Pumping is HARD work (it's one of the reasons we love the Haakaa so much!) and there's not much more devastating than spilling your liquid gold OR realising you haven't stored it correctly and need to pour it down the sink. Storing your breast milk safely means that none will go to waste and it can be used whenever you need it.
What's the best way to store your liquid gold? Read on to find out!
Your How-To Guide To SAFELY Storing Your Liquid Gold
First things first; breastmilk contains living cells. Breast milk isn't sterile (neither are your breasts!) and while cleanliness is important, you don't have to sterilise pump parts and bottles/storage containers like you may need to do when formula feeding. Just make sure your hands and pump have been washed in warm, soapy water, especially if they've previously contained milk.
1. Choose HOW to store your milk
This will depend on when and what you're using it for! If you are pumping regularly to build a stash or feed bubs, using a silicone milk collector, or plan to use your expressed milk within 3 days (72 hours) without needing to freeze it, you may want to keep milk in your pump or a bottle. The Haakaa allows you to do this thanks to the handy sealing discs and/or silicone stopper both of which seal your pump to prevent contamination or spills. Otherwise, you may want to use breastmilk storage bags (we love these ones from Junobie) or a breastmilk storage tray.
If you need to freeze your breastmilk for future use, you will want to use breastmilk storage bags. We recommend reusable and eco-friendly options such as the Junobie Reusable Silicone Breastmilk Storage Bags and Haakaa Silicone Milk Storage Bags. You can also freeze your breastmilk in trays such as the Haakaa Silicone Baby Food and Breast Milk Freezer Tray the Junobie Milk Boxes and the Haakaa Silicone Pineapple Nibble Tray.
2. Choose WHERE to store your milk
This depends on when you'll be using your milk. If you plan to use your milk soon after expressing, you can safely keep it in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 72 hours or three days. Place it towards the back of the fridge, where it's coolest and where the temperature remains the most stable. If you're saving your milk for a later date, it's best to freeze it. Breastmilk can be frozen for up to three months, so long as the temperature is kept consistent (i.e. your freezer is separate to your fridge).
3. Can I keep my expressed milk at room temperature?
This is one of the most asked questions we get, especially from mamas using the Haakaa and/or pumping multiple times per day. Freshly expressed breastmilk that is kept in a closed container can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours provided the outside temperature isn't over 26°C.
4. Can I combine freshly pumped milk with milk I pumped earlier?
Another very common question! You can add freshly pumped breast milk directly into a bottle of room temperature breast milk, as long as the previously collected room temperature breast milk has not expired (i.e. been sitting out of the fridge too long). This means you can combine a couple of pumping sessions into the one storage container, especially if those sessions are close together. You can also combine freshly pumped milk with refrigerated milk, you just need to cool the freshly pumped down before adding it to the refrigerated milk (this is probably to safer option).
5. Defrosting your milk
The golden rule with defrosting breastmilk? Ban the microwave! Microwaving breastmilk isn't ideal as it can kill off some of the goodness and may also create 'hot spots' of scalding milk. To safely defrost your milk, either move it from the freezer to the fridge to defrost slowly or use a cup or jug of warm water and immerse the storage bag/bottle. Just make sure it's sealed tightly!
Once defrosted, milk must be used quickly. The Australian Breastfeeding Association has the following guidelines for using defrosted milk:
Breastmilk Storage Guidelines
No more than 72 hours
2 weeks in freezer compartment inside refrigerator
3 months in freezer section of refrigerator with separate door
6-12 months in deep / chest freezer