The Honest Parent’s 30 Days of Gratitude

by Jessica Martin-Weber and The Leaky Boob community

Thanksgiving parents

November is full of reminders to be thankful for what we have. Sunset images with an adult and child in silhouette flood our social media feeds with gentle poetic admonishments to take time to savor the little things. Lest we come across as ungrateful for our children or complaining about their presence in our lives, us parents start talking about how much we love our children, how grateful we are for their “unique” personalities, how the sound of their voices fills our ears and floods our hearts with appreciation, and share about the joy of baking together.

And we mean it.

It’s all true, every word.

But there are some words we’re leaving out.

Our kids are a delight, we are grateful, we recognize how blessed we are to have them, aware of how painful it would be to lose them. It goes without saying that we are grateful for our children. But there are some things we just didn’t appreciate fully until after having children.

I turned to the Leakies to ask what they are thankful for as parents, what they maybe wouldn’t admit as part of their month of Thanksgiving but have overwhelming genuine gratitude for now.

The honest parent’s 30 days of gratitude + 9 because we’re trying really hard.

I meant to do this this morning but I’m doing a month of gratitude and as I sit down with my glass of wine this evening, I’m just so grateful for my kids. So blessed by them and I never realize that more than when they are asleep.

Thankful my kiddos let me know how much they love me by saying my name non-stop just because.

So thankful that the toddler fell asleep in the car on our way home and I was able to get coffee from the drive through and then sit in my driveway drinking my coffee and playing on my phone in quiet for a whole 20 minutes without anyone judging me for being a mom on my phone.

Today as I was doing laundry I had an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the crib we bought that our child has never slept in but is perfect for holding laundry. It really saves my back not having to bend over to fold all these loads!

It’s nice to know my boobs care about others, letting down to every random baby cry or seeing baby clothes. Thank you for caring boobs!

Super grateful for how much my moon cup can hold since I have to go 8 hours before I get the chance to empty it alone and don’t want to traumatize my kids with a Dexter inspired scene.

YOU GUYS! I’m just exploding with thankfulness, my pump has sucked over 3,500 ounces out of my boobs in the last 6 months! WOOHOO! Thank you pump!

This morning I’m so grateful that the baby woke 6 times during the night, that way I didn’t have to wake on my own wondering if she was still breathing.

Huge gratitude share today! I’m so appreciating the glass of non-alcoholic eggnog I got to enjoy without someone else’s backwash. Such a rare treat!

I’m grateful for my 19mo son’s beautiful voice, it makes me feel a little proud as he’s singing instead of sleeping.

I really don’t know what I would do without all the articles from blogs, magazines, parenting sites, and newspapers that point out how I’m pretty much failing at this parenting thing. Good to remember I can always improve!

I’m grateful for the hour of freedom that I get after my partner comes home from work because before then, I can see why some animals eat their young.

WOW! What a reassuring sign of strength and health when little tiny new baby fingers grab on to hair with a death grip!

Tonight, I’m grateful for nights when both kids go to sleep and hubby is downstairs doing dishes so I sit in my kids’ room pretending to be doing something but really just playing on my phone without anyone talking to me.

I am grateful for my industrial microwave so I can heat up my meal for the 3rd time.

It means to much to me that I got to take a dump today without an audience, thanks honey!

Such a relief that I never have to concern myself with having another thought of my own.

It is so touching that my kids give me the opportunity to develop my cooking skills by each having different meal requirements.

I don’t know where I would be without Dr. Google and all my internet friends diagnosing and recommending oils when I share someone has a cough in our house. Thank you!


I’m grateful that stretchy pants like leggings and yoga pants are a thing now.

Grateful for a few minutes of quiet as my 2 year old drew all over his face (grateful for easy clean markers).

I’m thankful for the 85% of the time my kid wipes his own butt. Now to get the other 15% of the time.

Such a gift, a bathroom fan louder than a tantruming toddler and a partner who can totally handle it. Also, wine.

I’m thankful I can hide out in my room nursing and maybe even nap this holiday season when my visiting family gets on my nerves.

I’m grateful for a split level entry-way. I can sit on the lower stairs and hear the kids, but they can’t see me while I sneak a snack that I don’t want to share.

