To some mothers, breast milk might is treated like liquid gold. Your body uses up a lot of energy to produce this life-sustaining product, so it makes sense that you would not want to let a single drop of such precious liquid go to waste. Whether you work away from your home or you simply prefer to plan ahead for the types of situations where you are not able to immediately breastfeed your child, you might ask yourself, "should I freeze my breast milk?" It's a perfectly normal question for any proactive pregnant woman or breastfeeding mother to have. Plus, having frozen breast milk on hand and ready to use could be a great way to save yourself a little time and effort. As any parent knows, convenience is a wonderful thing. Additionally, if your family is on the go or you're not physically with your baby, your stash of stored milk can come in handy. But is it safe to prepare and use frozen breast milk for your little one?
The short answer to this question is yes. "Breast milk can be frozen," International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Leigh Anne O'Connor tells Romper. "It is best to freeze it in small batches of two to four ounces to avoid waste." Just like you wouldn't want to cook an entire feast when no one is hungry, you don't want portion out large quantities of breast milk that you won't end up using entirely. Basically, you can thaw out additional batches as you need them rather than having to throw away leftover breast milk.
In addition to saving your milk in smaller quantities, you should also be aware of hygienic issues so that you can avoid any potential health risks for your little one. "The safest practice is to wash hands before expressing and use clean containers," birth doula and certified newborn care specialist Kaylie Groenhout tells Romper. "Date all breast milk before storing, too." This way you know your breast milk is not only going in to your freezer in the best way possible, but you'll have the peace of mind that it's staying sanitary, too. Having organized containers with clearly marked dates can help you in your most sleep-deprived, bleary-eyed state and makes it easier for others to safely give your baby safe breast milk.
If you're wondering exactly how long your breast milk can be kept frozen, there's an answer for that, too. "Breast milk can be stored in a standard freezer for six months and in a deep freezer for 12 months," O'Connor says. You may want to adjust how and when you are storing your breast milk based on your little one's varying dietary habits. If you know when you plan on weaning your child off of breast milk and transitioning them to dairy products or solid foods, then you factor that in to your timeline as well.
There are a few things to take into consideration regarding the overall quality and shelf life of your frozen breast milk. "Some of the immune enhancing properties of breast milk are decreased over time when milk is frozen," International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Caroline Steele tells Romper. "However, the risk of bacterial contamination of milk that has been kept in the refrigerator too long and not frozen, far outweighs the downside of freezing milk."
Aside from the topic of quality, beware of the pressures of quantity, too. "The biggest risk in freezing breast milk is the 'freezer stash culture which exists more now due to social media," Wendy Colson, a registered nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, tells Romper. "The volume of milk frozen does not correlate to how successful you’ll be at breastfeeding." So don't let your freezer stash make you feel self-conscious about your ability to breastfeed your baby to the fullest. As always, all mothers are build differently, produce different amounts of breast milk, and some have better success at pumping than others, so there is nothing to gain by comparing yourself to other breastfeeding mothers.
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