Thursday, November 14, 2013

Breast Milk Handling 101: A Primer for Childcare Workers

Photo from
by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

Just the other day I got a call from a mom who was pretty upset when she picked up her baby from daycare to find that they had microwaved her milk to heat it, despite the fact that she had actually purchased a bottle warmer specifically for them to warm her breast milk. She had every reason to be upset! Microwaving breast milk actually causes changes in its nutritional composition. It can also cause "hot spots" where one part of the milk is actually hot enough to scald baby's mouth.  She asked me if I had information I could provide her for her daycare. The CDC has put together a terrific handout on handling breast milk that you can print and post as a reference for workers.

Breast milk Handling Facts 

Take good care of a mother's "liquid gold"!
  1. Breast milk is NOT gross. It is not an unclean bodily fluid. Nor is it unsanitary. It is actually full of live antibodies that will help the baby you are about to feed stay healthy. Baby's mama has made the decision to provide him breast milk because she knows it is the ideal food, perfectly designed for his optimal growth. As baby grows, the milk he receives will change somewhat in composition to keep us with his changing needs.
  2. Never microwave breast milk. Since breast milk IS a living fluid, microwave radiation can actually alter it's nutritional make up. It can cause certain components to break down and can significantly altar the anti-infective components of breast milk. There are a variety of alternative methods for heating breast milk. Immersing it in warm water or using a bottle warmer is ideal.
  3. Do NOT shake breast milk. Instead, gently swirl it to mix the hindmilk and foremilk. Shaking it can begin to break down of nutrients and can also introduce air into the milk, causing baby to have an upset tummy!
  4. After you have fed a baby part of a bottle of breast milk, you can't save it for the next feed. When baby's saliva comes in contact with the milk, it begins to break down the components. Therefore, give baby just the amount of milk you think he will take. It is better to have to add another ounce than to have an ounce left over that you must discard. To his mama, that milk is liquid gold, so it kills her to know that even a drop goes to waste.
Our ANM babies LOVE their mama milk!!

Help Baby Stay Healthy

A mother produces antibodies in her milk to any bug, virus, or illness that she comes in contact with. That's why it's a really good idea for a breastfeeding mother to spend a few moments cooing over and playing with all the other babies in the room. It's also a good idea for her to give the workers a hug. It will help her baby to stay healthier because she will have come in contact with whatever germs happen to be in his daycare environment and will pass antibodies to those specific germs to her baby. Encourage your breastfeeding mothers to take just a minute extra every day getting all those good germs!

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