You know what I’m grateful for? That all my friends are online so I don’t have to worry about cleaning my house in case they stop by.

My appreciation for DVD players, Netflix, and YouTube runs deep. One episode is the equivalent of a clean kitchen without “help” and maybe even get to eat a piece of chocolate.

Laundry gratitude: Washed the sheets 3 times in the last 4 days thanks to leaky diapers. Clean sheets for the win!

I’m grateful I can turn down ANYTHING with “well, no, I dont think its a good idea with the baby’”.

I’m grateful I get to give baby to his dad in the morning and get some more sleep because I was “nursing all night!”

I’m grateful for coffee every morning, because it helps me do some adulting, not all of it, but just some adulting gets done.

It’s so sweet how my kids want to make sure I never feel alone. Ever.

I’m thankful for how the kids like to update me every 2 minutes on what they’re doing even in the bathroom.

YES! The kid pooped in the potty instead of his nighttime pull-up, so thankful for a great day!

Another big one today: so thankful that the shit that leaked from the diaper stopped at the baby’s ankle and didn’t go down into the shoe.

Gratitude: the kids actually all went to bed at a decent hour so instead of falling asleep with them, I got to snooze while catching up on Downton Abbey finally!

SO thankful that the kid has the innate ability to sense mommy and daddy having ‘private happy time’ from another room and come running to interrupt.. almost EVERY. SINGLE. TIME….yay for cheap birth control!

Boy am I grateful I don’t have a strong gag reflex, learned that today!

I appreciate how clingy the baby was today because in order for her to take a nap I had to take a nap.



What are you thankful for as a parent but never would say?


Jessica Martin-Weber Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of, co-creator of, and co-creator of, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book and a children’s book.

TLB Comic: Who Did It?

  by Jennie Bernstein


TLB comic, funny Friday


The Pumping Birthmom: Pumping for the Baby I Didn’t Take Home- Talia’s Story #MyStoryMatters

by Talia

Talia, guest post, leaky to leaky, open adoption

My son Yeshua was almost two when I realized I was pregnant again. But this time instead of tears of joy I cried tears of fear and disbelief. It wasn’t the right time. I called Journeys of the Heart and this is where my adoption process began.

I had never even heard open adoption before but Beth, my adoption counselor at Journeys had me convinced that it would be the best situation for me and the baby, so I was immediately on board. I found a nice couple that already had three boys and things moved forward fast. We had visits, Yeshua started playing with their kids, and Nikki (the adoptive-mom-to-be) even came to ultrasounds with me. We would have lunch and write deep sounding lovey fluffy emails to each other expressing our feelings about this crazy open adoption process we had entered together. Everything seemed perfect…until I was 36 weeks.

Now I’m a breastfeeding fanatic. Yeshua hadn’t had a drop of formula and I pumped at work for him like a dairy cow. I’m all the way crunchy. I even put my breast milk in my own ear when I got a sinus infection (I would have put it in my son’s ear too if he ever had one! But he never did, because he was breastfed). With all that being said, I was determined to pump and send milk to the adoptive family after this new baby was born as well. Even though I knew Zachary wouldn’t be coming home with me, I still wanted to give him the gift only his birthmother could give: breast milk a.k.a. liquid gold.

At 36 weeks it was time to sit down and make a “contract” that would set expectations or guidelines for how our open adoption relationship would play out once Zachary was born. I considered my expectations to be quite low, but one of them included sending milk that I had pumped. I never imagined in a million years that someone would turn down liquid gold for her newborn child. This couple refused. They gave no explanation for why, but they simply stated that they “preferred not to take it.” So I said, “Well they prefer not to have my child then.” Beth and I were onto a search for a new family that was right for me.

I fell in love with a parent profile that I had overlooked earlier with a couple named Robin and Jeff in it. Before I met them though, I asked Beth to call them to ask them their feelings about me pumping milk and sending it to them. Not only were they ecstatic about the idea, they actually already had a freezer full of frozen breast milk waiting for them from a friend whose toddler would no longer drink it. It was truly meant to be. We met and three weeks later I gave birth to Zachary Isaiah.

