Tips to Survive a Power Outage with Frozen Breastmilk
Last week severe storms hit parts of the northeast and many moms on the North Shore of Long Island were scrambling to find safe storage for their stash of frozen breastmilk. This was one of my biggest worries during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 because I had a deep freezer full of frozen milk. Most of the milk was dairy and gluten-free – hard work! I wanted to share what I’ve learned about keeping your stash safe and maintaining your supply when you lose power.
Keep Back Up Power Handy
Not every household can have a standby generator, but this is ideal. If this is not possible, keep your pump’s battery pack available and the car adapter around if you think you might lose power. Many electronics and hardware stores carry converters which can allow you to use your ordinary electrical plug with your car’s auxiliary power. Keeping one of these in your car during a power outage can be very helpful because you can pump in your car if you need to.
Keep Making Milk
Maintaining your milk supply is very important, whether you are nursing or exclusively pumping. Pump or nurse as often as you can. Use a manual pump (or even hand express if necessary) to maintain your supply and to produce a fresh milk for your little one. (The release of oxytocin during milk expression will also help boost your mood if you begin to have worries about losing power.)
Keep Alternate Storage Spots Available
Does your neighbor have a deep freezer in their basement? Do you live near a restaurant or hotel with a large walk-in freezer? Does your partner’s family have extra room in their kitchen freezer to store your milk? These options may not be ideal but securing another location to take your milk will help you tremendously. Reach out to other nursing moms in your area to see if they can store your milk while your family is without power. (Be sure the packages are adequately labeled with your contact information.)
Keep the Milk Cold
This is very important. A deep freezer can typically maintain frozen food for 48 hours, but some power outages last longer than this.
- Prepare before the power goes out (if this is possible). Fill all empty air spaces in your freezer because a completely full freezer works more efficiently than a half-full freezer. Pour water into empty juice containers or empty milk jugs and freeze them into blocks of ice, which can help keep your milk colder for longer periods of time.
- Open the freezer as infrequently as possible. Yes, this is difficult but checking to see if your milk is thawing will actually cause your milk to thaw!
- If you feel your freezer is no longer cold, try transferring the frozen milk to a smaller cooler and pack it as tightly as you can with other frozen materials (frozen vegetables, ice, dry ice, even snow if it’s available). A small cooler packed correctly with ice and other frozen materials will keep your milk frozen more efficiently than a half-full freezer.
- Do not place a perfectly ice-packed cooler in direct sunlight or in a hot car during August because the heat will transfer and your frozen liquid gold may thaw much more quickly. Keep the cooler in a dark, cool place such as a shaded part of your yard, in a garage or in a chilly basement.
Keep Calm and When in Doubt, Don’t Just Throw it Out
Many breastfeeding moms have been taught to discard breastmilk if storage conditions are not ideal. However, researchers Rechtman, Lee, and Berg published a study in Breastfeeding Medicine in 2006 which suggests that we might be throwing out milk unnecessarily. Their findings concluded if milk is left unchilled for less than eight hours after being expressed, it is safe to use and its nutritional content is intact. Their data suggested frozen milk which has partially thawed can have fresh milk added to it and then safely be refrozen.
Kim Harrison is co-founder of Moms Pump Here. Moms Pump Here is an app that helps nursing mothers locate a safe and private place to breastfeed or breastpump. Download her Moms Pump here app today!