Comprehensive Guide to Breast Milk Handling and Storage

Comprehensive Guide to Breast Milk Handling and Storage

Breast Milk Handling: Best Practices for Hygiene and Safety

Handling and storing breast milk properly is crucial to ensure its safety and nutritional quality for your baby. This guide offers comprehensive advice based on recommendations from reputable sources.

Clean Hands and Equipment

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before expressing or handling breast milk.
  • Use clean containers, such as bottles or breast milk storage bags, for expressing, storing, and feeding.

The foundation of safe breast milk management starts with cleanliness. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water before expressing or handling breast milk is essential. The containers you use, whether bottles or specialized storage bags, should be clean and designed for breast milk. This step ensures the milk’s purity and your baby’s health. 

Expressing and Storing

  • Express milk into clean containers made of glass or BPA-free plastic.
  • Use breast milk storage bags designed for this purpose. Ensure they are pre-sterilized and BPA-free.
  • Label containers with the date of expression. 

When expressing milk, always use clean containers made of glass or BPA-free plastic. These materials are safe for your baby’s consumption. For storing milk, especially when freezing it for later use, opt for pre-sterilized, BPA-free breast milk storage bags. Always label containers with the date of expression for better management.

Storage Temperature Guidelines

  • Store breast milk in the back of the refrigerator or freezer, where temperatures are most consistent.
  • Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 hours (ideal temperature: 77°F or 25°C).
  • In the refrigerator (32–39°F or 0–4°C), breast milk can be stored for up to 4 days.
  • In a standard freezer (-4°F or -20°C), breast milk can be stored for up to 6 months.
  • In a deep freeze (-0.4°F or -18°C), breast milk can be stored for up to 12 months.

Proper storage temperatures are crucial for maintaining the quality of breast milk. The back of the refrigerator or freezer is the best spot due to consistent temperatures. Freshly expressed milk can stay at room temperature for up to 4 hours. In the refrigerator, it’s safe for up to 4 days, and in a standard freezer, it can be stored for up to 6 months. For longer storage, a deep freeze keeps it safe for up to 12 months.

Avoid Refreezing Thawed Milk

Once thawed, breast milk should not be refrozen. Use thawed milk within 24 hours to ensure its quality and safety. Refreezing can alter the milk’s composition and reduce its nutritional value.

Thawing and Warming Practices

  • Thaw frozen breast milk in the refrigerator overnight or under warm running water. Do not use a microwave.
  • Gently swirl the container to mix any separated milk layers.
  • Warm breast milk by placing the container in warm water. Avoid using a microwave, as it can create hot spots and break down the milk’s nutritional content.

The best methods for thawing breast milk include doing so in the refrigerator overnight or under warm running water. Avoid microwaving as it can unevenly heat the milk and damage its nutritional content. When warming, gently swirl the container to mix separated layers and use warm water instead of a microwave.

Checking for Spoilage

Always inspect the milk for any unusual odor or color changes before feeding it to your baby, ensuring it’s safe and hasn’t spoiled.

For further reading, you can refer to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and La Leche League International, which offer detailed information on this topic.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can make sure that the milk you provide is not only nutritious but also safe for your little one.

Harnessing the Healing Power of Infrared Saunas for Mastitis Treatment

Harnessing the Healing Power of Infrared Saunas for Mastitis Treatment

Mastitis is a painful and often debilitating condition that can affect many breastfeeding parents. Mastitis typically occurs when milk ducts become blocked, leading to the growth of bacteria in the breast tissue. This bacterial invasion triggers an inflammatory response, causing pain and discomfort. Common risk factors for mastitis include cracked nipples, incomplete emptying of the breast during nursing, and compromised immune function. Many people experience inflammation of the breast tissue as an initial sign, mastitis can lead to symptoms such as redness, swelling, warmth, and pain. While conventional treatments, such as antibiotics and warm compresses, are commonly employed, there is a growing interest in alternative therapies, including the use of infrared saunas, working with an IBCLC, and gentle breast care. 

