You may have read the title of this article and thought, “Why would anyone throw out breast milk?!” That’s a very good question considering it IS liquid gold. It’s the spilled milk that grown women literally cry over.
Now, nine months in, I know that there are actually more than a handful of very valid reasons for throwing away breast milk. Here are just some of the situations I’ve found myself in time and time again, all ending in me pouring what would otherwise be perfectly good milk down the drain:
- I fell asleep after pumping and didn’t properly chill or freeze the milk in time. (You can check out CDC’s recommendations for storing breast milk here.)
- I left pumped milk in the refrigerator for days with the intent to freeze it later (and never did).
- I thawed out too much breast milk (which experts say never to refreeze).
- I had a date night and a drink (or two).
- I needed to express/pump without having sterile storage bags or pumping equipment handy (engorged and in agony).
The list goes on but I think you get the idea. And, hey, some days my mom-brain does everything right but at the end of the day, it’s just that baby refused the bottle. So, what do you do with all that breast milk when it pains you to watch just a single drop go to waste? Here are three ideas:
1) Milk Baths
I am a huge fan of milk baths. (And swaddle baths, too!) As a new mom, I wouldn’t dare dump and pump my breast milk into a tub of water. Then I went through a period where my breast would be so painfully engorged that the only way to get the milk out was to take a warm shower and hand express after a massage.
One night my lovely husband tended to the baby so I could soak in a bath instead. After I expressed enough milk to relieve the pain, he brought the baby to me to nurse while I was still in the tub. Ever since we emerged from our first milk bath I’ve sworn by their ability to soothe and nurture irritated skin, for mom and baby! It has helped with his baby acne, diaper rash, and the PUPPP rash that I developed on my belly during pregnancy.
Of course, you don’t have to express your milk straight into the tub to try this trick. An added plus with this use of excess breast milk is that because baby isn’t consuming the milk, you can stretch the expiration date a bit. So, if that pumped milk has been in the fridge or on the counter a little longer than recommended, and still looks and smells fresh, you can go ahead and feel safe mixing it with some warm water for a nice milk bath.
(BTW one thing I learned about engorged breasts and breastfeeding is the importance of expressing enough milk out BEFORE putting your baby to your breast. I know it can be extremely painful, and nothing gets the milk out like a nursing baby can, but your baby will not be able to handle the quickness and quantity of milk that comes with the letdown of your engorged breast.)
2) Mix With Solid Foods
So, milk baths are great if you’re in a pinch and need to pump and dump, or if your milk is a day past the sell-by date. It’s easy to reconcile mixing it in with the bathwater if it’s not consumable, but what if it is? Try mixing it into solid foods instead!
The first solid food I introduced to my baby was rice cereal mixed with my breastmilk. I was pretty dead set on his first food being something steamed, organic, and green, but it didn’t work out that way. One day I thawed out a surplus of frozen breast milk and basically refused to throw it away. Instead, I mixed it with the dry rice cereal that had been sitting in our pantry.
I’m not saying he loved it by any means, but I do think that the familiar taste of my milk helped ease his first solid food experience. I hear some babies are head over their little heels when being introduced to solid food. With mine, it was more of a fight.
So, by mixing my breast milk with his first foods I not only got to use any consumable milk I would have otherwise thrown away, but my baby also had a little taste of comfort during a new experience. Today we use breastmilk to mix with cereals, oatmeal, smoothies, and homemade purees. (Check out this local mom’s post for fun and easy baby food recipes!)
Donating your breast milk is a beautiful thing. Donated breast milk makes a difference and saves lives. If you’re blessed with a surplus supply of breast milk and live in the Lafayette area, it’s easy to donate to a baby in need through the Ocshner Lafayette General Milk Bank. Once you’re a registered donor, you can even schedule drive-through drop-offs of your frozen milk. How cool and COVID-friendly is that?
If you’re interested in learning more about donating breast milk in the Lafayette area, you can find all you need to know via Ocshner Lafayette General’s website. They answer everything from how to register to be a donor, to what the screening process involves, to who to call and where to drop off.