Preserving Precious Breast Milk
by Dr. Rallie McAllister
When my boys were babies, I was determined to breastfeed them. I knew that it would help boost their immunity and protect their teeth from cavities. Breastfeeding also saved me time and money. I didn’t have lengthy maternity leaves, and when I went back to work, I wanted to continue to nurse my babies. This meant I had to pump and store my breastmilk.
Any woman who’s pumped will tell you, breast milk is more precious than gold. It’s a time-consuming process. I was always careful to collect every single drop of that “liquid gold,” pour it into bags, and freeze it for safekeeping.
Then when I was ready to feed my babies, I warmed the breast milk in bottles in a pan of water on the stove—the conventional method at the time. Little did I know I was overheating and damaging the milk.
Breast Milk is such a complex, amazing substance that it’s sometimes called “miracle milk.” It’s the perfect blend of proteins, essential fats, enzymes, and hormones. It offers nourishment, of course, and it also has antioxidant, antibacterial, prebiotic, probiotic, and immune-boosting properties.
When we feed our babies breast milk via the intended “delivery device”—Mom!—it’s perfectly fresh and at the ideal temperature.
But like many other foods, breast milk isn’t shelf stable. If you let it sit out at room temperature, bacteria quickly multiply Once breast milk is expressed, you should use it, refrigerate it, or freeze it within four hours. This slows the growth of bacteria, protecting and preserving the milk. It’s safe to store breastmilk in the fridge for a few days or in the back of a deep freezer for up to a year. Label each bag with the date so you know which one to use first.
Of course, now that you’ve refrigerated or frozen the milk, you need to warm it back up when you’re ready to feed it to your baby. Babies’ milk preferences are a lot like Goldilocks’s choices: They don’t like it too cold or too hot. They like it just right: at body temperature, 98.6° degrees Fahrenheit. If the milk is too cold, it can disrupt your baby’s digestion and contribute to colic. If the milk is too hot, it can burn your baby’s mouth and degrade the nutrients in the milk.
When you warm breast milk, it’s important to warm the milk evenly. A new breast milk bottle by nanobébé has a concave shape biomedically engineered to spread the milk into a thin layer, this new innovation warms bottles at faster rates to protect against nutrient damage while simultaneously providing quick access to nutrition when baby is hungry. Once the milk is warm, test the temperature by placing a few drops on the inside of your wrist. Then sit back, hold your baby in your arms, and enjoy one of the most beautiful, rewarding experiences that life has to offer—feeding your baby.
About The Author
Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, is a nationally recognized health expert. Her nationally syndicated newspaper column, Your Health, appeared in more than 30 newspapers in the United States and Canada and was read by over a million people each week. Rallie has been the featured medical expert on more than 100 radio and television shows. She is a mom of three sons, a family physician, and coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, She resides in Lexington, KY.