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.




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 -

It’s World Milksharing Week

Milksharing.  It’s one of those hot topics in the interwebs these days.  But what does it really mean?

We know that breastmilk is the normal food for the human infant.  Ideally this would come ‘right from the tap’ of his own mother.  However sometimes things don’t work as we would hope.

Sometimes babies are born early, sometimes there are physical abnormalities which complicate things, and sometimes there are hormonal imbalances with mom.

When breastfeeding isn’t starting off perfectly there are options moms can explore.  According to the World Health Organization when direct feeding from the mother’s breast is not possible, the next best option is expressed breastmilk from mom, and then the breastmilk of another human mother.

Did your eyes just bug out of your head?

There are some options for milk sharing.  For starters there is Human Milk for Human Babies (HM4HB) which has many facebook groups for local areas where moms can post and share needs and donations.  There is the non-profit network of Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) banks. And lastly there are for profit groups. Personally, I am concerned about the ethics of the for profit banks, but that’s something you can explore.

Still have questions?  I figured you would.  

I talked to the lovely ladies at the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank (a HMBANA Bank) about milk banking donations.  Here’s what they had to say - 

The Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank believes that breast milk is best for ALL babies. We provide pasteurized donor human milk to critically ill NICU babies across the midwest.

To become a donor, a mom will need to have given birth in the last year, be a non-smoker who is in good general health, be willing to fill out our Potential Donor Packet and have a blood draw at the expense of the Milk Bank. Once the milk bank receives a mom’s documents we will set up a blood draw at a national lab. When all the blood results are received, our Clinical Coordinator will review the information and approve her. Once approved we will work with a mom to find the most convenient way for us to receive her human milk donation. We can provide her with everything she will need to ship her milk directly to us or we can arrange for her to drop off her milk at one of our 13 convenient milk depot locations  or if she is relatively close to us we will come to her home to pick up her milk.

We ask that our donors be willing to donate at least 100oz of breast milk that has been stored for 6 months or less and was pumped before her baby’s first birthday.

If any you or someone you know is interested in helping babies in need, please visit our website to start the process or you can call Breanna our Donor Mother Coordinator at 1.877.829.7470

And I talked with the lovely ladies at HM4HB this is what they had to say about informal milksharing - 

HM4HB is a global milksharing network, a virtual village, comprising thousands of people from over fifty countries. We are mothers, fathers, adoptive families, grandparents, childbirth and breastfeeding professionals, volunteers, supporters, donors, and recipients that have come together to support the simple idea that all babies and children have the right to receive human milk. We use social media as a platform for local families to make real-life connections and come together as sustainable milksharing communities where women graciously share their breastmilk. HM4HB is built on the principle of informed choice: we trust, honour, and value the autonomy of families and we assert they are capable of weighing the benefits and risks of milksharing in order to make choices that are best for them. We hold the space for them and protect their right to do what is normal, healthy, and ecological.

Two organizations with the same goals – get human milk to human babies – with two ways to go about making that happen.  If you are in need of breastmilk for your baby, or you end up with more milk than your baby will consume, you can decide what the best option is for your family.