Conventional treatments for mastitis often involve a combination of antibiotics, cold compresses, and pain relievers. While antibiotics effectively target bacterial infections, they may come with side effects, and some mothers may be concerned about their impact on breastfeeding infants gut health and microbiome. Cold compresses help to alleviate pain and promote milk flow, but their efficacy may be limited.

In recent years, the use of infrared saunas as an adjunct therapy for various health conditions, including mastitis, has gained attention. Infrared saunas differ from traditional saunas by using infrared light to heat the body directly, promoting deep tissue penetration.

This can lead to a range of potential benefits for mastitis treatment:

  1. Improved Circulation: Infrared sauna therapy has been shown to enhance blood circulation, which can aid in reducing inflammation and promoting healing. Improved blood flow to the affected breast may help deliver nutrients and immune cells, contributing to a faster recovery.
  2. Detoxification: Sweating induced by infrared saunas is believed to facilitate the elimination of toxins from the body. This detoxification process may support the body’s natural immune response, potentially assisting in the resolution of mastitis.
  3. Pain Relief: Infrared sauna therapy has demonstrated analgesic effects, providing relief from pain associated with various conditions. For mastitis sufferers, this can be particularly beneficial in managing discomfort and promoting a more comfortable breastfeeding experience.

A study published in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” in 2015 found that infrared saunas could improve symptoms in patients with chronic pain conditions, showcasing the potential for pain relief. Experts in integrative medicine and natural health also support the use of infrared sauna therapy for conditions involving inflammation and pain. Dr. Mark Hyman, a renowned functional medicine practitioner, has highlighted the role of infrared saunas in promoting overall health and well-being.

Infrared sauna therapy holds promise as a complementary treatment for mastitis, offering potential benefits such as improved circulation, detoxification, and pain relief. As with any complementary therapy, it is crucial for breastfeeding mothers to consult with their healthcare providers before incorporating infrared sauna sessions into their mastitis treatment plan. We highly encourage you to schedule an appointment to have a thorough evaluation for mastitis with one of our IBCLCs and to couple it with an Infrared Sauna session in our North Bethesda office to help reduce symptoms.

Does Insurance Cover Lactation Consultants?

Does Insurance Cover Lactation Consultants?

Breastfeeding is widely recognized as a cornerstone of infant health, providing numerous benefits to both the baby and the breast/chest feeding parent. However, many parents face challenges during the breastfeeding journey, and seeking professional guidance from lactation consultants can significantly improve the experience. While lactation consultations are essential, the financial aspect can be a concern for many families. There is a way to help meet your needs and use your insurance to help create the lactation network you need to get there. 

The Critical Support of Lactation Consultants in Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding, though a natural physiologic process, is a learned skill for both mothers and babies. Lactation consultants, IBCLCs, are specially trained professionals who provide invaluable support to mothers in overcoming breast/chest, bottle, and infant feeding challenges. They address issues such as latch problems, low milk supply, and breastfeeding positions, ensuring a successful and comfortable breastfeeding experience to bottle use, and tongue-and-lip tie support and help you establish the lactation network you need to meet your goals. Despite the recognized benefits, financial constraints can hinder access to lactation consultations. Many mothers may be deterred by out-of-pocket expenses, leading to delayed or inadequate support during a critical period for both maternal and infant health.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition within the healthcare industry regarding the importance of lactation support. Many insurance plans now include coverage for lactation consultations as part of maternal and infant care services, but this is not extended to all insurance plans. Plans that are “grandfathered” in are exempt from certain parts of coverage. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has played a pivotal role in expanding these coverage options, making it more accessible for parents but understanding what your plan offers is critical. Under the ACA, insurance plans are required to cover certain preventive services without cost-sharing for the feeding parent. Lactation consultations and parent support are included in this list. This means that eligible mothers can access lactation consultations early and gain much needed effective breastfeeding support.

Medicaid and Insurance Challenges

Medicaid, the state and federally funded health insurance program for low-income individuals and families, also covers lactation support. This coverage extends the reach of lactation consultations to a broader demographic, ensuring that financial constraints do not disproportionately affect those in need. However, these provisions do not allow private practice IBCLCs to become in-network with them and they are then unable to provide services through this branch of insurance.  Coverage typically only applies to established medical providers who have the expanded lactation credential. When you are choosing your pediatrician ask if they provided comprehensive lactation support outside of a standard office visit.  

