Q. I’m pregnant, and I’m due to have my baby soon. I want to breastfeed, but I will have to go back to work a few months after the birth of my baby. I don’t want to give the baby formula when I’m at work during the day, but I work too far away to go home for feedings and my job isn’t really conducive to pumping at work. I’m curious to know if I can pump breast milk in advance, and then freeze it for when I need it. Can you freeze breast milk?
A. Yes, you can absolutely freeze breast milk. It’s a wonderful option for working mothers or for times when someone else must feed the baby. However, it’s extremely important that breast milk is stored carefully to preserve its sterility and nutritional qualities. The utmost care must be taken when storing breast milk in the freezer.
How to Freeze Breast Milk?
To begin, make sure to wash your hands before pumping breast milk. Pump breast milk into a sterile hard-sided storage container or a container made specifically for storing breast milk. The container must be freezer safe, and regular freezer bags are not recommended. Ensure that the container has a tight-fitting lid. For the most convenient use, freeze breast milk in single use quantities. In other words, store enough for one bottle of milk at a time. That way, you only need to thaw what will be needed at one time. Allow for a little bit of headroom in the container as breast milk will expand a little bit upon freezing. Label and date the container, and then place it at the back of the freezer where it is the coldest and where the temperature is the most consistent.
How to Thaw Breast Milk?
To thaw breast milk, remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator until thawed completely. Do not thaw breast milk on the counter. Keep in mind that frozen breast milk can be safely frozen for 3-6 months, although many experts recommend using frozen breast milk within 6 weeks. As babies age, the composition of breast milk changes in order to meet their nutritional needs at different ages. Using breast milk that was expressed months before may not adequately meet the needs of an older baby.
Use thawed breast milk that has been stored in the refrigerator for up to two days after thawing. Discard any extra breast milk leftover in a bottle after feeding a baby.