Weathering a storm with a freezer stash of breastmilk

As hurricane Sandy approaches the east coast of the US many moms are wondering, ‘What about my freezer stash?‘.  And with good reason.  There is concern about what this storm will do and how long people may be without power.  Many moms have worked hard to have frozen milk on hand for their babies, and the thought of loosing that liquid gold is just too much to bear.

So how long can you go without power and still save that precious breastmilk?  Let’s see…

We know that the safest place to store breastmilk is in a chest freezer or deep freezer at a temperature of 0 degrees Farenheight. ABM Protocol #8

We also know that a freezer generally stays frozen for 24-48 hours without power, especially if it is full. via USDA

So, we know off the bat that breastmilk frozen in a full chest freezer is absolutely safe for 48 hours!  Great news.  The best way to protect your milk is to store it in the center of the freezer, where temperatures are more stable. This will ensure it stays frozen as long as possible.

And what if the power is out longer?  Let’s see —

Breastmilk is still considered frozen if there are ice crystals in it or it is a slushy consistency. via HMBANA’s best practice, 2005.

Wow.  So even beyond 48 hours we can look for ice crystals to tell us the milk is still frozen. Wonderful news. But what do we do when the milk is thawed and there are no ice crystals left?

Take a look at this:

“The data generated by the authors support the contention that milk is relatively robust. Milk that has been left unrefrigerated for less than 8 hours, or placed in the refrigerator for a day, is safe to use and retains a good portion of its nutritional value. Moreover, it appears that unpasteurized milk that has been accidentally thawed remains safe to use provided it has not been left too long in an unthawed condition. Based on these data, it appears that unpasteurized milk that has thawed in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours may be safely refrozen. Moreover, this data would seem to support the use of frozen milk to which fresh milk has been added and then refrozen. This should allow for more convenient storage and for the salvage of milk that mothers might otherwise have been told to discard.

 Rechtman DJ, Lee ML and Berg H. Effect of environmental conditions on unpasteurized donor human milk. Breastfeeding Medicine. Spring, 2006;  1(1): 24-26.

So it looks like thawed milk CAN be refrozen if necessary.

Let’s keep in mind that breastmilk is a living fluid, and is full of live cells and active immune factors and enzymes which can be, and are, damaged in the freezing process.  The BEST way to have breastmilk is fresh.  That is when the nutritional content is at it’s highest.  The more we change the temperature the more we denature the proteins, and we loose some of those important qualities.  You might consider leaving out the milk that would be used in the next 24 hours, then re-freezing the rest.

Keep in mind that this is to be used for emergency situations, not on a regular basis.  Since you don’t pump in a laboratory you may want to make sure the milk passes the sniff test before feeding it to the baby.  Breastmilk that is bad will smell BAD and you will know.  If it smells fine, it likely is.

Some tips to maximize the length of time your milk will stay frozen & safe –

1. Store milk in the center of a full chest/deep freezer. To help fill the freezer you can fill plastic bags or containers with water and freeze them into ice.

2. Group bags of milk into plastic container or larger bags to avoid leaking incase of defrost.

3. Avoid opening the freezer, this will allow warm/room temperature air in and speed up the thaw process.

4. Dry Ice can be added to the freezer to keep milk frozen for extended periods of time – More info can be found here.

5. Feed your baby directly from the breast as often as possible during the power outage, and avoid using the frozen milk when proper heating isn’t possible.

Stay safe and warm, and enjoy some downtime with your little ones.




An Open Letter To All Moms

Dear Moms,

There is something I need to tell you.  And it’s kind of important.  So go ahead and change that diaper, get the toddler a snack, grab your coffee and come back.  I’ll wait.  I promise.

Ok, you ready? Here it is.  YOU are amazing.  YOU are wonderful. Please do not let others tell you otherwise.  Our media keeps trying to spin these mommy wars and put us against each other. It is time to stop feeling shame for how you fed your baby, how you diapered your baby, how you potty trained your baby, (and on and on). YOU did the best you could.  You used the tools and information you had at the time and you made the best decision for your family. Can I tell you something?  That is enough. Please don’t feel guilty because you’ve learned more since then. We all have.  It’s ok.

Don’t lash out when someone tells you that we now know better.  They’re not bashing you (and if they really are, they’re not worth your time or worry).  They’re trying to help someone else.  Moms do not look at their choices for their family and choose the one that is the worst option.  We don’t purposely make unsafe decisions for our children.  We all make decisions that we feel are best for our families based on the information we have.

Learn more about this parenting journey and what is best (or normal) for babies. Make changes and grow.  Then share that knowledge.  Don’t judge, don’t look down on others, but offer information.

You’ve heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child.  It takes a village to provide information for a mother.  Think about that.

When you have your first baby, what information do you know?  What you’ve learned from watching others.  What if we actually shared our experiences and our research with compassion for others?  How would that change our conversations?

Moms – STOP letting the media and companies try to turn us against each other.  Lets support each other, no matter what choices we have made in the past.  Lets embrace our differences, respect the new moms we want to help educate, and grow. We all deserve more than these battles.  When we can stop fighting about choices we’ve made and the things we learned in the process and we start sharing these things to SUPPORT others, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.  Imagine the change we can be for our children if we can teach them this skill.  We’ve got this moms.  Let’s put down the World’s Best Mom sash and the pitchfork and let’s support each other.

Are you with me?

Breastfeeding While Pregnant – My Weaning Journey #1

Before I had kids I never really wondered about breastfeeding, pregnancy, and weaning.  I knew I wanted kids.  I knew I would breastfeed.  I had never heard of breastfeeding past 12 months.  I had this picture in my mind of magically birthing a small human, putting them to my breast to nourish them, and then suddenly on their first birthday they would look at me and say, ‘No thanks Ma! I’m good.’

Yeah, naive, I know.  Imagine my shock when I learned that this isn’t how it works.  The first time I saw a toddler breastfeeding I was shocked, to say the least.  Of course, by the time my first baby was a few months old the idea seemed almost normal.  And I had plans to allow her to self-wean, or at least continue breastfeeding as long as it was working for both of us.  I changed my goals from 1 year to 2 years and I never looked back.

Now we had our ups and downs, and moments where I thought if I had to let this child nurse for one.more.second I might explode, but I was confidant in the fact that I was doing what I believed was best for my daughter.  I got pregnant with her younger sister shortly after her 3rd birthday. We continued nursing, though by that point she was nursing only 4 times a day, first thing in the morning, before her nap, after her nap, and right before bed.  I’m sure most of the people who knew us assumed she was weaned by that point, and that’s ok.

At some point during my 1st trimester  breastfeeding became painful.  We worked on her latch over and over again.  Eventually the milk started become less plentiful and her nursing sessions became less frequent and before I knew it we were down to 1 morning session.  If I were to get up and get dressed before she got out of bed, she wouldn’t ask.

Eventually it was a few days between sessions, and then it would be weeks between sessions.  Finally a friend asked me if she was still nursing and I said I couldn’t remember the last time she nursed, so I guess not.  The next day she asked one last time, as she climbed into my lap.  I said ok, and then she looked at my breast and then looked at me, as if she was unsure of how to proceed.  It had been about 2 weeks since her last nursing session and she had forgotten how to latch.  It was a slow process, but at the end, I knew that it was just what both of us needed.


This post was part of the Breasfeeding Blog Hop –