Society doesn’t fully understand that breast feeding and pumping is actually hard. It takes energy, time and so much brain power. It’s no wonder people refer to breast milk as liquid gold. So what do you do with that precious human milk when you have some left over? The answer varies from breast milk donation all the way to making jewelry, depending on the reason as to why you find yourself with leftover milk. Are you storing breast milk to consume later or is it undrinkable breast milk?
I reached out to two local (to me) moms groups on facebook and these are the top answers from real moms as to what they do with extra breast milk.
- Milk bath
- Donate to a milk bank
- Donate to a friend
- Breast milk jewelry
- Use on sore nipples
- Save for a sick day
- What leftover milk?
- Make soap
- Body Butter Creams
- Feed it anyway
- Use it to replace liquid in baked goods
- Give away on local FB moms group
How do you decide what to do with leftover breast milk?
What makes you choose one option over the other for what you do with leftover breastmilk? The main question is what state your milk is in. Do you have an oversupply and have perfectly good, fresh milk that your baby doesn’t need for their next feeding? In this case, it can be frozen or donated. But if your baby didn’t finish a bottle or the milk has been sitting at room temperature, then the milk is no longer safe for consumption, which is why something like a milk bath is a great way to use milk what would otherwise go down the drain.
Here are 25 ingenious ways to use leftover milk:
The list starts with safe for consumption options, moves over to ideas for which the milk needs to be good, but could be fine if no longer safe for the baby (say it was out in room temperature for more than 2 hours but otherwise is good) and ends with options for milk that might otherwise be thrown away.
1. Save it for the evening feeding during witching hour
Maybe you pumped more than your usual amount and separated it into two bottles. You can save it for the late night feeding. Women produce more milk in the morning and the amount tends to lessen as the day goes by. This might lead to fussy babies who want more milk in the late hours of the day. If you find your baby is fussy or angrily nursing during the evening, save your extra breast milk to offer during this witching hour. It might be the solution to your trouble!
2. Save for a sick day – mom version
We all get sick. But this can be extra tricky when you’re breastfeeding or pumping. If you’re really sick you could find that you are producing less milk or you might simply lack the energy to wake up and nurse your baby. It’s a great idea to save some leftover milk for such a rainy day.
3. Save it for a sick day – baby version
It’s always sad when a baby’s sick. The hardest part is that they often won’t nurse or eat much or any at all. Next time this happens to you, break your frozen milk into little ice chips and offer them to your baby. This often works for infants and toddlers who are otherwise refusing any liquids!
4. Donate to a milk bank
Breast milk banks are usually in need of breast milk donations. This is an especially valuable way to use your oversupply during these times with a shortage of formula.
5. Donate to a friend
Private donations can be easier to hand off and it might provide more motivation to keep collecting the milk if you know exactly what baby it’s going to.
6. Give away on local moms group on facebook
This option is similar to donating to a friend. It’s another private donation, but the handy part about finding a mom via your local facebook groups is that you may not have a friend needing breast milk at the same time as you find yourself with extra. It’s amazing how technology can help us connect with others in so many different ways.
7. Build a freezer stash
Having a freezer stash can help ease a breast feeding mom’s mind. If you need to go away for an afternoon, a day or even a weekend, you know that there will be extra milk in the freezer should you little one be more hungry than you anticipate. This is especially true for working moms who pump while they are at work. If your baby needs more milk one day, you’ll have more ready for them – either that same day if they are being cared for at home, or you can pack extra for the next day’s care.
8. Freeze dry
Though none of the moms in my survey have done this, they have heard of the option to freeze dry your milk so that you can add it to baby cereal and purees. The good thing about freeze drying your milk is that it frees up your freezer space and prolongs its shelf life. After freeze drying your breast milk, it no longer needs refrigeration and, according to Milkify, it last for 3 years! Three companies that have been recommended for this purpose are Milkify, Boobiejuice and Baby Food.
