Breastfeeding

Breast Milk Storage Tips

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Our friends over at Tinyhood always have the best advice. Read this post from Tinyhood IBCLC Dana.

Pumping and storing breastmilk is a great way for breastfeeding mamas to gain a little flexibility and freedom, have partners help out with feeding baby, and ensure mom can go back to work and still provide baby with breastmilk. We know the internet has a lot of conflicting information on all the rules around this topic so we've compiled this list of tips based on the recommendations from the latest research and leading experts. This way, there's no uncertainty or guessing if your milk is still safe for baby!

1. The fresher, the better. Human milk is a fresh, living substance and so some of its nutrients and health properties change with storage. This just means you should try and use the oldest milk in the refrigerator or freezer first, so you don’t have milk sitting there for too long. See the table at the bottom of this article for the optimal amount of times you should be storing milk. (Just keep in mind that frozen breast milk is still a good option! Stored human milk maintains its unique qualities, so much so that it remains the gold standard for feeding.)

2. When freezing milk, don’t forget to leave a little space at top of the container to allow for the expansion that will occur in the freezer.

3. Freeze in small increments. Infants generally drink 2-4 ounces at a time, so store milk in varying small increments in order to minimize waste. (You can’t save breast milk once your baby has drunk from it; more on that below.) Don’t forget to label the milk container with the date (and baby’s name if used at daycare).

4. To defrost breast milk, use one of these three options:

  • Place it in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Run it under warm water.
  • Place it in a container of warm water.
  • Defrosting or warming human milk in the microwave is not recommended. Studies have shown that microwaves heat unevenly. This can result in "hot spots" that can scald a baby's mouth and throat.

5. Discard the remaining milk once your baby has fed. Once a baby begins drinking expressed human milk, some bacterial contamination occurs from the baby’s mouth. Therefore, it’s recommended to discard remaining milk within 1-2 hours after your baby has finished feeding.

HELPFUL HINT: To minimize waste, make your bottles with the least amount you think your baby will take, and then add more if she’s still hungry. Trust us, most moms would take the inconvenience of making an additional bottle over wasting a drop of that precious pumped milk!

6. Don’t mix milks of different temperatures. Try to avoid adding warm, freshly-pumped milk to already cooled or frozen milk. It’s better to cool down the newly expressed milk before combining it.

7. Use defrosted milk within a few hours. Once breast milk is thawed, it should not be left at room temperature for more than a few hours.

8. A note on refreezing milk: The research is not clear on whether or not you can refreeze milk once it’s been thawed. There is no official recommendation on this.

9. For healthy, full term babies, breast milk can:

  • Stay out at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours
  • Be stored in an insulated cooler bag with ice packs for 24 hours
  • Be refrigerated (39°F/4°C) for 5 days
  • Be stored in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator/freezer with separate doors for 3 to 6 months
  • Be stored in an infrequently-opened chest or upright manual defrost deep freezer (−4°F/−20°C) for 6 to 12 months

BONUS: For optimal milk storage guidelines, check out this table from the ABM Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants.


9 Steps to Treating a Clogged Milk Duct

We love our friends over at Tinyhood, an app that connects parents with experts via chat and online classes. We loved this post from one of their experts and wanted to share!

Recently, a Tinyhood Mom wrote into one of our breastfeeding experts, Dana Czuczka, IBCLC, with this message:

All of a sudden, I realized I have a hard lump in my breast.  It actually hurts when I touch it!  Help! What is this and what should I do?

Fortunately, Dana was pretty sure she knew exactly what this was: a clogged duct in the breast. Here she shares her steps for dealing with this common breastfeeding issue.

  1. Don’t panic! Clogged ducts are a pretty common problem for breastfeeding moms—and there are ways to resolve the problem fairly quickly.  

  2. Review all the signs of a plugged duct—just to be sure that’s what it is. Signs of a clogged duct include:

  • A hard lump in the breast that is still there even after nursing

  • Sometimes (but not always) a “milk blister” on the end of the nipple

  • Sometimes, your breast may feel warm to the touch

  • You may notice a pink or red spot by the lump that may be tender

  • You may have a temporary dip in milk production from that breast

IMPORTANT: If you have a fever or start feeling like you have the flu, call your OB or midwife. This could mean the clogged duct has already developed into mastitis (a breast infection) and that’s something you cannot treat on your own.

  1. Begin treatment as soon as possible. If what you have is indeed a clogged duct, address it right away. As noted above, if left untreated, clogged ducts can lead to mastitis. You don’t want to ignore it and hope it goes away on its own.  

