INCONSISTENT guidelines for the storage of expressed breast milk is leaving new mothers highly confused, a new study reveals.
Australian researchers studied online resources for breastfeeding mothers and found very varied information about the handling, storage, and warming of expressed breast milk.
The least conservative recommendations allowed fresh breast milk to be stored at room temperature for up to 10 hours and in the refrigerator for up to eight days but strictly dependent on the temperature of the room and cleanliness of the expression.
The most conservative storage recommendations for fresh breast milk were up to four hours at room temperature and 72 hours in the refrigerator, researchers at Flinders University found.
How long you can store breast milk
Freshly expressed: 72 hours max in back of the fridge - three months in the freezer at -18C
Previously frozen (thawed in fridge): 24 hours in the fridge - do not refreeze
Previously frozen (thawed in warm water): Keep for four hours - do not refreeze
Source: Australian Breastfeeding Association
All resources stated that thawed milk should never be refrozen.
Australian lactation expert Pinky McKay told The Courier-Mail that the handling of their own breast milk is very emotional for mothers.
“No mum wants to throw her precious milk down the drain but it is important to be careful with storage. I would always prefer people are overly cautious and I recommend the guidelines set out by the Australian Breastfeeding Association,” Ms McKay said.
“Mothers of premmie babies should consult with their clinicians in NICU as to what is best for these more fragile babies,” she said.
The breastfeeding expert says many mothers will use discarded milk in their babies baths rather than waste it.
Opinions you can't ignore.
Brisbane’s Allira Thompson is mum to a three-year-old and 11-month-old and is due to return to part-time work next week, so the storage of her expressed milk is on her mind.
“I agree that there needs to be set-in-stone guidelines so parents know that the milk is safe. It is hard enough to return to work and the confusion may add to the decision to stop breastfeeding completely,” she said.
“I currently would leave the milk in the back of the freezer for six months and in the fridge for three days,” she said.