Breastfeeding is best!
Breast milk is nature’s elixir no formula company can EVER match. Breast milk adapts to meet every possible nutritional need a baby will have as she continues to develop. If mom has to return to work, pumping breastmilk may be done during breaks to continue to provide breastmilk for the infant.
I’ve breastfed all three of my children, and I continued to pump milk when I returned to work. Yes, it is tedious, but the benefits outweigh the amount of work. If milk is pumped at work, it will have to be stored until mom returns home.
However, there are many dangers when storing breast milk.
When the milk is removed from the breast, placed in a container, and stored, there are several ways it can become contaminated. It is dangerous to feed tainted milk to a baby.
This should not deter moms from pumping breastmilk, but all moms should definitely be aware of possible dangers. Being conscious of the dangers of contamination and being cautious when storing the breast milk ensures the baby will receive the safest and best milk possible.
Here are 15 ways storing breastmilk can be dangerous for the baby.
14 Contaminated Containers
The storage container is protecting the breast milk from all the germs outside, but what about germs inside the storage container?
Glass and plastic containers can be a breeding ground for germs if left dirty or wet. Wash and dry the container after EVERY use.
Warm soapy water will do the trick! Just make sure it is also completely dry before you use it. Dry it with a clean towel or paper towel to ensure all moisture is gone before you use the container.
Leftover water in the storage container could create bacteria or mold. Also, put the containers in a place where others will not touch it with dirty hands. Leaving them by the sink to dry may seem convenient, but dirty dishes or someone washing their hands could contaminate the containers.
13 Freezing Milk For Long Periods Of Time
Everyone has seen pictures of freezers with a stockpile of breastmilk bags in it, right?
You may think that mom is prepared for her baby’s next year of life without having to pump or breastfeed another day, but you would be very, very wrong. The same milk your body makes this week is different from the breastmilk you will make and pump next week.
The beauty of breastmilk is that it adapts to meet the nutritional needs of your growing baby. The nutrients produced coincide with your baby’s needs at that particular time. Therefore, if you feed your baby milk you pumped weeks ago, it is not going to meet their needs.
They may want more milk immediately after or begin to lose weight. Use milk as soon as you can to avoid this problem.
12 Making Milk Cubes
Pouring breastmilk into ice cube trays to make cubes sounds very inventive and helpful!
The bite-sized cubes allow you to thaw the exact amount of milk your baby needs without waste. Also, your baby can chew on one to soothe sore gums when teething. However, an ice tray is open at the top.
It is susceptible to any bacteria floating in the air of the freezer and any liquids dripping in the freezer. Thankfully, there is a safe way to make breast milk cubes. Several companies make milk cube trays designed specifically for breastfeeding moms.
The trays have a locking lid to prevent any bacteria from contaminating the cubes. If you join the milk cube fad, spring for the tray designed to keep the cubes protected.
11 Bag Breakage
Milk in a bag? Yes, many companies make plastic storage bags designed specifically for breast milk.
They have an area to label the date and amount as well as a double seal to prevent leakage. However, it is still possible for them to tear, especially if they are frozen. Milk expands when it freezes, so don’t fill them to the top. Also, push out all the excess air before sealing it. Make sure no other containers are near it that could puncture the bag.
If the bag tears, germs can enter into your baby’s milk. Never use regular plastic bags designed for household use. Breast milk bags are BPA free, a harmful chemical found in most plastics that is bad for your baby.
Plus regular bags tear easier.
10 Freezing Reduces Healthy Cells
Immunological cells are part of the body’s immune system to prevent and fight sickness. Your baby went from a germ-free environment in your uterus to the world, an environment teeming with germs.
Your body’s immune system transfers immunological cells to your baby through breast milk to help develop their immune system, develop tolerance to germs, and regulate their inflammatory response (swelling).
Freezing breast milk greatly reduces the immunological cells in it. High temperatures, which can happen when heating milk too quickly, also break down the immunological cells.
This can affect your baby’s immune system and its response to germs. Freezing and boiling breast milk can be dangerous for your baby’s health by reducing the amount of cells that develop their immune system.
9 When Raw Foods Are Nearby
Most busy moms may set a container of fresh breastmilk in the first open spot seen in the fridge. This can prove to be a perilous mistake!
Breastmilk is bacteria-free when first pumped, but placing it near raw foods can contaminate it. Raw meats could touch the milk containers and leave bacteria on it. Also, raw meats sitting above the milk can leak blood on the milk container.
Later when you grab it to make a bottle, your hands can pass that bacteria from the storage container to the bottle, then to your baby.
However, taking a moment to scan and rearrange the items beside and above the milk container can mean the difference between giving your baby healthy or contaminated breast milk.
8 Not Thawing The Milk
The baby is hollering but all of the breast milk is cold or frozen! What should you do?
You may think the microwave is best option. But NEVER ever use a microwave to heat breast milk because they heat unevenly to create hotspots that could burn your baby. Microwaves can also kill the living immune cells in the milk.