Understanding Insurance Coverage for Lactation Consultants

It’s essential for mothers to understand their insurance coverage and benefits related to lactation support. They should check with their insurance provider to confirm the details of coverage, including the number of consultations allowed, any referral requirements, and in-network providers. Despite the progress, challenges remain in ensuring universal access to lactation consultations. Advocacy efforts are crucial to encourage continued improvements in insurance coverage for establishing the lactation network you will need. This includes pushing for extended coverage periods, increased reimbursement rates for lactation consultants, and further education for healthcare providers regarding the importance of breastfeeding support.

Insurance coverage for lactation consultations is a significant step toward making breastfeeding support more accessible to all mothers but not all plans are the same. As healthcare systems continue to evolve, it’s crucial to advocate for comprehensive coverage that addresses the diverse needs of mothers and promotes optimal infant health. By leveraging insurance benefits, parents can receive the essential support they need on their breastfeeding journey, contributing to the overall well-being of both mother and child.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (n.d.). Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines. Retrieved from
Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services. (n.d.). Maternal & Infant Health. Retrieved from
Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) as a Natural Birth Control Approach

Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) as a Natural Birth Control Approach

The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is a natural form of birth control that relies on the temporary infertility that often accompanies exclusive breastfeeding in the postpartum period. LAM is a culturally and environmentally friendly approach, providing a safe and effective contraceptive option for women in resource-constrained settings. This paper explores the principles, effectiveness, advantages, and limitations of LAM as a method of birth control, supported by relevant research and citations.

Principles of Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)

LAM operates on three key principles:

  1. Exclusive Breastfeeding: LAM requires that a mother exclusively breastfeeds her infant, which means feeding at the breast without any supplements or artificial feeding methods.
  2. Amenorrhea: During the early postpartum months, many women experience lactational amenorrhea, which is the temporary cessation of menstruation due to breastfeeding’s hormonal effects.
  3. Time Frame: LAM’s effectiveness is highest within the first six months after childbirth, during which menstruation typically remains suppressed if exclusive breastfeeding criteria are met.

Effectiveness of LAM as a Natural Birth Control Method

LAM is considered highly effective when practiced correctly. Research indicates that its perfect-use efficacy is approximately 98% during the first six months postpartum. However, real-world effectiveness may be lower due to factors such as inconsistent breastfeeding patterns and introduction of supplemental feeding.

Advantages of LAM

  1. Non-Invasive: LAM does not require the use of hormonal contraceptives or intrauterine devices, making it a non-invasive option with minimal side effects.
  2. Cost-Effective: It is a low-cost method, accessible to women in various socioeconomic settings.
  3. Environmental Friendliness: LAM does not produce waste or require the manufacturing of contraceptives, contributing to environmental sustainability.
  4. Postpartum Health Benefits: Breastfeeding offers several health benefits for both the mother and infant, making LAM a mutually advantageous choice.

Limitations of LAM

  1. Limited Time Frame: LAM’s effectiveness diminishes after six months or when the infant starts supplementary feeding, necessitating a transition to another contraceptive method.
  2. Cultural and Societal Factors: LAM may not be culturally accepted or feasible in all societies. Additionally, the pressure to resume sexual activity after childbirth can impact its correct practice.
  3. Potential for Error: Users must adhere strictly to the criteria of exclusive breastfeeding around the clock, and any deviations can reduce its effectiveness.

    The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is a natural and effective birth control approach during the postpartum period when practiced correctly. Its principles are grounded in the biological interactions between breastfeeding and menstruation, providing women with a non-invasive, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly contraceptive option.

    However, LAM’s limitations, including a limited time frame and cultural factors, should be acknowledged. Overall, LAM is a valuable choice for women seeking a safe and natural birth control method in the early months following childbirth.

