What's an optimal strategy for storing pumped breast milk for using feeding "emergencies" (mom needs to leave the house for a few hours)? Ideally it would be FIFO but it seems like a waste to dump milk off the end of the queue every day. Obviously we could just feed a bottle to him once a day but my wife wants to minimize bottle time.

Another strategy would be to pump once a week or more as needed but that doesn't allow for much depth in the queue.

I feel like what we really want is to freeze a lot of milk, but without microwaving I imagine that it would take a long time to warm up the milk.

What would be a good strategy? Or am I over-thinking this problem?

  • You should never microwave the milk. The only way to warm up the milk is under warm running water which takes some time but it is acceptable. There are special bags available for freezing milk which contain enough for one feeding.

  • If the baby is less than 6 weeks old you wife should not express milk unless absolutely necessary in order not to cause oversupply issues which can lead to mastitis.

  • Also bottle feeding sometimes (not always!) can lead to nipple confusion.

  • Freshly expressed milk can stay in the fridge up to eight days (http://www.kellymom.com/bf/pumping/milkstorage.html, this is the best site for all things breastfeeding).

Having said all that the best strategy would be to minimize the number of times the bottle will be needed, to plan in advance for the times when expressed milk will be needed and express one or two days in advance. Alternatively you could have an "emergency" bottle in the fridge and refresh it every week or so.

  • +1 for the point, that bottle feeding can lead to nipple confusion: – BBM Jul 15 '11 at 19:37
  • ...we were not aware of that, so our baby got a bottle in the hospital during his first days, as he seemed not to get enough at the breast. Then, we had nearly two months of problems (bleeding nipples, pumping, freezing, unfreezing and worries about if he drinks enough) and needed a specialised speech therapist to teach him "normal" breast feeding :-( Afterwards we learned, that he just did not know how to drink and it would have been possible with special stimulating techniques to show him (few speech therapists and midwifes know how to - AFAIK its based on the Castillo Morales concept) – BBM Jul 15 '11 at 19:44
  • This is a good answer, but: "If the baby is less than 6 weeks old you wife should not express milk unless absolutely necessary in order not to cause oversupply issues which can lead to mastitis." I'm sorry, but this is not the advice we were given at all. Consult your doctor or a reputable lactation consultant. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Feb 12 '14 at 6:33

It's quite simple. Freezing is the best way to store longer time (make sure it's a proper 3 or 3+ star freezer, preferably not an "auto defrosting" one). The most convenient way to store is to use those plastic ice-cube bags as they allow you to portion the milk. For warming, it's most easy to put the cubes in a (most easily wide neck) bottle. Put the bottle in an oversized cup with boiled water. Turn the bottle around the water in swirling motions.

And when possible, just let the milk defrost in the bottle in the fridge.

  • as guidoism also has experienced in the meantime, using flat bags for freezing the milk has advantages about the classical ice-cube shape, as it freezes and unfreezes faster. – BBM Jul 15 '11 at 19:36

After a few weeks of trying out different strategies we've settled on something that didn't even occur to me: We are freezing 100% of the milk, flat, in Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags. Because we are freezing the milk flat there is a massive amount of surface area so the milk thaws almost instantaneously under hot water from the faucet. I am no longer worrying about having to wait for the milk to thaw during an "emergency".

  • we also had very positive experience with that: the flat bags are a very good approach, as they freeze faster and can be unfreezed quite quickly (however for our impatient son it took still too long, it was always "emergency") – BBM Jul 15 '11 at 19:34

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