This is a very commonly asked question regarding storing pumped milk- What is the pitcher method for storing breastmilk? Is it smart to combine and pool different pump sessions into one container? How long is the milk good for?
I will go over what exactly the 'pitcher method' entails, and then a few commonly asked questions about it!
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I am a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist. However, the advice and tips on my pages is not personalized individual medical advice and you should always discuss concerns with your healthcare provider or seek the help of a lactation professional. I do not currently offer consults or counseling, just general information.
First and foremost, it's really quite simple. The pitcher method is where you store the day's pumped milk (from multiple sessions) in one central container. This can be a real 'pitcher' or even just a mason jar, size doesn't matter. Some moms need big huge jars, some a standard mason jar, and some a little smaller. Any size container with pooled milk is still considered 'the pitcher method'. You will then portion bottles from this pitcher either the next day or any day after - within four days before the milk is 'expired', because freshly pumped milk lasts up to four days in the fridge.
Please note these breastmilk storage guidelines, according to the CDC.
I recommend storing milk from a single 24 hour period, especially if you have a few days stacked up in the fridge. This way, all of the milk in the jar has the same expiration date, rather than half of the milk being expired on day four and half of it not being expired yet. Freshly expressed breastmilk can stay good in the fridge for four days, so you can keep your pitcher for up to four days.
Why use the pitcher method? This method cuts down on bottle storage in the fridge. For example, if you have six bottle's worth of milk in the fridge, rather than having six bottles all lined up you will have just one container of milk to portion out from.
Is there a risk to using the pitcher method? Well, if you lose your whole pitcher due to contamination or damage, that's a whole 24 hour period's worth of milk lost there.
There is some mention of "mixing up baby's sleep schedule" due to night milk being higher in melatonin and daytime milk being higher in cortisol, but a lot of people say they don't have any issues with this process. I think this is a "to each their own" experience and you really should just play it by ear and do what you're comfortable with.
Here's an example of the pitcher method in action, this was a few days into my nursing/pumping journey after I had my third baby. I poured the milk I had pumped into this jar and then put the jar into the fridge, I would continue adding subsequent pumps to this for the remainder of the day.
This is the pitcher I use here, it's from Amazon and comes in a two pack. You can really use any mason jar and pour spout, this is just what I have!
Safety tip: Keep in mind to clean your pitcher each time, don't pour new milk into an old pitcher! This avoids having expired milk milk with good fresh milk.
There's really not much to it, this is probably the shortest blog post I've ever written!
I hope this information helps you figure out whether or not you'd like to try using the pitcher method to save a couple dishes, comparing washing one jar to washing however many single milk storage bottles - there is some wash time saved there.
Check out some of my related posts for more info on milk supply and exclusive pumping!
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