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How to Store Breast Milk

If you're a nursing mother, you probably have questions about how to store milk you're not going to use right away. Breast milk is a delicate and complex substance, so proper storage is very important if you want it to retain its quality. In this article, we explore the various methods of storing, freezing, and thawing your breast milk.

What's the Point of Storing Breast Milk?

Mothers who are breastfeeding know how precious every little drop of breast milk can be, so knowing how to store those extra ounces is an essential task for those moms who might need a break. Building up a store of extra milk comes in handy when moms won't be able to nurse. It is also useful to give your partner a chance to have some bonding time with your little one while still using breast milk.
As a living substance, breast milk is sometimes referred to as "white blood," a precious substance composed of a unique chemical makeup of nutrients and antibodies that cannot be duplicated. Because of its complex and delicate nature, it is crucial to know how to properly express and store milk to preserve those important qualities (see The Whys and Hows of Expressing Breast Milk).

Everything You Need to Know About Sterilizing

Before you can refrigerate or freeze your expressed breast milk, make sure you know if you will need to sterilize your storage containers. If your water does not have chlorine in it, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a dishwasher or stove-top method to sterilize bottles and nipples. Chlorine is added to most city and suburban water systems to kill germs.
If your water has chlorine, you can simply wash your bottles and nipples by hand with soap and water. In addition, your doctor might recommend sterilization of bottles and nipples if you have a premature baby or a baby that has a weak immune system.
Also, if you are using a breast pump, make sure all the components and containers are clean and sterilized before each use.
You can store breast milk in bottles with screw tops or cups that have tight caps. However, make sure the containers are not made with the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Nursing bags are fantastic because they are pre-sterilized and you can get most of the air out of the bags before you seal them to help minimize freezer burn or other damage to the milk. They also stack nicely and take up little freezer space. 
When using the stove-top method, place the clean open bottles and other items in the pot with enough water to cover the items completely. Cover the lid and bring the water to a boil. Let it boil for 15 minutes. Remove the items with tongs or spoons and let them air-dry in a drainer for about an hour before using them.
You can also buy sterilizing units, which work by steaming your baby's items. The directions for use will depend on which product you buy.
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