The Freezer Stash: breastmilk storage containers

Welcome to my freezer stash.

Yup, that's my freezer stash, complete with neon stickers and all the bags and bottles in disarray. I love my freezer stash. Sure, it could be bigger, but I'm ok with it. It's my insurance policy, my security blanket, and something that I'm getting ready to lean on a bit more heavily. My days of being home all day with my baby are numbered; it's almost time to return to work. 

The return to work is a big milestone for the breastfeeding working mom. The first time I took this step it was a big mix of emotions: stir crazy from being home, nervous about putting my tiny one in daycare for the first time, and just not sure how the whole balance of working mommyhood would go. This time I feel more balanced and confident, allowing me to focus on what got lost in the shuffle last time: the freezer stash.

Working and pumping is all about the stash. It's about finding a way to keep the milk plentiful enough to keep up with a hungry baby while you're away at work. If you're lucky you can keep up and not feel nervous that the well will run dry while you're in the middle of wrapping up some important work project. Building the stash is also about choosing your storage containers. When choosing storage containers you need to consider cost, convenience, and averting disaster.

Plastic Bottles: These get high scores for convenience. You can pump directly into them (provided that they are compatible with your pump or you have an adapter). You can store in the refrigerator or freezer. They virtually never leak or crack. Plus, when it's time to feed there's no need to transfer your milk to another container. On the other hand, they require washing and disinfecting. They also take up more space than bags do.

If your stash is small, then cost is not much of an issue. However, keeping a large freezer stash in bottles could get expensive. 

Medela 2oz are about $1/ea. Medela 5oz are about $2/ea. Medela 8oz are about $5/ea.

Avent 4oz are about $7.50/ea. Avent 9oz are about $6.50/ea.

Hygeia 4oz are about $5.50/ea.

To store 100oz of a freezer stash in Medela 2oz bottles it will cost you $50 to buy those bottles. 

Storage Bags: When I first started breastfeeding my daughter I had no clue what on earth these things were. Now I've warmed up to them a bit more. They are not quite as convenient as bottles in the sense that you (with one exception that I will mention later) cannot feed you baby directly out of them. You may be able to pump directly into them, but most women end up pumping into a bottle, pouring into a bag for storage, and then pouring into another bottle for feeding. The danger is that with all the pouring there's risk of spilling and milk being left behind. And, of course, there's always the dreaded possibility of the leaky bag. Some experts warn against their use because the possibility of leakage means a possibility of contamination. However, most babies can consume milk stored in bags safely.

Yikes! With all those cons you would think that most mothers would steer clear of bags. Yet, you will notice that my freezer stash has bags in it. Not to mention that fact that many nursing moms love the storage bags and store milk in them almost exclusively. Why? First, they are space savers. You freeze them flat and they hardly take up any room at all. Second, they are cheap. For Lansinoh they are $0.16 per bag and for Medela $0.22 per bag. Bags can hold up to 5-6oz, so it's easy to see why bags are the storage option of choice for a large freezer stash. 

Finally, storage bags are disposable. This is a bad thing if you shudder to think of all the waste from discarded bags. This is a good thing if you are happy to choose a storage option that doesn't require cleaning.

Glass bottles: These are the storage option of choice for mothers who don't trust plastic. They are good for the environment, and some studies suggest that they may preserve breastmilk better than plastic storage containers. However, most glass containers can't go in the freezer, and even freezer-safe glass containers cannot be cooled or warmed too rapidly, lest your container burst, leaving you with wasted milk and, to add insult to injury, glass shards to clean up. You can pump directly into some glass bottles, but you may find this awkward since glass bottles are heavy. Also, glass is pricey. Freezer-safe Lifefactory bottles sell for over $10 per bottle. Other brands are cheaper than Lifefactory, but most are still more expensive than their plastic counterparts. 

If you have a problem with plastic, then glass is the way to go. However, don't count on being able to build a large freezer stash with your glass bottles. If you need to use glass and you want a freezer stash, then you will need to invest in some small freezer-safe glass mason jars or food storage containers.

Storage bags that you can feed from: This was a new one to me recently. The company doing this is called Kiinde. They sell storage bags that you can pump directly into using an adapter. You can refrigerate or freeze the bags and then twist them into this bottle-like device with a feeding nipple. Bags are single use and cost about $0.32 per bag.  It seems like the best of both worlds if you like aspects of both bags and plastic bottles. I can also see it as a brilliant way for the company to make money. If you buy the bags, then you need to buy the bottle ($7.50 ea), nipples ($6 ea)*, and adapter ($7). At that point you might as well invest in the whole kit ($38). And if you have the bottles and nipples then you'll need to keep buying the (disposable) bags, ensuring that you continue to spend money on Kiinde products. 

There's more than one good way to store your breastmilk. Pick the option that's most convenient and affordable for you. 


*I find it interesting that the slow flow nipples are more expensive than the medium or fast flow. Most breastfed babies use slow flow for most of the time or all of the time that they are nursing. Why would a premium be charged for the breastfeeding baby's nipple? No clue.