  2. Take a warm shower. Get in the shower as soon as you can and run warm water over the tender breast. If a shower is not possible, use a warm compress. (Lactation Consultant trick: a diaper filled with hot water works well!)

  3. Massage the breast. While still in the shower, or while you still have the warm compress handy, massage the tender breast firmly (but not so firmly that you hurt yourself). Think about clearing the path ahead of the spot. Start at the nipple and slowly move backwards towards the tender spot, and then work on the lump itself with a kneading motion.

  4. Nurse or pump. Right after your shower or compress, nurse your baby. Nursing is more effective than pumping, but if nursing is too painful or if you are separated from your baby, pumping is a good backup option. Continue with the breast massage while you are nursing or pumping.

  5. Treat your pain. Some moms find relief from ice packs after nursing or pumping. You can also take ibuprofen to help ease the discomfort.

  6. Don’t neglect the other breast. Make sure you’re still using both breasts to feed! You don’t want to end up with a clog on the other side, too.

  7. Do your best to prevent another clogged duct. Moving forward, try and catch plugs early by:

    • Frequently checking for lumps and tender spots while nursing, pumping, or showering.

    • Avoid wearing bras that are too tight or bras with underwire.  

    • Keep your breasts comfortable. Don’t skip a nursing or pumping session if you can help it. Remember, you can always hand express if you need relief and you can’t nurse or pump for whatever reason.


From One Mom to Another: Breastfeeding Tips

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Let’s talk breastfeeding! I’ve been so excited for this week’s topic, thought likely not for the reasons that many would assume. I feel passionately about being supportive of whatever choice a parent makes on how they feed their child. Something that has always horrified me is how so many women (and men!) seem to think that it is their duty to shame other parents for their choices. A parent’s decision to breastfeed, formula feed, or use donor milk has always been an issue for so many people, and everyone seems to think they have the right to weigh in on things. I couldn’t not disagree more. A parent’s choice on how they choose to feed their baby is a personal decision and one that should be respected, regardless of the choice they land on. I should also mention that for many, their decision is not a choice that they made independently; some options just may not have been possible. Whew! Now that that is out of the way…the following is my personal breastfeeding journey, along with some things that made our experience easier.

The Hospital

Breastfeeding is bizzare at first, since both you and your newborn are learning the hang it. Mamas-take advantage of every moment in that hospital! Use those nurses and lactation consultants! After giving birth, we were fortunate enough that Ellie was a willing nurser and that my milk came in with relative ease (at least for those two days...more on that in a minute). But I was so NERVOUS! Was I holding her correctly? Was she getting enough? Those nurses worked their magic and helped so much while we tried to figure things out. They gave suggestions for positioning and even helped manipulate both Ellie’s and my body to make things work a bit better. As hard as it can sound, really letting go and allowing the professionals to do their jobs and help in whatever way they can makes a huge difference.

Going Home

My name is Sarah and I have an oversupply problem. My milk, while normal in the hospital, came in with a vengeance. My breasts became the most painful boulders and were difficult for Ellie to latch on to. They were leaking constantly, and I was uncomfortable to the point of tears. Two things I did that were helpful was calling a lactation consultant and calling one of my best friends, whose daughter was a few months older than Ellie.

My pal Alyssa and I joke that nothing is too much for our friendship after she came over that day. I was sitting in the middle of my living room topless, crying, and leaking. She showed me why my breast pump wasn’t working (those darn little phalanges!) and she also brought over her hand pump for me to try. She was also SUPPORTIVE. It’s amazing how much better I felt after she assured me that after two weeks, things would be so much better. She was such a terrific cheerleader, reminding me of how I made this choice for my family and was giving such a gift to my daughter. If you become overwhelmed or frustrated, please take advantage of built in resources of pals who have walked this path before you-they are rockstars!

Our healthcare system really does fail breastfeeding moms (most consultants are not covered by insurance unless they’re affiliated with an OB-GYN’s office) but in my experience, paying for a lactation consultant ($250 for a certified consultant to come to my home) was well worth it. Our consultant came directly to our home, confirmed that I was struggling with oversupply, checked our positioning, made adjustments as needed, and overall gave us some peace of mind. She weighted Ellie prior to and after nursing, so we had a sense of how much milk she was getting during a feeding. She also made recommendations to even out my supply and when to start pumping/bottle feeding.

