You’re planning to breastfeed – great! But if you want to be able to bottle feed for that occasional date or regularly, while you’re at work, you’ll want to be ready to store and serve that precious milk. The serving is easy (you probably already bought/registered for some bottles), but what about milk storage? Options abound. Here’s my thoughts on breastmilk storage options from bags to bottles to trays.
Breastmilk Freezer Bags
You’ll see these little plastic breastmilk freezer bags at your local Babies R’us. They’re easy to find, old-fashioned classics, but not at all easy to use. You cannot pump milk directly into the bags, which leaves you to pour it in. It’s not so easy to pour milk into a floppy bag. Spilling just a little is quite frustrating, since every drop is precious (especially if you have milk supply issues). Plus, if you don’t seal it right with the little bag ties, you’re milk will get freezer burn.
Pros: Compact in freezer.
Cons: The bags are not reusable, so over time the costs add up (20 bags for $16). Difficult to pour and seal. Cannot pump into the bag or feed baby from the bag. Every time you transfer milk, you will probably loose some and do risk contamination.
Bottom Line: I used these a few times and quickly decided I did not like them.
Breastmilk Freezing Trays
Trays are relatively new to the breastmilk storage solution scene. After pumping, you pour your milk into the tray, which is easy since the trays are rigid and horizontal. Seal with the tray lid and freeze. Once frozen, pop out your breastmilk cubes/sticks into a large freezer quality storage bag. Reuse the tray! Breastmilk trays are designed so that your milk is frozen in one ounce portions. This makes it easy to defrost just the right amount for baby’s bottle. Just place the breastmilk portions in the bottle and defrost it right in the bottle. No waste!
I tried “Fresh Baby” brand milk trays first, but the ice cube-shaped milk cubes did not fit easily into my wide mouth baby bottles, causing frustration and milk loss as I resorted to jamming them in. The Sensible Lines milk trays (available at EuphoriaMaternity.com) are better because the slim milk sticks they create are easier to work with.
Pros: Compact in freezer. Most affordable (one set of trays for $18 + large ziplock bags as needed). No wasted milk.
Cons: Cannot pump into or feed out of the tray. Every time you transfer milk, you may loose some and do risk contamination.
Bottom Line: These were my favorite method of milk storage since they are affordable and allow you to defrost just the right amount of milk each time. For the eco-sensitive and price-sensitive mama, milk trays are the best choice.
Breastmilk Storage Bottles
Storing your breastmilk in ready-to-use bottles is probably the most obvious choice. Many breastmilk storage bottles are designed to work with popular breast pumps, so that you can pump right into the bottle. The advantages of not transferring the milk after pumping include: no milk loss, no contamination and convenience. Some storage bottles, like the Mother’s Milkmate collection we offer in our boutique, even have storage racks you can place in your freezer to organize and rotate your frozen milk bottles on a first-in, first-out basis. You can feed baby right from a storage bottle, if you get the correct attachments to work with the nipple of your choice. Or, you can pour a defrosted storage bottle into any other bottle when you’re ready to serve.
Pros: Convenient. Most hygienic. No milk loss.
Cons: Expensive (6 bottles for $16 – depending on your needs, you may need 12-24 bottles). Requires the most freezer room.
Bottom Line: If your baby will be having more than 3 or so bottles a week, the convenience and hygienic nature of a bottle system is probably worth the cost. For the mama looking for the easiest option, breastmilk storage bottles are it!