with date and time and arranged in chronological order. I carefully placed them in a long plastic container that fitted our freezer. Later on, I found out that It was how it should be, so you would know which one to pick out first to feed the baby.The trick was to freeze the bag lying down first, then once frozen, place it in the container standing up. It was easy for my husband to pick which one to thaw and feed our little one first.
Once Thawed consume within 24 hours. Thawing. This one should not be complicated. We place the milk bag in a bowl filled with warm water to thaw the milk. NEVER put the milk in a microwave, but this was not a problem since we do not have one. We settled with warm water, which was safer, and surprisingly breast milk was easy to thaw. Within minutes the milk was ready.
Another way, which we learned along the way, was to thaw the milk in the fridge. I take the frozen milk out of the freezer and place it in the fridge during my midnight pumping session. This way, once our little one wakes up at around 6 in the morning, milk is thawed and ready for consumption. My husband carefully transfers the milk in a feeding bottle and warms it up by placing the bottle in warm water for a few minutes before giving it to our child.
Thawed milk, meaning those that were once frozen and placed in the fridge part, should be consumed 24 hours.
Room temperature, consume within 4 hours. We were careful with this one. We made sure to check what time we warmed the milk or transferred to the feeding bottle. My switch would flip whenever I learn that the time was almost up for the milk and not yet consumed. Our rule was as long as our baby has not fed on, we can still place it in the fridge for later consumption. We also make sure that we thaw an hour before his feeding time, so we would not spoil anything, but of course, we had a few mistakes along the way. Once the baby has fed on the milk and not finished the entire bottle, it is only good for up to one hour.
No need to Freeze Next day batch. As days went on, my stash slowly vanished as I could not keep up with the demand until we came to a point where the milk I pumped in the office was the milk for consumption the next day. At first, I place the milk in the freezer then take it out after a few hours. Later on, I realized that breast milk in the fridge was good for up to 8 days. I placed them in the coldest part of the fridge, upper right, where the temperature is constant. It was convenient since I no longer need to thaw the milk.
I also changed from milk bags to reusable milk cups and mother earth and baby-friendly. I used the one for Twinkies and Owl breastmilk storage cups.
Freeze the extracted milk only when consumed for a later date. Later on, we only freeze the milk on the weekend or when we travel and be gone for a longer period of time. I place the cups on a plastic container in the freezer, where I used to place milk bags. They will last and be good once we come back from our trip.
Combine same temperature of milk. I only bring two to three cups with me to the office for pumping. I no longer use milk bags, which was a choice because I feel guilty about the additional trash. I try to avoid single-use plastic as much as I can. So how do I combine my milk when I pump in the office or at home for storage? The trick is to combine the same temperature milk. Luckily, we have a fridge in the office with a freezer to store our milk. Freezers are for ice packs, and the refrigerator is for our milk and breast pump parts.
I pump directly into the cups since my flanges are compatible with the size of the cups’ size, which is convenient. After each pump, I transfer my output into one cup, place my pump parts into a large container, and place them inside the fridge. On my next sessions, I use the earlier empty cup on one side, and a new cup on the other side. The milk stored in the fridge with the same temperature will be combined, meaning I keep the freshly pumped milk in a new cup, and once it cools down, I transfer it (This is if the container has space for milk) to the existing cup. Each cups holds up to 6 ounces, and I only fill each cup up to the last line and never to the rim to make room since milk expands as it freezes.
Ultimate test rule – if it smells bad, time for a milk bath. This says it all. It breaks my heart to throw even a drop of milk. I store the bad milk and use it as milk bath. I mix it with warm water and give Achan a bath with it. Breast milk has many benefits and giving it as a bath is not a bad choice and a good use for the milk. Be sure to rinse it off after.
Store the feeding bottle in the fridge after use. We use the same feeding bottle in one day unless the little one dropped it, and the nipple part touched the surface. Only then do we change to a new bottle. This hack applies to non-premie and healthy babies.
Store pumping parts in a container in the fridge after each use. For pumping mamas out there, it is a chore to clean part before use, but if your baby is past the newborn stage (more than three months) and is healthy, you can use this trick. I store mine in a lock and lock container after every use, and before I use it again, I wipe it with a tissue on the flange part. It may be cold at first. It gave me a cold shock every time, but I got used to it.
I hope I did not miss anything, but If I did, be sure to let me know. Mommy brain is real, but I am pretty sure that was all we did to survive our pure breast milk journey.
Good luck and know that your feelings are valid and with prayers you can overcome any obstacles that comes with motherhood.
Have a wonderful and blessed day!