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Is It Better to Store Breast Milk in Bags or Bottles?

Is It Better to Store Breast Milk in Bags or Bottles?
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If you are a mom with an infant, you may be curious to know if it is better to store breast milk in bags or bottles.

At some point while your child is breastfeeding, likely right when you feel you have it figured out, you will find the need to start storing your breast milk.

You have many different questions and options when you have a new baby and are looking for the best way to store milk. You may be going back to work, going away for the day or weekend, or just ready for your partner to take on some of the feeding duties.

Whatever it is, one of the first decisions you will have to make is, “do I store the milk in a bag or bottle?”

Is it better to store breast milk in bags or bottles? Whether it is better to store breast milk in bags or bottles depends largely on your situation and needs. Storing breast milk in bags takes up less space, is lightweight for travel, and is disposable. Storing breast milk in bottles means less chance of spills or leaks and is more affordable. 

Both methods of storing breast milk have positives and negatives. Below there is an in depth look at both the pros and cons of each method of storage.

You will also see guidelines for safe breastmilk storage. This way, you can weigh your priorities and make the best choice for you and your little one. 

Breast Milk Storage Necessities 

Features like affordability, easy clean-up, and durability factor into how you store breast milk. But what you may be looking for above all else is safety.

Breastmilk must be stored at the right temperature. It also should be stored in the correct timeframe to be safe for your little one to consume.

If the way you are storing breastmilk does not hit these crucial safety markers, it does not matter how easy or convenient it is. 

Before deciding what kind of container to store your breast milk in, you should know the conditions you will have to store it.

With this is in mind, you can be confident that you are giving your baby the best quality breast milk. It will also help you to make a choice on bags or bottles that is practical to your needs. 

There are three main ways to store to breastmilk: at room temperature, refrigerated, or frozen. The following guidelines for each are well-researched and put out by womenshealth.gov. 

TemperatureSafe Storage Period 
Room Temperature(up to 77°F)Maximum of 4 hours
Refrigerated (Up to 40°F)Maximum of 4 days
Frozen (Up to 0°F)Maximum of 12 months, but use before 6 months is best

Tips For Storing Breast Milk At Room Temperature

  • When leaving breast milk out make sure the container is covered.
  • Keep the milk as cool as possible by avoiding direct light and keeping it away from any devices that produce heat.
  • Smell and/or taste the milk before feeding to ensure it is safe for your little one.

Tips For Storing Breast Milk In The Refrigerator

  • Storing milk in the back of the refrigerator will often keep it the coolest. 
  • If leaving milk for days at a time labeling with the date it was pumped can be helpful. 

Tips for Storing Breast Milk In The Freezer

  • If leaving the milk in the freezer for long periods label with the date it was pumped. 
  • Freeze breast milk in small quantities, such as a serving for one feeding. 
  • Do not fill container entirely, because milk will expand when frozen. 

These recommendations are general guidelines for healthy, full-term babies.

Individualized advice from your doctor is always what you should follow above all else. If you have any questions about your individual child’s needs, the best source of information is to ask your pediatrician

With these safety requirements covered, it is time to decide if bags or bottles are the most practical storage option.

Breast Milk Bags: Pros and Cons

Breast milk storage bags are compact and convenient. 

Many mothers use bags to store breast milk because they do not require any cleaning. After each use just toss them away and grab a new one next time.

Being disposable, it is no problem to write on the bags. You can label them with the number of ounces in the bag, your child’s name, or the date.

This can be very useful if you freeze breast milk, have a nanny or babysitter, or need to pump and store breast milk at work. 

Being disposable has its perks, but keep in mind, that means they need to be repurchased. This can last throughout the duration of your child breastfeeding.

If you need to pump and use multiple bags a day, the cost can add up. 

While bottles can be awkward and take up extra space, bags are thin and flexible. Breast milk storage bags fit easily into the refrigerator, a freezer, or a bag for on the go.

This is convenient and can save freezer or fridge space.  If you are storing breast milk in a small bag like a cooler or diaper bag, you will likely need to store a bottle too. This can take up more space. 

While they are light and compact, traveling is where most people start to question breast milk storage bags. Plastic bags are much more susceptible to leaks or tears than a glass or plastic bottle.

This can make some parents anxious because it is heart breaking to spill that liquid gold. It can also create a mess if you spill milk needed for feeding.

If you really want to make bags work and do not mind some extra steps, some parents double-bag or place the bags in another container. 

Another catch when using breast milk storage bags is that you have to transfer it to a bottle for feeding.

This is an extra step that can take precious seconds from the time between your crying child and their feeding time. It can also cause spills if not done carefully.

Check out this article for my best method for transferring milk from a bag to a bottle.

Summary: Pros and Cons of Breast Milk Bags

ProsCons
Take up minimal space while stored away.
Light and compact for travel.
Easy to label by writing directly on the bag.
Disposable
Less durable and more likely to leak or spill.
An ongoing cost during breastfeeding.
Less eco-friendly than a reusable option.
Needs to be transferred to a bottle for feeding.

Breast Milk Bottles: Pros and Cons

Breast milk storing bottles are the more durable option. They come in glass or plastic options and secure with a screw on lid.

These bottles can better withstand being pushed around in a cooler or knocked by boxes in a refrigerator. 

Storing breast milk in a bottle means you have less prep work. All you need to do is remove the lid, secure on a nipple, and you are ready to feed.

Pro Tip: When you are looking to store breast milk in bottles, it is important to keep the bottles organized, so you can feed the “oldest” milk first. This is my favorite bottle organizer that fits great in the refrigerator (link to Amazon).

This saves time when your baby is fussy and ready to eat. This can also save what all parents need more of, space in their baby bag.

If you are using milk storage bags, they are more compact. However, you will need to pack the breast milk bag and a bottle for feeding.

With breast milk storage bottles, you need just enough space for the bottle and skip the need to transfer milk. 

The trouble with breast milk storing bottles is that they require cleaning. You need to wash them regularly so you have a clean one ready when you need it.

This is an extra thing to keep track of and get done, which not all parents want to take on. Being reusable means you likely will not want to write on the bottle either. If you would like to label them you will need stickers for each use. 

If you are storing and labeling a significant amount of milk, it is important to know bottles take up much more space in a fridge or freezer. Bags that can lay flat are much more compact.

Since breast milk storing bags are much thinner, breast milk frozen in a bottle will also need more time to thaw.

Summary: Breast Milk Storage Bottles Pros and Cons

ProsCons
More durable and less likely to leak.
Only need to be purchased once.
No need for transferring milk.
Eco-friendly
Require regular cleaning.
Requires stickers for labeling.
Takes up more space in the fridge or freezer.
Requires more thaw time for frozen milk

Is It Better To Store Breast Milk In Bags Or Bottles

To summarize, it is best to store breast milk in bottles if you are planning to store milk in the refrigerator for one or two days. This makes it easy to quickly feed the baby that milk. It is best to store breast milk in bags if you are planning to freeze the milk for longer-term storage. There are benefits and drawbacks to both storage methods.

If you have children, you know that every parent does not have to do things the same way.

Parenting is all about finding what works best for you and your child to get through each day. Storing breastmilk is no exception.

Bags and bottles will both get the job done. However, it’s what your priorities and preferences are that make one option better than the other. 

NEXT, Check Out

  1. How to Pack Bottles For Daycare
  2. Is It Ok To Have Air Bubbles In Frozen Milk?

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Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm

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