Hello to our readers out there! I hope all of you who had to endure Sandy are safe and healthy. Going through this historic weather event brought to mind the struggle I had last year during Tropical Storm Irene and the “Freaktober” Snowstorm with what to do with my frozen breast milk when we lost power. I ended up throwing away much of my “liquid gold” stash because I was not quite sure what to do with it. Yes, I cried (a lot) over my wasted milk!
Just before Sandy hit, I was very glad to see our friends at the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition shared this wonderful list on the CT Working Mom’s Facebook page on what to do if you have stored breast milk or are an exclusively pumping mama who is back to work but without power at home. While I no longer have to worry about pumping, I remembered the anxiety and dread I felt last year and wanted to share this in case some of you missed it and are finding yourselves wondering what to do through this power outage or even in the future (God forbid we have to go through this again!). I have listed the important points below.
For stored milk:
- Keeping milk in a freezer that is not opened as much as possible, and is packed as full as possible with other frozen food—including filling containers with water before the storm hits and filling the empty spaces in the freezer with them so they freeze into ice—is the best one can do at home without a generator.
- You can keep milk packed in a cooler with ice. Newspaper can be added as extra insulation. Frozen milk from donor milk banks is sometimes wrapped in newspaper to help with keeping it frozen for shipping.
- If a neighbor has power or a generator, see if you can store your milk there until the power is restored.
- Any store near you that has a generator keeping its freezers/refrigeration going may be willing to store your milk—ask!
- As long as the milk still has ice crystals in it, it is safe to either use, or refreeze once power is restored.
- Once it totally defrosts, it needs to be used within—and there is some disagreement about this—24-48 hours for healthy babies. For premature babies the rule is generally to use defrosted milk within 24 hours.
- If you get snow, you can use snow banks out of the sun to put frozen food in—I know—that is how we preserved food in the last Oct storm!!
If you are a pump-dependent mom:
- Make sure you have a car adapter for your electric pump. If you don’t have a car but know someone close by who does, make a plan ahead of time to see if you can use it to express milk.
- This is to feed your baby now and to keep you from becoming engorged, develop mastitis, and to keep your milk supply going.
- If you know how to hand express and are good and efficient at it, you can do fine, but the majority of women in the US do not know how to hand express to empty over the long haul.
- A good manual pump is another option if you do not have power, but make sure you have it before you need it.
The Avent Manual pump
I actually used the Avent Manual pump for the entire year and a half I pumped at work. I purchased two at Babies ‘R Us for around $30-40 and they still work beautifully! For some reason the manual pump actually worked better for me than my fancy-shmancy electric pump. I loved that it is small, lightweight and could easily fit in my work bag. Also, it had way fewer parts and was so easy to clean in the dishwasher.
While I liked the Medela and Lansinoh storage bags, I ended up loving these glass bottles from Lifefactory.com to store and freeze my pumped milk. The bottles are bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalate, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) free. They can go from the freezer directly into a warm pot of water without cracking. The silicone sleeves come in many fun colors and worked well for better grip. They even sell sippy cup caps so you can use them through the toddler years! Also very easy to clean in the dishwasher. I purchased mine directly from Lifefactory.com when they were on sale, amazon.com, and even Whole Foods carries them.
Do you have any suggestions for essential items to use while pumping? Also, if you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll try my very best to get an answer. Good luck and wishing you safe and stress-free lactation!
For additional information, here’s a link to La Leche League International’s guidelines for milk storage:
Here’s the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition’s website:
Full disclosure: I personally purchased the items mentioned above and did not receive any compensation for mentioning them. My opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CTWorkingMoms.com.