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Ep 13: Breastmilk Storage Options

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The freezer is kind of tough on your milk. It’s a delicate substance. It really is tricky.

This is Maureen Farrell and Heather O’Neal. We’re midwives and lactation consultants, but most importantly, we’re two breast friends on a mission to bring you accessible information about lactation, body positivity, boobs, relationships, and mental health with a few laughs along the way.

Join us for another episode. Welcome to another pod snack. I think this time it’s really going to be a pod snack. We actually, I think the last like three, we tried to record were supposed to be and they’re not. A little long-winded lately. Sorry about that. I think it’s actually my fault. Actually, I’m not sorry. No, I hope you enjoy it.

We’re not sorry. And it’s a pod snack. Here we go. We’re going to talk about milk storage today. And as you might’ve noticed, if you were registering for your registry, as you might’ve noticed while registering for your registry, creating your baby registry. Yeah. While registering for your baby products during pregnancy, you might’ve noticed that there was a plethora of milk storage options available to you, and it can be a little bit overwhelming.

And lucky for you there is a little bit of science behind it, and with a little knowledge you can choose very wisely. The power of science, the power of science. We love it. I wonder what Bill Nye used for his children. Bill Nye, the science guy obviously used science. We should tweet him or something. We should, I love Bill.

He’s got the little sassy during this COVID stuff. He’s, he’s been wonderful. Yeah. I love him. So anyways, milk storage. Also, you can tell we’re nineties kids just, yeah, every episode we’re like Alanis Morissette and Bill Nye the science guy!

Milk storage. Okay. So there are bags. There are bottles and then there are glass bottles. So I’m just going to cut right to the chase and let you know that the research all shows that glass bottles are actually the best storage option. However, they’re the most annoying. Yeah. If you’ve ever tried to freeze something in a glass bottle before you might know that liquid gets bigger when it freezes and that can be a problem.

However, it preserves the most vitamins, minerals, and fat. And whenever you warm it back up in the glass bottle, obviously no plastic molecules are getting distributed within your milk and less fat molecules stick to the side. Right. So your crunchy friend who only uses glass bottles is not crazy.

Yeah. That’s true. But she might be making a lot of extra work because they are hard. They’re definitely hard to manage and they take up a lot of space. But if you have a deep freeze this is a really good option. It’s a really safe option for your baby. Right. And then, you know, some people can just freeze their. I mean, this is great for people that maybe are only, maybe only ever have 10 extra ounces in their freezer at any given time. They’re just pumping enough to replace the next feed. And that’s great. That’s no problem at all. But if you’re exclusively pumping, that’s going to be a lot, right. Or if you’re trying to manage an oversupply, right.

So if you’re one of those people that just has a few extra ounces in the freezer at any given time, you can pump directly into like Dr. Brown’s bottles that then you just put the nipple directly on it. So, yeah. So, and also keep in mind, the less times you transfer the milk from one container to another, the more fat, vitamins, and minerals are preserved. Yeah. So if you do know that you want to ultimately store in a plastic bags, there are pumping systems that you can pump directly into plastic bags. Yes. And I use the Kiinde system and I really liked it.

The measurement on the side with plastic bags is not that reliable. It’s bullshit. You look at your like last to know bag and your Medela bag and you’re like the actual fuck is this? So don’t trust that per se, but it’s not really that important. No, no. I don’t stress out about that at all. So the Kiinde bags, they literally attach directly to your flanges. They screw on, I love them because they’re thicker.

And if you’re not going to go with glass, the next best is going to be a thicker plastic bag. The thicker the better, because if you’re putting them in the freezer, there’s a less of a chance of getting freezer burn on your milk and you’re going to preserve. That doesn’t sound good. Freezer burn. Yeah. And the more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are preserved because you know, the freezer is kind of tough on your milk. It’s a delicate substance. It really is tricky. So the thicker plastic is better. And then the thinner plastic bags, you have to be careful with those also because as you warm them up, if you warm them up too quickly, or if you warm them up way too hot, they can actually melt.

And the corners bust on those all of the time. I feel like every time I tried to thaw one, they leaked. Yes. I used the crappy, thin plastic bags. I really didn’t pump very much. But when I, when I did, I just, like, I had a random ad hoc of shit people gave me. And so that’s what I used. Right. And, you know, we don’t all have the luxury of buying the top of the line, anything, but there’s some things you can do to mitigate that loss of nutrient in the milk, if you have nothing, but the thin plastic bags.

So here’s what I recommend. I recommend getting a Tupperware, dipping it in water and freezing the Tupperware so it becomes opaque. Yes. Yes. And then you’re going to pump into your thin shitty bags and you’re going to freeze them laying down and in the Tupperware that’s frozen. Because that way no light gets in as well, because the more times your milk is exposed to light, the less nutrients it has as well.