I was afraid to latch him to my breast. I was afraid to fall even deeper in love than I already was and I knew that many promised adoptions were ripped to shreds once the baby latched and the birthmother changed her mind. But I also knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t have those holy sacred moments with my perfect 6 pound newborn baby.

guest post, leaky to leaky, tail's open adoption story

I was sad and afraid that it was breaking Robin’s heart to watch me nurse the son she would take home the next day without being able to feed the same way, but she supported me and made me feel loved. I secretly asked her to forgive me in my mind. Leaving the hospital the next day without Zachary was the hardest moment of my life. I mourned the loss of a living baby which is so strange and distinct, but what was even stranger was that I was able to go home and start making milk for him right away, just as if he was right in my arms. A month after that I moved 5 hours away but that didn’t stop me; I kept pumping and froze the milk. In the meantime Robin’s friend with the freezer milk spent a small fortune mailing the milk over dry ice and between the two of us Zachary was an adopted baby that drank breast milk exclusively for the first 6 weeks of his life. I pumped for about three months but eventually I got a full time job and the supply was less and less. I lamented deeply as it all diminished.

I was able to visit with Zachary and his parents several times within his first few weeks of his life. The hardest part of those visits were holding my baby and smelling him and my body’s natural response was for my milk ducts to let down and say, “hey lady, it’s time to feed your baby.” I longed so badly to nurse him when I visited at their house, but I knew to request something so absurd would be crossing the line and I would never want to make Robin and Jeff uncomfortable because we had a beautiful open adoption. So instead of nursing him I went home and pumped and labeled the milk baggies “I love you Zachary.”

birth mom breastfeeding adoptive baby

Two years later Robin shared with me that because of our unique situation, Journeys Of The Heart had created new guidelines for new incoming adoptive parents. Now they tell adoptive parents that if the mother wishes to pump it is “highly recommended” to accept it. I felt honored by that change and hope to be an inspiration for birthmothers in the future to be encouraged to give a beautiful gift of milk that only they can give.


What do you think of breastfeeding and adoption? 

Do you have any experience with breastfeeding and adoption?

Share in the comments below your thoughts on adoption and breastfeeding.


If you are a birthmom or know a birthmom looking for support or a community, On Your feet Foundation is an excellent resource. They have retreats, case management and an amazingly supportive community just for birthmoms.


If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ (no spaces).


guest post, leaky to leaky, Talia's open adoption story 
Talia lives in southern Illinois with her fiance and son.  After having an intense all natural birth with her birthson Zachary, she realized her dream is to be a midwife and help other women empower themselves through having the birth of their dreams as well.  She currently works as an OB RN and prenatal massage therapist, with plans in the near future to start midwifery school.

TLB Comic: Flexible Boobs

  by Jennie Bernstein


TLB comic, funny Friday


What You Need to Know About Jaundice, Breastfeeding, and Your Newborn Baby

by Linda Zager, RN, IBCLC
This post made possible by the generous support of Ameda, inc.


600x200 Banner Ameda







You just went through this transformative experience. You created life! And then, as you bask in the glow, you are told the newest member of your family has jaundice.

What does it mean? How concerned should you be?


guest post, jaundice article

Jaundice is a very common condition in newborn babies. Newborn jaundice is caused by a pigment substance, known as bilirubin, and when it increases in the baby’s blood it makes him/her appear yellow. More than half of all newborns become jaundiced within the first week of life. This situation is usually temporary and resolves on its own within a few days without treatment. This is termed physiological jaundice. Physiological means what happens normally in the body. Physiological jaundice is not a disease but a temporary condition.

So what exactly is bilirubin? Bilirubin is formed in our bodies when red blood cells die off. This is a normal process. Red blood cells contain the substance bilirubin. Newborns are born with a surplus of red blood cells. When greater numbers of red blood cells break down, this yellow pigment, bilirubin, accumulates in the newborn’s blood and is deposited in the skin, muscles and mucous membranes, causing the skin to appear yellow. Bilirubin is fat soluble, meaning it mixes easily with fats and oils. For the body to get rid of bilirubin, it needs to be water soluble. So how is it possible for the body to get rid of bilirubin if this is the case? That’s the job of the liver. The liver processes the bilirubin, changing it from fat soluble to water soluble and is then passed into the intestines. From the intestines, the bilirubin leaves the body through the newborn’s bowel movements. Some bilirubin, however, is reabsorbed back into the body after becoming fat soluble again. This occurs if the baby is having very few or no bowel movements. The less bowel movements, the more bilirubin gets reabsorbed, resulting in higher bilirubin levels. The most common cause of increased reabsorption of bilirubin is insufficient intake of breast milk. Bilirubin levels on the third day is directly linked to the number of EFFECTIVE breastfeeds per day in the first few days of the baby’s life.