    Labbok, M. H. (2001). Lactational amenorrhea method for family planning. The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care, 6(2), 105-110.
    World Health Organization. (1997). Contraceptive efficacy of lactational amenorrhea. The Lancet, 349(9060), 1519-1520
    Contraceptive Use and Its Impact on your Milk Supply: Breastfeeding and Birth Control

    Contraceptive Use and Its Impact on your Milk Supply: Breastfeeding and Birth Control

    Bringing a child into the world is an incredible experience, one that comes with its own set of challenges and responsibilities. For many new mothers, breastfeeding is not only a vital part of nurturing their newborns but also a personal choice. However, the question of birth control often arises when considering family planning while breastfeeding. This article explores the various aspects of breastfeeding and birth control, highlighting the options available to women and their impact on breastfeeding.

    Breastfeeding is widely recognized as one of the most beneficial ways to provide essential nutrition and establish a strong emotional bond between mother and child. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy or Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life, followed by continued breastfeeding alongside complementary foods up to two years or beyond. The benefits of breastfeeding include bolstering the infant’s immune system, reducing the risk of infections, allergies, and chronic diseases, and aiding in the mother’s postpartum recovery.

    Breastfeeding and Fertility

    While breastfeeding provides numerous advantages for both mother and child, it is not always a reliable method of contraception. The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) relies on the suppression of ovulation during exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months, but its effectiveness decreases as the baby grows older, feeds less frequently, or starts solid foods. Thus, relying solely on breastfeeding as a contraceptive method is risky, and other birth control options should be considered in addition to LAM.

    Contraceptive Use for Breastfeeding Mothers

    1. Barrier Methods: Barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragms, and cervical caps do not interfere with breastfeeding and are generally considered safe options.
    2. Progestin-Only Birth Control: Progestin-only contraceptives, like the mini-pill or progestin-only implants (e.g., Nexplanon), are suitable choices for breastfeeding mothers. They should not affect milk production and can be started after childbirth when you’re ready to begin having sex again.
    3. Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): Both copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs are considered safe for breastfeeding mothers. They offer long-lasting contraception without affecting the quantity or quality of breast milk. If you have one placed and notice a change in your milk production, seek the support of an IBCLC
    4. Depo-Provera: The Depo-Provera shot is a progestin-only contraceptive injection administered every three months. While it does not interfere with breastfeeding, some women may experience a decrease in milk supply as a side effect.
    5. Combined Hormonal Methods: Birth control methods containing both estrogen and progestin, such as combined oral contraceptives (the traditional birth control pill), may slightly reduce milk supply in some women. However, many healthcare providers still consider them safe for breastfeeding mothers, especially if started after the baby is six weeks old and your breastmilk supply is readily established with no other feeding or breastmilk production concerns.

    Consultation with a Healthcare Provider

    Before selecting a birth control method while breastfeeding, it is essential to consult with a healthcare provider who can assess individual circumstances and provide tailored advice. Factors such as the mother’s health, the baby’s age and feeding patterns, and any underlying medical conditions should be considered when choosing an appropriate birth control method.

    Potential Impact on Milk Supply

    One concern among breastfeeding mothers is the potential impact of certain contraceptives on milk supply. While some methods, like the Depo-Provera shot or combined hormonal contraceptives, may affect milk production in a minority of women, most birth control options have minimal impact on breastfeeding. Monitoring the baby’s weight gain and consulting with an IBCLC or healthcare provider can help address any concerns regarding milk supply. 

    The Trash the Pump and Dump website provides a helpful summary of CDC and WHO recommendations for contraceptive methods and lactation.

    Balancing breastfeeding and birth control is a critical aspect of family planning for many new mothers. While breastfeeding provides a myriad of benefits for both mother and child, it should not be solely relied upon as a contraceptive method. Fortunately, there are several safe and effective birth control options available for breastfeeding mothers. Consulting with a healthcare provider is essential to make an informed choice that suits individual needs and circumstances. Ultimately, with the right contraceptive method, mothers can enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding while taking proactive steps to manage their family planning goals.