You’re blowing my mind. Yes. I know. I know this pumping situation. It’s a lot more complicated. This is so complicated. No, but that’s awesome. That’s a really cool hack. Yeah. So, so freeze the bags laying down and then once they’re frozen you just stand them up, make sure that you date them. You know, you always want to try to feed the ones that are gonna, and like, please, especially if you’re considering donating milk at any point, please keep it organized.

I once had a client who had insufficient glandular tissue. And so she asked me to like pick up milk on the way to her house cause she found someone halfway, whatever it was a home visit. I was like, yeah, I’ll pick up milk for you. Oh my God. Y’all this very kind generous woman literally dumped like a trash bag of like loose, frozen bags of milk into the cooler in my car.

And I was like, holy shit. I guess I’ll start from the top. Yeah. So we like spent the whole visit sorting milk bags. I was just like, thanks, man. That is rough. And, you know, speaking of like dating and timing you know, it doesn’t last forever and it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s rotten, okay.

So I think a lot of these, a lot of people think like, oh, it’s milk. They say that it’s only good in the deep freezer from six months to a year. But that’s a wide range. Right. And it depends on the deep freezer. And I think most people think milk and they think spoiling, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

We’re talking about a complete loss of nutrients. I guess your breast milk can spoil. Sure. Yeah. But usually what it is, let me think, the recommendation in a regular, like freezer/fridge combo is three months, right? Three months unless it’s in the door of the freezer. Right. So at that three-month mark, say you’ve kept it really good in the back of the freezer.

It’s not spoiled, but at that point it’s just more nutrient deficient. Right. And so if you’re, if you’re pumping because your baby has a problem, you definitely want to only feed the milk that’s within that timeframe to make sure your baby is getting enough nutrients and fat and vitamins.

And Heather and I say this over and over, these are general guidelines and you can choose the degree to which you follow them. But if you have a preterm baby, baby in the NICU, medically fragile baby, we encourage you to follow these very closely. Yup. But yeah, say you’re at that three-month mark though, and you’re like, ah, shit. Like I’ve got 50 ounces of milk in the back of the freezer I forgot about, I think it’s still good.

You can keep saving it. And when your baby’s six months old, you can fucking make omelets with it. You can make ice cream with it to give to the baby. Yeah, why not? And it’s still beneficial. It’s still, probably better than cow’s milk. Or milk baths that you can use it for, for when your baby has a random baby rash, which they get.

Like every day I had a rashy baby. Oh, I have such white babies. It’s not even funny. Oh, yeah. And when people will come, like when my clients come and they’re like, what’s this rash? I’m like, oh God, I don’t know. I wouldn’t even worry about that. And I guess you could freeze in plastic bottles, but I don’t think anyone really does that.

You can, but yeah. It’s like if you’re going to freeze in plastic bottles, they’re not that much more nonreactive than the plastic bags and they take up more room. So really almost everybody freezes in plastic bags. Yes. Simply because it’s a storage issue. And I also want to just quickly mention some of those plastic bags have a smell about them and the plastic over time, kind of like leaks.

Yeah. It degrades over time and it leaks into the milk and in small amounts that’s okay. But some people will call and tell me that their previously frozen milk has a soapy taste to it. And they’re afraid that they have high lipase. And that might be true. And it also might be true that it’s from the plastic storage bags.

I wonder if that was my issue, Heather. I thought, I just assumed I was like, Oh tastes soapy, I guess it’s that high lipase shit I read on Kelly mom. I mean baby didn’t care anyway. Yeah. Some babies care and so that’s when it becomes a problem. And I always recommend try switching to the glass bottles at that point. I’m going to think about this for a while.

Yeah. It’s okay. You still did a very good job. I’m just like, why did I doubt my boobs first? Why didn’t I doubt plastic before my boobs? And most of them are like, we’re BPA free. And it’s like, well, that’s great, but there’s a lot of other shit. What did you put in there to take the place of BPA? That’s what I always ask because everybody, you know, and that’s what happens.

Like some, some advocacy group revealed harmful nature of a chemical that’s in everything we use and that’s awesome. And so companies say, okay, we’re not going to use that. And then they just replace it with some other harmful chemical that we don’t know about yet. Yep. We will learn. So those are pretty much the options for storage.

And you know, if you’re a pumping parent, good for you and best of luck to you and keep your eyeball out for the sales. So around like world breastfeeding week, which is this week. Well, the week that we’re recording. Yeah. The week that we’re recording, probably not going to release this for like two weeks.

Yes, so, but there’s other like Mother’s Day, there’s a lot of specials on buying in bulk for storage containers. So you can go ahead and get yourself on some email lists and just buy them in bulk, buy them now. Yep. Whenever you see a sale, cause they do get kind of expensive after a while. Good advice.

Thanks for listening to another episode of The Milk Minute Podcast. If you want to help our podcast grow, please like, subscribe, and share with a friend to support our mission of accessible lactation information. You can find us on Patreon and become our breast friend, lactivist or a dairy queen. Each level of membership comes with its own personalized member reward.

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