Some mothers are informed by their health care provider that they need to stop breastfeeding and start feeding their little one formula in order to lower the bilirubin levels in the blood but options are available to treat jaundice without interrupting breastfeeding. For the healthy, full term baby, breastfeeding should continue so it does not become more of a challenge for mother and baby. The solution is not to stop breastfeeding but to resolve the breastfeeding issue so the baby gets the breast milk needed to have regular bowel movements.

Colostrum, the first milk available to the newborn, is actually a laxative which causes bilirubin to pass into the meconium stools. However, when a newborn does not receive enough colostrum as a result of inadequate feeding; either too few feedings, ineffective feedings, or both during the first few days, the bilirubin levels are exaggerated by day three. All mothers and babies should be assessed for effective breastfeeding while in the hospital by the nursing staff every shift and by a Lactation Consultant if a problem has already been identified. A newborn can be at the breast frequently but not breastfeeding. They do not become jaundiced from the breast milk but from a lack of breast milk. That is why it is necessary to have the nursing staff and/or a lactation specialist evaluate baby for effective latch and nutritive breastfeeding. Milk transfer is critical. Mothers may need to be taught how to latch their baby correctly to the breast and to recognize effective breastfeeding. This action assures mothers of comfortable, efficient breastfeeding and prevention of newborn jaundice.

As the liver is responsible for converting fat soluble bilirubin to water soluble bilirubin problems can arise because a newborn’s liver is relatively immature and may be unable to convert all the bilirubin in the first few days. Premature newborns’ livers are even less mature so therefore have higher levels of bilirubin than full term babies.

There are other reasons for excessive red blood cell breakdown resulting in high bilirubin levels and jaundice. ABO blood type incompatibility can result when mother has type O blood and her baby is one of the other blood types, A, B or AB. During pregnancy, red blood cells can leak across the placenta from the baby to the mother. The mother’s immune system reacts to the baby’s cells by forming antibodies against the baby’s blood resulting in increased red blood cell breakdown after birth and jaundice. With appropriate treatment, jaundice resolves. If a baby has a difficult birth and this results in bruising or a hematoma, there will be more red cells broken down resulting in higher bilirubin levels and jaundice. These are all normal causes of newborn or physiological jaundice with some babies requiring treatment and others not. But all these babies have one thing in common; they can and should continue to breastfed a minimum of 10 times or more per day every 24 hours for the baby’s first 2 days of life. Frequent nursing should be considered the norm; rooming-in with your baby promotes more breastfeeding than if baby were kept in a separate nursery.

Some babies are often sleepy as the bilirubin levels increase, sometimes resulting in baby falling asleep soon after feeding begins or he/she won’t even wake up to feed at the breast. Try skin to skin, holding you baby between your breasts, keep baby in close proximity to enable you to observe feeding or waking cues and never watch the clock for when you should nurse next. Remember a minimum of 10 or more feeds in 24 hours is norm. If baby does not respond to various stimuli to breastfeed more effectively, then an alternative method should be used to supplement baby with expressed colostrum/breast milk, if necessary. Hand expression of the breast is a very effective means of collecting colostrum. It can be expressed into very small cups or spoons for feeding. Mom should receive instructions for using a Hospital Grade breast pump for milk expression and to breast stimulation for adequate milk production. Breast milk can be given by cup, syringe, eyedropper or small spoon. Formula supplementation, on a short term basis, may be needed if fewer effective breastfeeds in the first days has contributed to a lower milk supply. Mother can continue pumping and nursing during treatment.

guest post, jaundice article

Most cases of jaundice require no treatment or little more than exposure to direct sunlight each day, but if the bilirubin levels continue to rise, more action is needed. The child’s physicians will observe and monitor the baby’s jaundice and bilirubin levels which are obtained through a simple blood draw from the baby’s heel. Phototherapy is a common treatment for all types of exaggerated jaundice. Phototherapy uses fluorescent light to break down bilirubin through the skin. The bilirubin absorbs the light, changing the bilirubin to the water soluble form, which then is eliminated through the baby’s stools. The baby is placed in an Isolette or self-contained incubator unit that provides for controlled heat and humidity. The light source, called bili-lights, is placed over and/or on the side of the Isolette. The baby is naked but for his diaper. His eyes will be covered to protect his retinas and corneas from damage.

