Before I gave birth to Kaia, I had this little fantasy in my head that I would have so much breast milk left over from her nursing sessions (thanks to using the trusty Haakaa!) that I’d already have built a small freezer stash of breast milk by the time I returned to work. I had two sample breast milk freezer bags as a part of a registry welcome gift box. I left it on the shelf of my bedroom closet as a motivation. While I had put a 100-count pack of Medela brand breast milk freezer storage bags on our baby registry, no one purchased them. And that was probably for the best because if someone had, every time I would have looked at them in the first 3 months of Kaia’s life, I’d likely feel guilt and shame that I was never able to use even one of them.
Well, fast forward to 9.5 months later of exclusive pumping and a long, unsuccessful attempt to nurse her, and we’ve finally come to a point where she is pretty much exclusively eating breast milk, along with her solids that she’s enthusiastically embraced. Her milk consumption has decreased as a result of two hefty solid meals a day, and now, every time I look at the top left shelf in the fridge, I’m a little overwhelmed when I see how much breast milk is there. I’m essentially pacing 1 to 1.5 days ahead of her eating. Breast milk is safe in the fridge for up to four days, at which point it either needs to be frozen or discarded (yes, there’s no pasteurization of breast milk being done here! And definitely no preservatives!).
“You should really consider freezing some breast milk,” the nanny said to me today, wide eyed while looking at all the bottles of breast milk in the fridge. “Kaia can’t keep up with your production!”
I looked into freezing again. I looked into the brands of pre-sterilized bags to buy and what would provide safety and also be cost effective. I also read about how much the nutrition of breast milk decreases after freezing. Fresh milk is the best milk. One day old milk is better than two days old milk, and so on. Refrigerated milk is better than frozen milk. And what goes into the freezer first should be the first to be removed for a defrosted feed. Antibodies for COVID (among other things) are still retained in frozen milk… but it starts to degrade after just one month of being frozen. So that was annoying to learn. All those moms who have huge freezer stashes… their milk is likely in the freezer for 4-6+ months. And while the nutrition doesn’t degrade entirely (it’s not like it becomes water!), it still degrades. And so that made me feel conflicted. I rather feed Kaia 2-day old refrigerated milk than feed her 2-3+ month frozen milk that has far less nutritional value due to the chilling. But I also want her to still have breast milk when she’s 15-16 months old.
I never thought I’d be conflicted about freezing breast milk. I thought I would get excited by it and be so proud of myself. But instead, I now feel confused about what I should do.