It isn’t unusual for twins, triplets or more to be born preterm (i.e. before their due date) and having to spend days, weeks or even months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) as a result. For those families wishing to breastfeed, it is possible to do so by pumping and bringing in breast milk to the NICU to be fed to their babies.

To ensure the best quality milk for your babies, here are some recommended collecting and storage guidelines of breast milk. Remember that every drop counts and whatever is collected is the best thing for your infants. If you have any questions regarding your milk supply or how to conserve it, be sure to ask the NICU staff.

Storage and Sterilization

  1. Purchase some bottles and labels to store the milk. The bottles need to be boiled and sterilized before each use. Bags are not appropriate for storing milk in the NICU.
  2. Clearly label each bottle, including the babies’ names, date and time that the breast milk was collected.
  3. Ideally prepare bottles of 1 ounce, 2 ounces or 4 ounces, if you can, for storage.
  4. Do not overfill the bottles as breast milk expends when it is frozen.
  5. Make sure all pump material is properly cleaned and sterilized between uses.

Storage Times of Breast Milk for Preterm Infants

Storage time
Freshly expressed milk Room temperature 25C or 77F 4 hours
Refrigerated milk (store in back not on door)4C or 39F a)Refrigerator (fresh milk)

b)Refrigerator (thawed milk)

a) 48 hours

b) 24 hours

Frozen Milk (Store at back, not in door. DO NOT REFREEZE) a) Freezer compartment inside refrigerator door

b) Freezer compartment with separate door

c) Deep freezer not attached to refrigerator

a) NOT RECOMMENDED

b) 3 Months

c) 6 months

Transporting Milk
(freshrefrigerated or frozen)15C or 60F
Packed in insulated cooler with ice or “ blue ice” 24 hours

 Transporting Breast Milk to NICU

Fresh breast milk can be refrigerated and transported to the NICU on ice or “blue ice” packs in a little insulated cooler. Once at the NICU, give your labelled breast milk to the nurse in charge of your babies to be placed in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you have any questions regarding these procedures or about breast feeding in general, be sure and talk to the nurse in charge of your babies. Hospital staff will be most happy to answer your questions and help you at any point.

If you have any questions regarding pumping or storing your breast milk, do not hesitate to discuss them with the nurse or lactation consultant.

Your breast milk is important to your babies. Save ALL the milk that you pump.

References

  1. Lots and lots of great, supportive, every-topic-you-could-think-of information and resources on breastfeeding, www.themilkmeg.com
  2. Hamosh M, Ellis LA, Pollock Dr., Henderson TR and Hamosh P. Breastfeeding and the working mother: effect of time and temperature of short-term storage on proteolysis, lipolysis, and bacterial growth in milk.Pediatrics Vol. 97, issue 4 pp. 492-498
  3. Lauwers J, Shinskie D., Counseling the Nursing Mother: A Lactation Consultant’s Guide, 3rd edition p.351
  4. Riordan Jan, Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 3rd edition. p.378-382

From Valerie Lavigne, Mom of three breastfed babies, including twins.
Adapted by Lynda P. Haddon, Multiple Birth Educator,www.jumelle.ca 
Reviewed by Erin Shaheen, Child Birth Educator, Mom of 4 breast fed babies, including twins.

Other Resources:

Multiple Births Canada Fact Sheet: Breastfeeding Multiples: Pumping Tips

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