If breastfeeding is a priority talk to your doctor and nurses about options. Often, babies are taken to the nursery for this treatment but most hospitals give mothers the option of treatment in their room. Baby’s eye patches should be removed during feeding to make eye contact with his parents. The Wallaby phototherapy unit is a fiber optic blanket that is wrapped around the baby’s trunk and provides continuous treatment that does not require eye patching or separation. The blanket can be used both in the hospital and in the home after hospital discharge.

If your baby has jaundice, it doesn’t have to interrupt breastfeeding. You are your child’s number one advocate and if breastfeeding is important to you, communicating that with your child’s care providers is an important part of your child’s care. Breastmilk may be exactly what is required to help your new baby get well. 

More information:

AAP Management of Hyperbilirubinemia in the Newborn Infant 35 weeks or More

AAP Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hyperbilirubinemia in the 35 week or more newborn infant

Bilirubin Screening and Management of Hyperbilirubinemia, Stanford Medicine

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine protocol for management of jaundice in the breastfed newborn of 35 weeks or more


Did your baby have jaundice as a newborn? How were they treated? Were you supported in continuing to breastfeed?



Linda, IBCLC2 smaller
Linda Zager, RN, IBCLC
I’ve been an RN for 37 years, working in various hospital positions from Intensive Care to Hemodialysis/Plasmapheresis, Maternal Child Care and finally Lactation Consulting, my true calling in life. I have been an IBCLC for 23 years working with moms/babies in their homes and in the hospital. I left hospital work and now work as Ameda, Inc.’s Nurse Clinician/Lactation Consultant in the ParentCare division. I speak with mothers all over the country when they require resolution to breastfeeding/pumping issues.

A Birthmom Raises the Question of Breastfeeding and Adoption- #MyStoryMatters: Vicki’s Story

by Vicki

Kevin and Vicki

I am birthmom to Kevin. What is a birthmom you ask? That means that I did not raise him. I gave him to a family to raise. I was lucky though, open adoption was just in its infancy and I have known Kevin and his family his whole life. They are part of my family! When I got engaged I called my parents, my soon to be husbands parents and Kevin’s parents.

He is now the age I was when I had him. He is 21 years old and I could not imagine him raising a child at 21, just like I could not imagine myself doing it then. It is crazy to think I have a 21 year old kid when I am still like only 30 years old! Math can be weird that way. To me, being a birthmom means that Kevin is my son, but I am not his mom. He has a mom. The mom that raised him. The mom that tucked him into bed every night. The mom that he does not call or respond to while he is away at college! (No respect!)

Kevin photo

For years after I placed Kevin I worked as an expectant mom counselor. I helped moms make adoption plans for their unborn children. The reason why parents choose adoption is as varied as the reasons people have kids, but the main reason is wanting more for their child than they feel they can provide. A better life!

Breastfeeding and adoption has always been taboo. On both sides. But I do not think it should be and I hope it changes! And how do we change it? By talking about it and sharing our stories! I wish I had considered breastfeeding Kevin. I would have loved having that special time with him the first few days after he was born. And knowing I had provided him with milk for the first however-many-months would be a joy to me, even now.

Expectant moms are not encouraged to breastfeed when considering adoption. It is not even part of the conversation. The fear is that it will make placement harder for them. Having that intimate connection will make saying good-bye more difficult. So the perspective adoptive parents and counselors would not suggest something that they believe may encourage the mom to parent. But the truth is, it cannot be harder than it already is to give your child to someone else to raise. I know a few moms that breastfeed or pumped and sent milk. And it is amazing. I hope it continues to be more and more common.