Also, never directly place milk in a pan to heat which can have bacteria. To heat refrigerated or frozen breast milk, run under warm water or place the container in a bowl of warm water. Heat it gradually to avoid breaking the glass or plastic. If you see the milk has separated, then you should gently swirl it.
Golden rule: heating safely means heating slowly.
7 Storing Can Reduce Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a crucial part of your baby’s diet and is found in your breast milk. Vitamin C forms red blood cells, tissue, bones, and boosts your baby’s immune system to prevent sickness.
However, the vitamin C is reduced when you store your breast milk. Studies show after refrigeration for 24 hours or freezing for 1 month, vitamin C was reduced by one third. After two months of freezing, it was reduced by two thirds.
This is a huge loss for your baby, and could affect their development. Infants require about 40 mg of vitamin C every day until they turn 6 months and then it increases to 50 mg a day. The average cup of breast milk has about 12.3 mg. Storing breast milk too long can be harmful for your baby.
6 Don't Refreeze The Leftovers
If the baby doesn’t finish the bottle, what should mom do? Throw it out or refreeze it?
Limited studies have been published about the effects of refreezing breast milk, but most suggest not refreezing milk. The initial freezing broke down many important components- antibodies and vitamins- so refreezing further breaks down those necessary nutrients.
Because of the loss, bacteria are able to grow in the milk that previously were not. You definitely do not want to feed your baby a bottle full of bacteria. Many moms refrigerate leftover milk, but only milk that was never frozen.
Freezing has a more devastating effect on the nutrients in the milk than refrigerating. The consensus is- never refreeze milk to prevent bacteria growth.
5 Using Glass Containers
Glass bottles may sounds old school, but they are the number one recommended container for breast milk. Glass bottles will cost more than plastic, but glass provides better protection against contamination than plastic.
Also, glass is environmentally friendly since they are reusable. However, glass can break so take a few precautions. First, make sure the glass is freezer-safe because not all glass is. Second, warm or thaw the milk slowly since drastic temperature changes can cause glass to break.
Both of these measures should ensure the safe use of glass containers for storing your breast milk. Many women use mason jars for storing breast milk. One company even makes mason bottle nipples so you can feed your baby directly from the mason jar which saves time!
4 Pumping With Unclean Hands
When a baby is screaming at the top of their lungs, mom may drop what she is doing to fix a bottle ASAP without pausing to wash her hands.
Don’t ever do this.
Take a minute to wash your hands with warm water and soap. Millions of bacteria could potentially be on your hands, depending on what you were doing. Do not pass it along to your precious baby.
You would not want a fast food worker to skip washing their hands before preparing your meal, so don’t do the same to your baby. Also, wash your hands before and after pumping to ensure you don’t contaminate the pump or the storage container. Clean hands helps ensure clean breast milk.
3 Storing Can Reduce Antioxidants
Antioxidants are commonly referred to on many tv commercials for different healthy foods and supplements, but what the heck do they really do?
Antioxidants protect the body from disease, which is very important for your newborn. Colostrum, the yellow milk produced the first few days after birth, has the highest levels of antioxidants.
This makes sense because your bundle of joy is introduced to an entirely new environment after birth. Those antioxidants help fight the germs bombarding your newborn’s immune system. Premature babies need even more antioxidants to prevent sickness.
Both refrigerating and freezing breast milk reduces antioxidant activity. Freezing is worse because it reduces the antioxidants the most. Studies show that refrigeration for less than 48 hours is the only way to preserve those much-needed antioxidants. Freezing is not recommended.
2 Using Public Fridges
Some moms are lucky enough to have their own mini fridge at work. If not, you may be stuck putting your baby’s milk in a public fridge.
First, label it!
You don’t want your baby’s breakfast ending up in someone’s coffee. Second, put the milk in a secondary container, like a small lunch box or insulated bag, to ensure it’s protected from other foods put in the fridge, especially raw foods.
A secondary container will also keep the breast milk out of sight, so you will have less resistance from co-workers. If someone says it’s unsanitary, remind them that the CDC and OSHA do not consider breast milk a bodily fluid.
Breastmilk CAN legally be stored in a public fridge.
1 Self-Defrosting Freezer
A self-defrosting freezer has a built in heater to thaw frost in cycles.
They tend to have warm spots. Breast milk can go bad if stored in one. However, if it is your only storage option, use a thermometer to check for a spot in the freezer with the coldest constant temperature.
Also, smell or taste the milk before feeding it to your baby. If it smells soapy, it is from lipase- an enzyme that breaks down fats. Most babies will still drink it. You can prevent the lipase by heating the milk to a scald, quickly cooling it, then freezing it. This takes a lot of time, but at least your milk will not be wasted.
If it smells rancid, most babies won’t drink it even though it is still safe to drink.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, La Leche League, and WebMD