Breast milk is the best food for babies until one year. After a year, breast milk needs to be supported with other forms of solid and semi-solid foods. If you are a mom who wants to store her breast milk because you are planning to get back to work or even if you are thinking of weaning your baby off your breasts, there are certain guidelines to storing your breast milk safely as to provide all health benefits from it to your baby.
Breast milk contains antibacterial and immune properties that can prevent bacteria from growing inside of it for many hours.The best is to provide freshly expressed breast milk. However, the longer the breast milk is left out, the more time the bacteria has to multiply. Thus the temperature at which the breast milk is kept plays a significant role in the growth of bacteria. The higher the temperature of the room, the faster the bacteria can grow.
Therefore, to be on the safe side, if you have kept your breast milk at room temperature, it should be consumed within 4 to 5 hours. This time can be extended to up to 8 hours also but preferably in a cooler room. Beyond 8 hours the bacteria can grow to unsafe levels.
How long your breast milk can be stored depends on the type of storage you are using. Here are a few pointers on how long your breast milk can be stored at room temperature:
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If you have expressed breast milk cleanly and safely, you can store it at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer, depending on how soon you want to use it. Here are a few guidelines for breast milk storage and how long Breast milk lasts according to The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s (ABM) Clinical Protocol #8:
In India we have really hot weather. At home we can control temperatures with the air conditioning but if you do not have that option you need to take care of the temperature. For temperatures ranging from 16 degrees to 29 degrees celsius, you can store your breast milk at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours.
If the temperature ranges between 27 degrees to 32 degrees, that is on hot days, breastmilk can be stored for up to 4 hours.
At a temperature of 4 degree celsius, breast milk can be stored for up to 4 days. 5 to 8 days is acceptable for breast milk collected in the most hygienic conditions and kept at the back of the fridge.
At an average temperature of 15 degree celsius, human breast milk can be kept in an insulated bag for upto 24 hours only.
Below -4 degree celsius breast milk can be stored for upto 6 months. However 12 months is acceptable in extremely clean conditions. Old style fridges have little ice compartments in them and there the breast milk can be stored only for up to 2 weeks.
Can breast milk be stored in our normal fridge and freezers for a year?
The Academy of Breastfeeding medicines states that foods stored below the temperatures of -18 degrees celsius can be stored for up to 12 months. Though they will be free from bacterial contamination, they might lose out on most of their nutritional benefits. Freshly expressed milk has the best bacteria-fighting properties and is higher in antioxidants, vitamins and fat than milk that has been refrigerated or frozen.
Breast milk retains most of its immunological properties in glass or hard plastic containers that do not contain polyethylene. These days containers made with Bisphenol A (BPA) are no longer used for baby bottles because of its adverse effects. Sometimes there are concerns about glass breaking, ideal containers for milk storage are therefore food-grade hard plastic, made without BPA, with leak-proof lids. Clean, aseptic or sterile containers may also be acceptable.
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