Hurricane Florence is just a day off the coast of the southeastern United States. It's set to be one of the worst hurricanes to hit the region in more than 30 years, bringing with it torrential rains, flooding, and, inevitably, mass power outages. Being a new mom dealing with a hurricane is scary enough, but doing it while you're breastfeeding or pumping adds another layer of anxiety to your worries. You'll need to know how to take care of more than just yourself and your child. You also need to know how to save breast milk during a power outage, and you may need to know it soon.
There's a definite strategy you'll need to employ to keep your breast milk safe and healthy for your baby. It's exceedingly helpful if you have time to prepare for the power outage. If you can, get all of your milk that you've pumped already frozen before the outage hits. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as long as there are ice crystals in the milk, it is still considered frozen, and can therefore be placed back into a working freezer if the opportunity presents itself. The United States Department of Health and Human Services noted that a full freezer stays colder than an empty freezer. If your freezer isn't at capacity right now, fill it with containers of water or bags of ice as full as it will go without blocking the vents to keep it as cold as possible. And don't open it.
Another possible solution is to find out if any of your friends or neighbors have power, and ask them if they can store your breast milk while your power is out. You'd be surprised at how helpful people can be during these disasters. I lived through Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and it was a harrowing experience, for sure. Some of our best friends lost almost everything they had. However, it was also hopeful and healing to see how many of my fellow New Yorkers were willing to help those who needed it, and who opened their homes and their hearts to assist however they could. If you have a generator, that's great. You can keep your freezer going, and your milk will be fine.
If this isn't possible, according to the CDC, freeze the breast milk in 2 or 4-ounce portions so that it freezes more quickly and each bag has a higher likelihood of surviving. Once it's frozen, store the milk in the center of the freezer, surrounded by other frozen items or ice. Keep it away from the walls of the freezer as those are the areas that will thaw the fastest, noted Kelly Mom. If you can find it, as the freezer begins to thaw, stack it with more ice or even dry ice, as per the suggestion of the Department of Health and Human Services. They noted that a freezer will stay completely cold for at least four hours, and slowly begin to thaw after that.
It's a terrifying prospect, but one many Americans may be facing over the next several days and weeks. When Sandy hit, ice and dry ice was given out as a part of the relief effort at several of the various charity facilities. Before the storm, find out where these places are. If the outage is going to be severe, fill coolers full of ice, and keep the milk in the center. Health and Human Services noted that dry ice keeps foods the coldest. Nursing Nurture wrote that "10 pounds of breast milk will need roughly 10 pounds of dry ice to keep it frozen for 24 hours. 10 pounds worth of milk is 160 ounces, which is roughly 6 days’ worth of milk."
You will have to be vigilant in your care of your milk, and honestly, you might not be able to save it all, and that's heartbreaking. We can only hope the damage from Florence isn't as bad as is anticipated, and that everyone gets through it safely. (Including your freezer supply.)