Storing breast milk
First scenario: Samia (pseudonym) is a garments worker. She went outside with her four months old sick baby. The baby got dehydrated due to diarrhea. The doctor detected formula feed as the culprit. The mother admitted that she was not very eager to feed formula, but duty period was a huge barrier.
Second scenario: Rimi (pseudonym) has delivered a preterm low birth weight baby with cleft lip 2 days back. Initially she was admitted at obstetric ward due to her serious illness, while the baby was admitted at neonatal ward. The neonatologist advocated breast milk to be given to the baby through a feeding tube, at a certain amount, and at a fixed interval.
In both cases, the mother felt the necessity to express breast milk and store it for their babies. In some conditions like preterm, low birth weight, unable to suck, sick babies, expressed breast milk may be needed. When mother is sick, has disease in breast, or works outside home for a longer period, she can store her expressed milk.
A mother should prepare herself before expressing the milk. These preparations are aimed to stimulate 'oxytocin reflex', a key to milk secretion.
1. She can sit quietly alone or with other mothers, who can motivate her.
2. A baby on mother's lap or even photograph could be a good spur.
3. A warm bath or breast massage is beneficial.
4. Gentle rubbing to the nipple is often helpful.
After taking proper preparation the mother is ready to express milk. So, the next steps should be followed carefully.
1. Wash the hands with soap and clean water.
2. Select a washed, boiled, wide mouthed cup or container.
3. Use thumb one side and other fingers another side to make a 'C' pattern around the nipple. Now gently squeeze the breast from periphery toward centre. Avoid hard pressing and pulling the nipple.
4. Collect the milk and feed baby with the help of spoon, cup, tube etc.
5. If you want to store milk in several containers then label them accordingly. First collected milk should be fed earlier.
Now the most important thing, how long I can store milk, shall be discussed.
1. Store in room temperature: 25-370C for up to 4 hours, 15-250C for up to 8 hours, Below 150C for up to 24 hours
2. Store in refrigerator (2-4oC): up to 8 days.
3. Deep freeze: up to 3 months.
It is to be noted that don't boil milk directly after freezing, rather use boil water to heat the container. Using a bottle is always prohibited. You should consult with a pediatrician for further practical help and to determine amount of feed.
In some countries, even in our neighbor country India, the concept of 'Human Milk Bank' is being increasingly practiced. It allows a baby having no biological mother or mother with HIV infection to drink breast milk exclusively at least for first six months of life. Whatever the circumstances, we should remember and believe that nothing is better or a substitute to breast milk to a newborn baby. Each and every baby must drink only breast milk and not even a drop of water for first six months.