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How to Store Breast Milk

Reusing Frozen Breast Milk

To thaw frozen breast milk, place it in the refrigerator overnight or under cool running water. It is important to gradually increase the temperature of the water to heat the milk to an appropriate feeding temperature.
Breast milk that was frozen can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. It is not usually recommended to refreeze milk that was previously frozen, as it causes further breakdown of milk components and will lose antimicrobial activity.
Milk that is refrigerated can be warmed under warm running water for several minutes. Do not heat the milk directly on the stove or in a microwave, as you may lose some of the beneficial properties of the milk. Using a microwave can also cause hotspots in the milk, as it will not heat the milk uniformly. Also, do not bring the milk to the boiling point.
It is normal for breast milk that has been refrigerated to separate into a milk layer and a cream layer. Don't worry -- this is normal (cow's milk does this, too; we just aren't used to seeing it because store-bought cow's milk has been homogenized). Just gently swirl it to mix it back up before feeding it to your little one.
Also, it is important to note that freezing breast milk can cause a breakdown of milk fats. After you thaw it, it may have a slight soapy smell or taste. This is normal and the milk is still safe for your baby to drink.
However, if there is a rancid or very soapy smell, that could mean that your milk has too much high lipase activity. Lipase is an enzyme that breaks down milk fats. Just after expressing it, you can heat the milk to scalding (where there are bubbles around the edges), but do not boil it, and then quickly cool it down. This helps to deactivate the lipase enzyme. It is believed that scalded milk is still healthier than commercial infant formula.
(Click How to Reheat Breast Milk for more detailed information on how to thaw and reheat frozen breast milk.)
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