Milk Storage During Power Outage

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated February 5, 2013.

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Being as prepared as possible when a disaster strikes is critical.  If you are feeding a baby, there are some important points to consider.

If you are breastfeeding – good for you!  This is the safest way to feed a baby during a disaster!  No matter what happens to the water or electrical supply, your milk will always be available, fresh, safe, affordable, and clean.  Nursing will provide comfort for your baby as she picks up on the stress of the situation.

Breastfeeding will also allow mom and baby to relax – and helps mom to better cope better with the stress.  This is NOT the time to cut back or wean from breastfeeding.  In fact, if your baby has begun solids or cut back on nursing you could increase how often you breastfeed, not only for comfort but also to provide a safe, available, and nutritious option to feed your baby.  Don’t worry if your baby does begin to nurse more frequently while you had been in the process of weaning.  Once the disaster is over you can always return to your previous plans.

If you are breastfeeding AND expressing and have built a stockpile of frozen milk you will need to take safeguards to ensure it remains safe during the disaster.  The last thing you want to do is throw out an entire stash of “liquid gold!!”

Steps to Safeguarding Frozen Milk during a Power Outage

    1. Connecting your freezer to a generator is a great way to ensure the milk remains frozen in the case of a power outage, however…
    2. If you do not have access to a generator and your milk must stay in your freezer, move all the milk to the back of the freezer and store it together.  If there is a storm coming and you may lose power, try to plan ahead by filling your freezer full, freezing ice trays, blue ice, etc. because a full freezer will thaw more slowly.  Make sure you don’t put meat or other items that could leak if defrosted into your breast milk.  Finally, don’t open the freezer door once the power has gone out – unless you are moving the milk to a more secure location.
    3. Consider asking a close friend or relative if you could put your milk in their powered freezer until the crisis is over.  Take care when transporting your milk that it does not begin to thaw.  Milk that has been frozen but begins to thaw may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours where it either needs to be consumed or discarded.Note:  If your milk does thaw, though it is painful to have to dump, it is better to pitch frozen milk than to skip a nursing at the breast in order just to use some of this defrosted milk.
    4. Another option is to buy dry ice (available at grocery stores, etc.) to keep your milk frozen.  It depends how much milk you have and how long you would like to keep it frozen as to how much you will need.  For example, 10 pounds of breast milk will need roughly 10 pounds of dry ice to keep it frozen for 24 hours.  Ten pounds worth of milk is 160 ounces, which is roughly 6 days’ worth of milk.

If you are formula feeding – you will need to be extra diligent during a disaster to ensure the milk is safe for your baby.  If the water supply has been compromised, you will be using dirty water to mix the formula, which could cause life-threatening illness for your child.  In an emergency, you may want to consider relactation or finding a friend or family member who is able to nurse your baby until you are able to provide safe formula again.  Relactation is easier if your baby is younger, you have nursed before, and your baby is willing to latch and suckle at your breast.  Putting your baby to your breast often, not only for comfort but also stimulation, will help you relactate more quickly.

Finally, if you are a nursing mom and find yourself in the midst of an emergency situation, you may want to consider helping other moms with feeding their babies – sharing these tips, encouraging breastfeeding, and, if necessary, providing some of your milk to another baby.

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