Let’s face it when it comes to your newborn and feeding there is no substitute for the nutritional and immunologic benefits of breast milk. It is recognized worldwide in protecting your infant from infections and has been shown to lower the incidence of ear infections, eczema and wheezing especially when there is a family history of allergies. Commercial formulas may meet your infant’s nutritional needs but the unique protective properties of breast milk cannot be duplicated in a laboratory. Unfortunately, not all women are able to breast feed. Many women do not have the luxury of taking time off from work to accommodate the feeding schedule of their newborn or are unable to breast feed altogether. In this case women turn to commercial formulas or express pump and store their milk. If express pumping you want ensure your infant is getting the most nutrients possible. It is critical to use the proper method for collecting and storing to guarantee the highest quality of anti infective properties. Because the gastrointestinal tract is a possible portal of entry for pathogenic organisms it is also very important to have stringent guidelines to avoid contamination especially for a preterm infant.
Expressed milk should be free of bacteria other than normal skin flora. Ideally, milk should be expressed before each feeding to guarantee the most protective factors. However, the majority of mothers who pump do it because they aren’t available during their infants feeding schedule. In this case, the method of collection, storage and preparation are critical.
Anti-infective properties of collected breast milk do decline over time. Similarly those same properties are affected by the type of container used for storage. The most commonly used containers are glass, polyethylene bags and rigid polyethylene containers. Which is preferred? According to Susan Orlando’s article, “The Immunologic Significance of Breast milk” written in theJournal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, studies show GLASS containers are the preferred choice for storing expressed milk because there is no absorption of secretory IgA antibodies and other important proteins that benefit the infant. There is also a lower risk of contamination with glass when compared to polyethylene bags.
The methods of thawing frozen breast milk can also affect anti-infective factors of breast milk. The use of microwaves to thaw or warm freshly pumped refrigerated breast milk is not recommended and can be detrimental lowering the activity of anti infective factors. For optimal results, frozen milk should be thawed in the refrigerator, warmed at a slow steady temperature and used within 24 hours.
On an ending note, for most infants, breast feeding is the optimal choice for feeding. Express pumping of course would be the next best thing always storing in GLASS to guarantee your infant is getting the most anti-infective properties as possible.