How Long Can You Freeze Breast Milk?

In today’s busy world, breastfeeding can be a challenge. Many mothers must return to work shortly after birth. Or, more than often, busy mothers may wish to prepare bottles of breast milk for their child while traveling. You may even need to prepare breast milk for your baby sister to feed your child while you are away from home.

Either way, preparing and storing breast milk is a deed in which you must take special care for the safety of your child. Improperly storing or freezing your breast milk can be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of your child.

If not stored properly, breast milk will lose the nutritional value and may become contaminated with germs or bacteria. The breast milk will not be of the best quality if it sits out at room temperature too long. To ensure your child’s intestinal and stomach safety, there are basic steps you must take to store and freeze breast milk.

Freshly pumped or expressed breast milk can be stored frozen in the back of a deep freezer for up to twelve months. According to the CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm, it is best to use frozen breast milk within six months. However, it is acceptable to retain your breast milk in solid frozen form in a clean container for up to one year.

The experts at Bery Well Family, https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-freeze-breast-milk-431758, state breast milk may be kept in a side-by-side or standard freezer with the temperature set to a degree where your ice cream is rock hard for up to six months. All freezer’s thermostats have different settings. No two freezers are identical.

To properly store your breast milk for future use, you need to take heed to the following instructions:

How to Freeze Breast Milk

  1. Wash your hands and breasts with soap and water thoroughly before you begin expressing or pumping your milk. You can use an alcohol-based sanitizer if no water is available.
  2. Make sure; when using a breast pump, it is clean and sterile. Remember to change the hose often to avoid molding.
  3. Use a clean food-grade container, glass or heavy plastic bottle with a tight lid or a breast milk storage bag to store your frozen breast milk in.
  4. Make sure the containers, bottles, or bags you are going to store your breast milk in are sterile and free of any contaminants.
  5. Wipe down your countertop and all utensils used with soap and water.
  6. Leave about an inch of air space at the top of any container used, because the milk will expand while freezing.
  7. Before freezing, use waterproof labels and ink to label and date the container. 8. Make sure you date the containers with the date the breast milk was pumped or expressed before placing it in the freezer.
  8. If you are storing your breast milk to take to a child care center or sitter’s home for feedings, ensure you place your child’s name on the label as well.
  9. Place the containers with milk in the back of the freezer. This is where the temperature is the coldest, and air from opening and closing the freezer door will not be a risk in the breast milk being thawed.
  10. The Mayo Clinic suggests you only fill each container with enough breast milk for one feeding. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breast-milk-storage/art-20046350

With all the caution you may take to store and freeze your breast milk properly, there are a few things you must avoid to ensure the safety of your breast milk for your child. Following is a list of things to avoid when storing frozen breast milk:

What to Avoid When Freezing Breast Milk

  1. After pumping or expressing, if you are not going to use your breast milk within four hours after expressing it, prepare and freeze it. This will help maintain the nutrients and quality of breast milk. Expressed or pumped breast milk can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 hours. Breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days safely.
  2. Never place your breast milk to be frozen in the freezer door. Doing so will not allow the milk to freeze properly. The warm air from the constant opening and closing of the freezer door may deteriorate the quality of the milk.
  3. Avoid using recycled material bottles. Recycled bottles with the number 7 may contain BPA plastics.
  4. Never store your breast milk in zip-lock, disposable bottle liners, or other types of plastic bags. These bags may burst and are not intended to store frozen breast milk.
  5. Never re-use breast milk freezer bags.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of freezing breast milk let’s look like the procedure to thaw it. Then Mayo Clinic,
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breast-milk-storage/art-20046350 also suggests you remember when using frozen breast milk to use the oldest milk first. FIFO-First in-First out of the freezer is the best method if you have a large quantity of milk stored. Using the oldest stored frozen breast milk ensures the freshness of the entire batch. To thaw your breast milk, you may:

How to Thaw Breast Milk

  1. Place the container in the refrigerator the night before it is to be used.
  2. You can simply thaw the milk by placing the container in a bowl of warm water and allow it to become room temperature.
  3. You may also place the container under warm running water until thawed.
  4. Place the frozen milk container in a thermal bag and allow it to thaw naturally.
  5. Leave the milk container sitting out until it reaches room temperature.

Whichever method you decide, do not place frozen breast milk in hot boiling water or a microwave. Other experts state that rapid thawing will break down the breast milk’s natural antibodies.

All experts seem to agree you can freeze your breast milk as long as a year in a deep freezer safely. However, they suggest you use the milk within six months to ensure its integrity and wholeness. Using the FIFO- First in-First out method, where you use the oldest breast milk first, is recommended. Also, only freezing as much breast milk that is needed for a single feeding is highly recommended.

Being a new mom is an exciting time in your life. And the wellbeing of your child is of foremost importance to you. Wanting to breastfeed and still having the time to do everything you must do day to day may be a challenge. However, knowing how to freeze your milk for times when you are on the run or have to be someplace else when feeding time comes is very convenient. Keeping these steps in mind will ensure your breast milk will maintain its nutrients and remain a quality substance for your child. And knowing you can store your breast milk frozen from six to twelve months will give you peace of mind.