Understanding Breastmilk – What to Expect When Storing and Using Expressed Breastmilk

Understanding Breastmilk – What to Expect When Storing and Using Expressed Breastmilk

As a lactation consultant, I often encounter mothers who are curious about the appearance of their stored breastmilk. It’s not uncommon for them to wonder whether changes in color, consistency, or texture indicate spoilage or deterioration. In this blog post, we’ll delve into why stored breastmilk can exhibit variations from freshly expressed milk and provide some practical tips on how to handle these changes.

When breast milk is stored, whether in the refrigerator or thawed from the freezer, it can indeed display differences compared to freshly expressed milk. One of the most common observations is the separation of breastmilk into a creamy layer atop a more watery layer. While this stratification might raise concerns, it’s perfectly normal. Simply gently swirling the milk can effectively remix the layers before use.

But why does this separation occur? The answer lies in the composition of breast milk. As breast milk settles during storage, the fat content, often referred to as the ‘cream,’ naturally rises to the surface. The thickness of this fat layer can vary – sometimes it’s thicker, sometimes thinner – and both variations are within the realm of normalcy. The concentration of fat in breast milk largely depends on the degree of breast fullness. A fuller breast tends to yield milk with lower fat concentration, while milk from an emptier breast typically contains higher fat concentration.

When it’s time to feed your baby with the expressed breast milk, it’s crucial to gently swirl the container to ensure proper mixing of the layers, providing your baby with a balanced meal.

Additionally, you may notice that some thicker parts of the breast milk adhere to the sides of the storage container. To address this, simply run warm water over the outside of the container. This gentle warming helps loosen any stuck breast milk, facilitating easier pouring or transfer into a feeding bottle.

In essence, it’s important for breastfeeding mothers to understand that changes in the appearance of stored breast milk are normal and to be anticipated. Armed with the knowledge of why these changes occur and how to handle stored breastmilk properly, you can confidently provide your baby with optimal nutrition, even when direct breastfeeding isn’t possible.

If you find yourself with further questions or concerns about breastfeeding or storing breastmilk, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from a lactation consultant or healthcare provider. Their personalised support and guidance can offer reassurance and invaluable assistance along your breastfeeding journey. By partnering with a lactation consultant, mothers can navigate the complexities of breastfeeding with confidence, ensuring that their little ones receive the best possible start in life. Remember, you’re doing an incredible job nurturing and caring for your baby!

In conclusion, understanding the nuances of stored breastmilk is essential for breastfeeding mothers. By being aware of the natural variations in appearance, such as changes in color and consistency over time, and knowing how to manage them, you can ensure that your baby receives optimal nourishment. It’s crucial to stay informed about proper storage techniques, including refrigeration and freezing, to maintain the quality of expressed milk. Embrace these changes as part of the breastfeeding experience, acknowledging the incredible journey of providing nourishment to your baby, and continue to prioritise their health and well-being above all else.


Nursing Mama offers in-person consults within Kildare, Dublin, and online Worldwide, offering breastfeeding support, knowledge, and expertise – click to find out more.

Seeking breastfeeding support from resources like Nursing Mama can provide valuable insights.

Consult with experts like Katie Mugan for personalised advice or consider joining live or pre-recorded weaning classes to help you along the way.



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