On the flip side of the coin is induced lactation for adoptive moms. This is also taboo. This one is harder to put my finger on. There is some odd belief that breastfeeding a child that is not biologically yours is somehow gross or odd. (Crazy!) But there is also an emotional aspect for the birthmom. As a birthmom, once your baby is gone, what you have left is the knowledge that your body sustained the baby, there is connection that no one can ever take away. And the fear is that breastfeeding will somehow lessens that connection. The adoptive mom’s body is also sustaining the baby. And that makes the birthmom less important.

Of course neither of these things are true. It will not be harder to place your baby if you breastfeed (and if you decide to parent, good for you!). And an adoptive mom feeding her baby is not weird and will not lessen the birth mom bond. The important piece in all of this is doing what is best for the baby. Even if emotionally it is hard for you, we all need to step back and remember is not about us.

First and foremost, of course, feed the baby! However that looks. But my hope is that breastfeeding can be part of the adoption conversation, wouldn’t that be awesome?


What do you think of breastfeeding and adoption?

Do you have any experience with breastfeeding and adoption?

Share in the comments below your thoughts on adoption and breastfeeding.


If you are a birthmom or know a birthmom looking for support or a community, On Your feet Foundation is an excellent resource. They have retreats, case management and an amazingly supportive community just for birthmoms.


If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ (no spaces).


vicki's headshot
Vicki lives in Palatine, IL with her husband and 2 cats! After having Kevin at 21 she suffered from secondary infertility and is unable to have more kids biologically and has decided to live child-free. Vicki has always worked in women’s issues and currently works as a community manager at Ameda, a breast pump company where she loves helping moms meet their breastfeeding goals.

Infant Feeding Product Guide 2015

Download (PDF, 2.25MB)

And we’re giving it ALL away! Every single item included in our guide (over 60!) is being given away. Divided into 3 separate bundles, we’re excited to be able to give 3 different leakies different bundles from our guide. From YOUR guide! Use the widget below to enter and tell us what 2 friends you have that you’d like to win the other two bundles in the comments.

Good luck and a huge thanks to all the brands that wanted to make this possible!

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TLB Comic: Big Busted Running Problems

  by Jennie Bernstein



TLB comic, funny Friday


Safely Express and Store Your Baby’s Breastmilk- Guidelines For Parents

by Jessica Martin-Weber
 Evenflo Feeding Every ParentThis post made possible by the generous partnership with Evenflo Feeding, every baby’s advocate and every parent’s ally.


Whatever your reasons for expressing your milk, having your milk wasted in any way is like a punch in the gut. Whether it is spilled, left out, too much served and the extra thrown out, or it has spoiled, seeing breastmilk go to waste is enough to bring even the toughest Leaky mom to tears. While accidents happen there are ways to prevent such a tragedy with safe handling and proper storage practices. We’re here to help with that.

Breastfeeding moms cry over spilled milk.

It is bound to happen, for sure. Slippery bottles, floppy bags, too full containers, whatever it may be, if you express your milk long enough your going to have your fair share of spills and mishaps. I’d love to be able to wave a magic wand so no mom has to experience the agony of seeing her milk spilled on the counter but since we can’t do that, we’ll give you some tips and guidelines for avoiding other unnecessary causes to pouring liquid gold down the drain.

Below, find protocols and guidelines for breastmilk and tips for practical application plus some lessons learned the hard way. (Information gathered from the CDC; Human Milk Bank Association of North America; Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Clinical Protocol #8 Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants.)

Breastmilk Expression and Storage Safe Handling

  • To prevent contamination, wash hands with soap and water before expressing or handling breastmilk. Unless you are aware that your breast has come into contact with some contaminates, it is not necessary to clean your breast prior to pumping as breasts are self-cleaning.
  • Collect and store milk in clean containers such as bottles with screw caps, double zip-style bags designed specifically for breastmilk (like these), or trays with a sealing lid. Bags not designed for breastmilk storage may easily spill or potentially contaminate the breastmilk.
  • Label all stored milk with the date, if sending to child care provider, include your child’s name to prevent mix-up.
  • Cool freshly expressed milk prior to adding to previously refrigerated expressed milk to prevent rewarming and potential bacteria growth.
  • Do not add milk to already frozen milk within a storage container.
  • Store milk in small amounts to prevent waste.
  • Leave room for milk to expand when freezing.
  • Breastmilk is safe to be frozen best if frozen fresh, optimally after up to 3 days in refrigerator, 12 hours in cooler bag with freezer pack, ok after 5 days in the refrigerator or 24 hours in cooler bag with freezer pack; smell milk to ensure freshness before freezing.
  • Store milk in the back of the freezer where temperatures are more consistent.
  • Milk that is partially defrosted but still has ice crystals can be refrozen.

