Storing and transporting breast milk can be challenging, especially for working mothers who are frequently away from their babies and those who have to put their children under the care of childcare centres. For mothers who love to bring their children out for adventures and struggle to always have a chiller with them for breast milk, this is a preferred option so that they do not have to lug around a heavy chiller.
Freeze-dried breast milk has become a popular option for preserving breast milk, and a popular way to make it more convenient to store and transport breast milk for busy mothers for a good reason. With the advancements and improvements in the technology of freezing breast milk, mothers can now store their nutritious milk for up to 3 years!
Preserving breast milk for 3 years without it spoiling?
We know it sounds crazy! But it is true! Let us break it down in this article for you, and explore the actual shelf life of freeze-dried breast milk -- including factors that can affect its longevity, and provide useful tips for proper storage to ensure the safety and quality of your baby's nutrition.
As mentioned, freeze-dried breast milk is an especially popular choice for mothers who want to store and/or bring around breast milk conveniently without losing its nutritional value. Generally, freeze-dried breast milk can last for up to 24-36 months or more when stored correctly -- making it one of the best ways to store and preserve breast milk for a long time.
How does it preserve breast milk for so long?
The extended shelf life of freeze-dried breast milk is due to the process of removing water from the milk -- the moisture is what inhibits the growth of bacteria that cause spoilage. The freeze-drying process removes moisture from the milk by first freezing it and then drying it under low pressure. And once the milk is freeze-dried, it can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature, which makes it easy to transport and store for long periods.
Because of that, it is crucial to store the freeze-dried breast milk in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, moisture, and heat. Exposure to these elements can cause the milk to spoil and lose its nutritional value more quickly.
Factors that may affect the shelf life of freeze-dried breast milk
The shelf life of freeze-dried breast milk can vary depending on several factors that affect its longevity. You will notice that most of the factors depend on the facility that you choose to freeze dry your breast milk in, and their focus on hygiene and sanitation.
Let’s explore some of the factors that may affect shelf-life of freeze-dried breast milk.
Quality of the Breast Milk
The quality of the breast milk before it is freeze-dried can affect the shelf life of the resulting freeze-dried product. If the breast milk is of poor quality or contaminated with bacteria, it may not have a long shelf life even after it is freeze-dried. It is essential to ensure that the breast milk is clean, fresh, and free of any contaminants before the freeze-drying process. That is also why it is very important that the facilities and the process that your breast milk goes through at the very start is extremely important to ensure that your breast milk is handled correctly.
Hygiene and Sanitation During the Freeze-Drying Process
Hygiene and sanitation during the freeze-drying process are critical factors that can impact the shelf life of freeze-dried breast milk. It is crucial to follow proper hygiene and safety measures to prevent contamination during the freeze-drying process. Any contamination during the process can cause spoilage and reduce the shelf life of the freeze-dried breast milk. Therefore, it is important to truly understand the details of the facilities where you are looking to freeze dry your breast milk at -- to ensure that they hold high standards of hygiene and sanitation.
Storage conditions are another crucial factor that can impact the shelf life of freeze-dried breast milk. Its important to store freeze-dried breast milk in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, moisture, and heat. Exposure to these elements can cause the milk to spoil and lose its nutritional value more quickly. Ideally, freeze-dried breast milk should be stored in an airtight container to prevent contamination.
The length of time that the breast milk is stored before being freeze-dried can also affect the shelf life of the resulting freeze-dried product. The longer the breast milk is stored, the more likely it is to have a shorter shelf life, even after being freeze-dried. it is essential to freeze dry breast milk as soon as possible after expressing it to maintain its quality and increase its shelf life.
How to tell if freeze-dried breast milk has gone bad?
While freeze-dried breast milk can last for an extended period, it is still essential to know how to tell if the milk has gone bad. Using spoiled freeze-dried breast milk, just like any other spoilt milk, can lead to health problems for your baby.
Here are some easily identifiable signs to look out for when determining whether freeze-dried breast milk has gone bad.
Changes in Appearance
After keeping your freeze-dried breast milk for a while, it may sometimes appear clumpy because of the fats that it contains. Despite those times, the appearance of freeze-dried breast milk can be a great first indicator as to whether it has gone bad or not. You can give a quick look and if the milk has changed colour or simply does not look right, it may be a sign that it has gone bad. If you see these, check with your doctor before using it to be safe.
Unpleasant Smell or Taste
Give a quick sniff before using if you know you’ve left it for a long time. If it smells a little cheesy, it is completely normal as an enzyme, called lipase, in the freeze-dried breast milk has broken down the fat content in the breast milk, causing such a unique smell. But of course, if the milk smells sour, rancid, or has an off-odour, it may be a sign that it has gone bad. Similarly, if the milk tastes sour or unpleasant, it is a clear indication that it is no longer safe for consumption.
Of course, the most obvious sign would be if the expiration date has passed. Checking the expiration date of the freeze-dried breast milk is one of the easiest ways to determine whether it has gone bad. If the milk has exceeded its expiration date, it is best to dispose of it, even if it appears to be okay. Using expired breast milk can lead to health problems for your baby.
Unusual Behaviour of Your Baby
On the off chance that you determine that the breast milk is alright or missed checking the details before giving it to your baby, and you see your baby showing any unusual behaviour after consuming freeze-dried breast milk, it may be a sign that the milk has gone bad. Symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting, and fever could indicate that the milk was contaminated or spoiled. Please immediately bring your baby to the doctor if this happens.
Of course, these are just precautions that we should take, especially if you have kept your freeze-dried breastmilk for more than 36 months or 3 years.
Freeze-dried breast milk is an excellent option for mothers who want to store their breast milk for an extended period, or those who need to leave their breast milk in places like their children’s childcare etc. and cannot be there to constantly ensure an adequate supply of breast milk. It has a longer shelf life than fresh or refrigerated breast milk and more importantly, it can retain its nutritional value and taste for up to two years or more. However, it is essential to consider the factors that affect the shelf life of freeze-dried breast milk, such as storage conditions, packaging, and preparation methods.
Despite the long shelf life, It is still crucial to know how to tell if freeze-dried breast milk has gone bad to avoid any potential health risks to your baby. Changes in appearance, unpleasant smell or taste, expiration date, and unusual behaviour in your baby after consuming the milk are all signs of spoilage. And it is important to do these checks if you have stored your breast milk for close to or more than 36 months.