Thawing breast milk isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are some special precautions you need to take in order to minimize waste. Believe me, no one wants to waste good breast milk! Here are some helpful guidelines to follow on how to properly thaw milk for your breastfed baby.
1) Freezer Expiration Dates
Depending on where your breast milk is stored has a lot to do with how long you can keep it. If you have stored your breast milk in a freezer that attaches to your fridge, as long as the milk has stayed near the back wall away from the door, the milk is good for three months after the date it was expressed (be sure to write the date on the bag so you don’t get confused). If your milk was stored in a deep freezer, consider it good for 6 to 12 months. Some companies will tell you to toss it out after six months, but they’re probably just being conservative, according to my lactation consultant (who advises 12 months). I once knew a woman who thawed milk that was over 18 months old and it was still good!
2) Thawed Milk Expiration Dates
Once completely thawed, your milk will be good for 24 hours. Don’t thaw more than you need to and don’t try to re-freeze any milk leftover.
3) It Will Smell
In almost all cases, your breast milk will have an odor different from fresh milk. If the milk is within its expiration date, chances are it is still good! Do not let the soapy smell of thawed milk convince you it is sour! It will smell off and you may ask yourself, “Well, is this the soapy smell or is this rancid?” If you are questioning yourself, chances are it’s good. Believe me, you’ll know when it’s rancid. It’ll smell like really nasty outdated cow’s milk. Be careful not to get the two smells mixed up!
4) Ziplock Bag
Thaw your breast milk in either a bowl of water or run it under the faucet in the sink….all while inside a larger gallon-sized ziplock bag. I cannot stress the importance of this because almost all breast milk storage bags will leak. Gerber bags are the worst, followed by Lansinoh bags. But Honeysuckle bags definitely have the highest “survival rate.”
It’ll take you a while to figure out how much milk to thaw out for your baby, especially if you’re sending him off to daycare for the first time. For most babies over one month old, I always use this rule of thumb: three ounces every three hours, plus a few extra ounces for wriggle room. Use these guidelines to ensure you don’t waste an ounce of your precious liquid gold.