When you are an exclusively breastfeeding mother, handling breast milk is a no-brainer
- Boob produces milk
- Baby drinks from boob
Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? But, when you are not “the one with boobs”, handling that liquid gold gets a little more complicated. Because, let’s be honest here, no one wants to be the one to tell a pumping mom that they are the reason for spoiled breast milk.
Now that’s something to cry over!
So here are few tips, tricks and rules to handling breast milk, for the un-initiated boob supporter and care provider.
How to Safely Prepare and Store Expressed Breast Milk
Be sure to wash your hands before expressing or handling breast milk.
When collecting milk, be sure to store it in clean containers, such as screw cap bottles, hard plastic cups with tight caps, or heavy-duty bags that fit directly into nursery bottles. Avoid using ordinary plastic storage bags or formula bottle bags, as these could easily leak or spill.
If delivering breast milk to a child care provider, clearly label the container with the child’s name and date.
Clearly label the milk with the date it was expressed to facilitate using the oldest milk first.
Do not add fresh milk to already frozen milk within a storage container. It is best not to mix the two.
Do not save milk from a used bottle for use at another feeding.
Clean breast pump parts after each use. Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) web site on Cleaning a Breast Pump for other information.
Best caregiver hacks for warming and feeding a breastfed baby expressed human milk:
1. Watch the clock.
Know about how long your little one eats between feedings, so that you’re not frantically trying to heat breast milk with a screaming and distraught infant in your arms. Just as if baby was eating “from tap,” it is important to watch hunger cues, and know about when baby may be hungry next.
2. Use your Keurig to warm the milk!
As a daycare provider, with 7 children to watch, I needed an efficient way to warm my little’s pumped milk…quickly. And, well, I rely on my Keurig for my own liquid gold, so… a hot water bath for pumped milk it is! Quick, easy, and no extra steps! I should add, my milky daycare mama used her reusable Medela bottles that came through insurance, and the temperature was always right. If you’re using milk from a disposable bag, please make sure not to let it overheat. I’ve also seen daycares which leave a crock pot on low filled with water for instant warm water baths for their breastfed babies. Whatever you do, please DON’T microwave that milk! Referencing the La Leche League:
“Do not heat… milk in a stove or a microwave oven” states LLLI’s THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, 7th Revised Edition, 2004 on page 122. Warming your stored milk in the microwave causes it to heat unevenly, creating “hot spots” that may burn your baby’s mouth. Furthermore, valuable immunological components can be destroyed if the milk gets too hot (p. 158).
3. Understand that breastfed babies and formula fed babies don’t eat the same.
Breastfed babies generally need pace-fed in order to mimic the way they nurse at mom’s breast. Some need smaller nipple sizes. Other’s need burped more frequently. Be patient with your baby and pay attention to it’s needs. Breastfed babies generally shouldn’t guzzle through bottle after bottle. They are guzzling because they are used to setting the pace for nursing, not the bottle, and they need you to control the flow and how they receive it.
4. Test the temperature before you feed baby- on your hand!
Common myth says to test the temperature of milk before feeding by dribbling a few drops on your wrist. However, your wrist is not a sensitive part of your body for testing warmth! Instead, spill a couple drops of milk on your hand, which is a better indicator. If the milk feels luke-warm on your skin, you’ve got it just right!
Also, make note that science no longer says you need to worry about shaking vs. swirling breast milk- it is much hardier than that!
Pump Care and Advice for Working or Exclusively Pumping Mothers:
1. Wash your pump and replace parts regularly.
It sounds more common sense on paper than it is in practice. Let’s face it- working, breastfeeding moms are TIRED. Sometimes the common sense stuff slips our brains. If you’re lucky, some insurance providers replace parts regularly. (If your supply output suddenly drops, don’t forget to replace those tiny membranes, they could have microscopic tears which will effect the pump’s suction!) But, either way, make sure you take home your pump on the weekends to give it a good scrub, and sanitize. One of my daycare mama’s and I realized that her milk was getting a “smell” to it. It didn’t seem to bother her little one, but it was certainly noticeable. We discussed lipase and some other options as to what we thought could be the cause. Then it clicked. “When was the last time you’ve washed your pump and replaced your parts?” I asked her.
The smell never came back after that.
2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
You just gave birth and you feel every waking moment of brain space and energy getting sucked into keeping this tiny, perfect, precious being alive. But Mom, please don’t forget to take care of yourself, too! I know it’s easier said than done- believe me. I breastfed two kids for a collective 3.5 years while working full time. It is so simple to fall into the habit of letting mom come last. But if you do ONE thing for yourself, drink plenty of water. It will make a difference in your energy levels, production, and so much more.
3. Check your insurance before buying a pump.
Now laws have been changing (again) recently which protected breastfeeding women’s medical needs, but many insurance companies will cover the cost of a new pump.
4. Get yourself a killer pump bag.
Something that carries everything you need, but still makes you feel stylish and a little less like a milk truck.
5. Every Little Bit Counts
Try not to stress about your supply and production, whether you are pumping two ounces or 16 in a session, know that every bit of breast milk you make for your baby helps her immune system and helps her grow. You are doing the best you can by loving your baby, and that IS enough, no matter what your mom guilt says.
What advice would you give to a newly expressing mom? Share with your squad in the comments, or tag us on Instagram and use the hashtag #momsquaddaily !