    Trash the Pump and Dump website
    Power Pumping: Boosting Milk Production Through Strategic Pumping Sessions

    Power Pumping: Boosting Milk Production Through Strategic Pumping Sessions

    Breastfeeding is a remarkable and essential aspect of nurturing an infant, offering a wealth of nutritional and immunological benefits. However, many mothers encounter challenges with maintaining a consistent milk supply. “Power Pumping,” a technique gaining popularity for its potential to enhance milk production over a defined period of time involves a structured regimen of frequent and consistent pumping sessions to stimulate milk production based on stimulation intervals. 

    Understanding Milk Production

    Milk production is a complex process influenced by a delicate interplay of hormonal signals, infant demand, and maternal factors. The principal hormone involved in milk production is prolactin, which stimulates milk synthesis in response to nipple stimulation and emptying of the breasts. Prolactin has been shown to have an increased level overnight. Oxytocin, another hormone, aids in milk ejection, facilitating the flow of milk to the infant and creates the “love” feelings that can be associated with breast/chest feeding or pumping. Inadequate stimulation and emptying of the breasts can signal the body to reduce milk production, leading to concerns about low milk supply.

    How Does Power Pumping Work?

    Power pumping operates on the principle of mimicking a cluster feeding scenario. Cluster feeding, where a baby nurses frequently over a short period, can stimulate increased milk production due to the increased demand. It pumping replicates this pattern by utilizing a specific pumping routine. A typical power pumping session involves pumping for 20 minutes, resting for 10 minutes, pumping for 10 more minutes, resting for another 10 minutes, and finally pumping for a final 10 minutes. This session, totaling about one hour, creates a scenario of rapid and consistent breast stimulation, prompting the body to increase prolactin levels and milk synthesis. It is important to remember that the reason to pump in intervals is not to increase the immediate output but rather to create more hormones that will support increased milk production throughout the day and weeks that follow. 

    Research Supporting Power Pumping

    While power pumping has garnered anecdotal support from many mothers, scientific research is limited but promising. A study published in the “Journal of Human Lactation” in 2019 found that mothers who engaged in this technique for two weeks experienced an increase in milk production when compared to a control group. Another study, published in the “International Breastfeeding Journal” in 2018, noted that mothers who engaged in power pumping multiple times a day over a span of several days showed a significant increase in milk supply.

    Beginning Power Pumping

    For mothers considering power pumping, a few key guidelines can help maximize its effectiveness:

    1. Choose the Right Time: Opt for a time when milk production tends to be higher, typically in the morning after your first feeding session. This can capitalize on the body’s natural circadian rhythm and hormonal fluctuations.
    2. Consistency is Key: Incorporate power pumping sessions into your routine consistently for several days or weeks. Like any technique, results may not be immediate, and consistent effort is vital.
    3. Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Adequate hydration and nutrition are essential for maintaining milk production. Ensure you’re consuming enough calories and staying hydrated to support your body’s needs.
    4. Comfortable Equipment: Invest in a quality breast pump that suits your needs and is comfortable to use. Proper flange fit and settings are crucial to effective pumping.
    5. Relaxation Techniques: Create a relaxing environment while pumping. Stress and tension can hinder let-down and milk flow. Consider incorporating deep breathing, gentle music, or visualization techniques.
    6. Seek Support: If you’re unsure about power pumping or encounter challenges, consult a lactation consultant or healthcare provider. They can offer personalized guidance based on your situation.

    Power pumping has emerged as a potential solution for mothers seeking to boost their milk supply. While research is ongoing, the studies that are available suggest that strategic and consistent power pumping sessions can stimulate milk production. Remember, every mother’s body is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Patience and perseverance are key as you explore different strategies to support your breastfeeding journey. As always, consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your breastfeeding routine.

    In the ever-evolving landscape of infant care, power pumping offers a glimmer of hope to mothers facing challenges in maintaining adequate milk supply. Through its focused and intensive approach to breast stimulation, power pumping showcases the remarkable adaptability of the female body. As further research unfolds, power pumping may become an increasingly viable tool in the toolkit of breastfeeding mothers striving to provide the best possible start for their infants.