Getting into the Groove

After Ellie and I got the hang of breastfeeding, things went smoothly for us. I say that with a heart full of gratitude, as I know so many women experience supply issues, latch issues, postpartum health issues, etc. That being said, I also made choices that were based on what I felt would work best for us both, not necessarily what was recommended by experts. For example, I began pumping a few days after giving birth rather than waiting 5-6 weeks. I became anxious of losing my supply, so for me, beginning to pump and store milk right away helped alleviate anxiety I had about creating a freezer stash. I also chose to pump right away as my husband Steve was eager to experience feeding our daughter as well. There are mixed reviews on introducing bottles very early on, but after getting the go-ahead from our pediatrician, we moved forward and never looked back!

I was very fortunate that I did not experience mastitis but I have watched other mama pals struggle with this and ladies, please please please do NOT wait to call your doctor if you recognize some of the symptoms. This sickness can knock you out and can really alter things for you and your babe long term, as it can hurt your supply, etc.

Time’s Up?

I had a goal of nursing Ellie for 6 months. When that time frame rolled around, I surprised myself by not feeling ready to stop breastfeeding. Then, around 8 months, my supply took a HUGE hit. Ellie and I both got sick at the same time and I was producing only 1-1.5 ozs each time I pumped, when I was used to producing 5-8 oz. I began to agonize over how much I was pumping, charting my supply, frantically trying things to boost it back up. Then Steve stepped in and asked me if the stress I was feeling over continuing to nurse was worth it, from a mental health perspective. I realized that if I was obsessing to this degree over breastfeeding, that it was likely time for us to stop. While the transition to ending this period of time was a bit sad for me, in a week, I already felt better about the decision and now, months later, it’s not something I regret.

Helpful Items

Nipple cream, sleep bras meant for nursing, a good pump,

Kindness

However you choose to feed your babe, be kind to yourself. It is a beautiful gift to be able to provide nourishment for your child (whatever the method!) and this time is so special. Please try not to beat yourself up over issues (lip ties, supply problems, baby gassiness, etc.) and instead remember that you are doing the very best job that you can do in this moment with the resources you have.

-Sarah

Pumping products we love!

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Here are some of the products we love for pumping!

Simple Wishes Signature Handsfree Pumping Bra: So we really recommend this for moms who are returning to work. It can be so hard to pump at work when you have a million things to do. Allowing yourself to set up your pump and be hands-free really helps give you a few minutes to massage your breasts, relax, and even send an email or two. We don't recommend that! But it sometimes is necessary at work.

Milkies No Break, No Leak Storage Bags and Milkies Fairhaven Milkies Freeze: We discovered Milkies company at ABC Expo where we go to discover new companies and products. We completely fell in love with their entire line of products and we can't say enough good things about them. They are two moms who created breastfeeding products after having their children. We loved their milk storage bags because they have on the bags temperature and storage guidelines!!!! OMG! How fabulous is that! SO genius! No more standing at the fridge guessing about temperature!

Medela Quick-Clean Micro-Steam Bags: Lordy, these are our favorite things that we discovered. Simply throw all of your bottles and pump parts in the bag and toss in the microwave to sterilize everything. 

 

Important tips for pumping.

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If you're breastfeeding and are going to be away from your baby for more than two hours, it is important to pump so that your baby can still get breastmilk, but also so you can keep your milk supply up. Pumping allows your body to release the milk, just like a feeding, and signals your body to make more milk. Whatever you take out, your body will make.

Wash your hands. It seems like a no-brainer but so many moms forget to wash their hands before pumping. It's important to keep everything sterile.

Use clean, dry equipment every time you pump. Equipment should be washed with hot, soapy water and air dried after each use. If you are pumping frequently and several times a day, you can put all of your pump parts in a sealed Ziploc bag and put in the refrigerator.

Aim for 10 to 15 minutes of pumping time. You don't want to pump too long because you can damage your milk ducts. When double pumping (pumping both breasts at the same time), pump for 10 to 15 minutes. When pumping one breast at a time, pump for 10 minutes each.

Babies can get more milk than a breast pump. It can be super frustrating to pump for 10 or 15 minutes and only see an ounce in the bottle. The truth is that what you express is not reflective of how much milk you have and is not even close to how much milk your baby is consuming. Babies can always get out more milk than a breast pump. It can be stressful, but you might just need to adjust your suction or try pumping at another time of day.

A stud a dud. Each woman has one breast, a "stud" that expresses more milk than the other one, "dud". Don't worry, your dud is not really a dud, but it can sure feel that way. Just know that when double pumping you will get different amounts and not to stress or to think that something is wrong.