What to do if the power goes out
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As winter weather sets in, a new concern for pumping moms also arises: the possibility of power outages. If you’re a breastfeeding parent who needs to keep to your pumping schedule for milk production — and to ensure previously frozen breast milk is stored — it’s important to have a plan for when the power goes out.
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While it’s always a good idea to invest in a backup generator if you live in an area prone to power outages, the good news is that most power outages come with a warning so you can prepare even if you don’t have one.
Making sure you have everything you need to store breast milk safely is key to surviving power outages stress-free.
1. Charge your pump and plan for backup power
As a general rule, make sure all devices are powered on between sessions; especially your pump.
If your pump can run on batteries, have them ready. Make sure you have enough batteries of the right size to last you multiple pumping sessions.
You should also have a power cord for your pump that will work in your car in case the power outage lasts longer than expected. Since your car is powered by the battery, you can breathe in the peace (and warmth!) of your car.
2. Buy a hand pump
If you’re a pump-only mom, emptying your breasts completely is key to avoiding discomfort or, worse, an infection like mastitis. Don’t take the risk of not being able to pump anymore because your electric pump is empty.
A simple solution is a hand pump, a relatively inexpensive and absolutely priceless product. The Medela Harmony is an affordable manual breast pump recommended by Torrey Potter, RN IBCLC for its “two different grip positions to control speed/suction”.
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3. Prepare your freezer
Get your freezer organized before the storm. The goal is to keep all existing frozen breast milk in the middle of an absolutely packed freezer. “The key to freezing things is a full freezer. A full freezer should stay frozen for up to 48 hours without power. A half-full freezer is only safe for 24 hours or less,” advises Dave Ellerby, Chief Scientist at Reviewed.
If you don’t have enough food in your freezer to seal in the milk, Chrisie Rosenthal, IBCLC, offers this idea: “Fill plastic bottles with water and place the bags in their own tightly sealed spot.” You shouldn’t be able to see the milk.
Remember not to open the freezer once the power goes out as keeping it closed will help maintain the cold temperature. Post a “Do Not Disturb” sign to remind yourself and other family members not to answer the door.
4. Invest in a cooler and ice packs
An insulated cooler is key to keeping freshly expressed breast milk fresh. Equipped with plenty of ice packs (or just ice packs), the cooler serves as a temporary fridge for your milk and a place to safely store your breast pump parts until you can fully clean them.
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5. Stock up on supplies
For milk pumped out during the storm, you’ll need enough milk cartons – and a marker to mark them.
Keep extras handy for any other equipment that’s part of your pumping routine. That means an ample supply of clean bottles, pump supplies, cleaning wipes and anything else you need for pumping comfort.
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6. Stock up on low-maintenance snacks
Adequate milk supply requires well-hydrated and nourished parents. Make sure you have plenty of bottled water on hand, as well as a selection of your favorite nonperishable foods and snacks that promote lactation. A bag of lactation cookies will satisfy your sweet cravings while supporting your supply.
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7. Dress comfortably – and practically
A dual access nursing bra allows you to use the same bra for both pumping and breastfeeding. Ingrid and Isabel make a super smooth, cooling pump and nursing bra that’s perfect for the longer stretch of a power outage. Buy more than one so you have a backup in case of leaks.
$50 at Ingrid and Isabel’s
How to manage expressing breast milk during a power outage
During a thunderstorm, alternate between pumping, breastfeeding, and expressed milk. According to Rosenthal, the exact formula varies by parent and baby depending on the baby’s age, the parents’ milk supply, and the amount of breast milk the baby is getting.
In general, it’s a good idea to rely on breastfeeding as much as possible. When you focus on breastfeeding, you maximize the time before you need to access your milk supply.
It’s important to maintain a regular breastfeeding and pumping schedule to ensure your supply doesn’t dip after the power outage.
How long does frozen breast milk keep?
Freshly expressed breast milk can be safely stored in an insulated cool box with an ice pack for up to 24 hours.
Thawed previously frozen breast milk can be stored for up to 24 hours. Never refreeze breast milk after it has been thawed, as this increases the likelihood of bacterial growth.
If you freeze freshly expressed breast milk, it will last 6 to 12 months, although it’s recommended to use it sooner rather than later.
How to thaw frozen breast milk
Always use the oldest breast milk first. You can thaw frozen breast milk by either placing it in the fridge overnight, placing it in a bowl of warm water, or simply holding the bag under warm running water. Once breast milk has been brought to room temperature or warmed, use that milk within two hours.
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