Breastmilk Safe Temperature Storage Guidelines

  • Room temperature*: 3-4 hours optimal, 6-8 hours acceptable if very clean  *(60-77° F [some say up to 85° F], 16-25° C [some say up to 29° C])
  • Cooler bag*: 8 hours optimal, 24 hours acceptable if very clean (please note, some studies show that a freezer pack keeps an insulated cooler at food safe temperatures for no more than 2 hours)  *(up to 39° F, 4° C.)
  • Refrigerator*: 72 hours optimal, 5- 8 days acceptable if very clean  *(up to 39° F, 4° C.)
  • Freezer within refrigerator*: 2 weeks maximum.  *(up to 5° F, -15° C.)
  • Freezer attached to refrigerator*: 3-6 months optimal, 12 months acceptable.  *(up to 0°F, -18°C.)
  • Deep freeze*: 12 months.  *(up to -4°F, -20°C.)

how long can I freeze breastmilk

Tip: If you’re not sure your milk is still good, you can always smell and taste your milk for freshness. Spoiled milk has a very distinct odor and taste. Most of the guidelines are to minimize the degradation of milk. It is possible your milk may vary slightly from these guidelines or that your milk will have not spoiled but the composition may have begun breaking down. The simplest way to prevent feeding your baby spoiled milk is simply to smell and/or taste it.

Breastmilk Defrosting and Feeding Safe Handling

  • Defrost only amount needed
  • Fresh is best, use oldest milk in the freezer or refrigerator first to not let milk go to waste.
  • Safely defrost frozen milk in the refrigerator, running under warm water, or setting in a bowl of warm water. Do not microwave as this damages milk and creates dangerous hot spots due to heating inconsistencies.
  • Gently swirl or shake defrosted milk with the lowest amount of force possible to mix fat that likely separated (please note, shaking milk has been discouraged to prevent breaking down the protein molecules, however, this has been debunked, here.)
  • Do not save milk from a used bottle to use at another feeding more than 1-2 hours later, doing so risks the growth of bacteria from pathogens introduced by the baby during the feeding and the milk composition may be altered.
  • Milk that has been defrosted has a lessened ability to inhibit bacteria growth, milk that has been thawed for over 24 hours should not be left out at room temperature for more than a couple of hours.
  • Optimally, defrosted milk should be used within 24 hours of thawing, this may change based on when the milk was initially frozen after expression.

Additional Tips For Breastmilk Storage and Handling

My friend Amy Peterson, IBCLC and coauthor of Balancing Breast and Bottle, shared this golden nugget of a breastmilk storage tip with me. Before you start building your freezer stash, express some and put it in the fridge. After 24 hours, smell it. Then with freezing. Storage effects the smell of the milk if there are lipase or mineral oxidation issues. Before stockpiling, perform smell tests after refrigeration, and after freezing/defrosting. There are options for milk storage if there is high lipase or mineral oxidation issues but you need to know them before freezing to avoid having to toss a freezer full of milk due to such problems. *Note: high lipase or mineral oxidation is different than spoiled. Spoiled has a very sour odor and taste, high lipase is usually described as soapy tasting, and mineral oxidation as metallic or astringent. 

How much you need in the freezer depends on your needs and why you’re freezing your milk. Your “freezer stash” doesn’t need to be huge, having just what you need at least lowers the risk of crying over milk defrosted due to the freezer becoming unplugged, power outage, or just a tragic freezer death. See this article to determine what you need in your freezer stash and why.

Get comfortable and familiar with your pump before baby comes if you can and check out these tips for maximizing breastmilk production with pumping.

Take your time when handling breastmilk. That can be challenging to do with a hungry or demanding baby but most mistakes that lead to spills are caused because we’re hurrying. Slow down, this free-flowing precious commodity takes handling with care. Don’t lose a single drop.


What are your tips for safe handling and maximizing your breastmilk expression?


Jessica Martin-Weber Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of, co-creator of, and co-creator of, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book and a children’s book.

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