9. Make breast milk popsicles
Pour the leftover milk into popsicle molds. This will be especially handy if your baby is sick and unwilling to eat or drink much or if they are teething and could use some cooling relief on their gums.
10. Mix into baby’s solid food
If your baby is old enough to eat solids, then you can add your leftover breast milk directly into baby’s food. Mix it into oat meal, cereal or purees to add in some extra nutrients.
11. Add it into smoothies
The idea here too is to sneak in some extra breast milk into your baby’s diet. If they enjoy consuming smoothies, then add in some of your own breast milk instead of milk from the store! It’s a great addition of nutrients and fatty acids.
12. Use in baby’s mouth for sores
You can put small amounts of milk on your finger and rub it on any sores your baby might have in their mouth.
13. Use for teething
Just as breast milk is helpful for sores, it’s also a great option if you’ve got a teething baby. Just use your clean finger to rub some cold breast milk on the gums with the teeth breaking through to give your baby some relief.
14. Use on baby’s skin for eczema
Breast milk is known to help minimize or even get rid of baby’s eczema. Read more about how your breast milk can treat eczema here!
15. Use for insect bites
This is another skin related use of breast milk. Just dabble it on the bite and let it do its wonder.
16. Use it to replace liquid in baked goods
A local mom suggested breast milk can also be used in baked goods you make for your immediate family. Why not extend your breast milk’s nutritious value to the entire family?!
17. Make body Butter Creams or breast milk lotion
You can make your own and use it on yourself or your baby. I’ll be posting a DIY tutorial in the future. Subscribe to my newsletter make sure you won’t miss it!
18. Use on diaper rash
If your baby suffers from diaper rashes, it’s worth giving it a try to dabble some breast milk on the affected area and let it air out for a little while. Breast milk has healing properties for many skin issues.
19. Use on sore nipples
When I had my first daughter we had a bit of a rocky start with breastfeeding. I had an oversupply, so she was growing wonderfully, but her poor latch did a number on my nipples! I used ice packs to sooth my cracked nipples, as well as a bottle of warm water to help blocked ducts clear, and my medical provider suggested I use some expressed milk on my cracked nipples. (If you too are experiencing these difficulties, I highly suggest you speak to a lactation consultant!)
20. Make breast milk soap
Making soap with breast milk is another great way to use your milk’s healing powers. You can find tutorials online on how to do it yourself, but there are also smaller companies that can do that for you.
21. Breast milk bath
This one is special to me. On the one hand it feels like such a waste of milk, because it does take a fair amount even though you do mix it with warm water. On the other hand, baby’s skin really does enjoy being bathed in liquid gold. It creates the softest skin ever! This is especially helpful if your baby is suffering from dry skin or has sensitive skin. Whenever a bottle of breast milk isn’t finished within two hours, collect that leftover amount and store it in the freezer (clearly marked!). Once you have enough breast milk that has been “rejected” like this, you can thaw it and use that for your baby’s bath.
22. Cradle Cap Treatment
Cradle cap is a very common condition for newborns and infants. Since this too is a skin condition, using breast milk on it can help clear cradle cap. Either dab some on your baby’s head or use it as “shampoo” while bathing them.
23. Breast milk jewelry
Did you know that you can make a piece of jewelry that contains a small amount of breast milk? This is a very special way to encapsulate your early months’ journey with your little one and remember those precious days whenever you wear this piece of jewelry. I believe this only uses a few drops of breast milk, so even if you have only a small amount left over, this option could work for you!
24. Eye discharge or infection
Consult your health care professional before doing this with your infant, but some research suggests that a drop of breast milk can be just as effective as regular drops are in healing an eye with discharge in infants under 6 month. Check out this website to read the abstract of a study about it.
25. Ear infection
Now definitely consult your health care professional before doing this. While I’ve never used breast milk to treat an ear infection, it is said that consuming it helps lessen the chance to get one, but it might even help by dropping a very small amount into the effected ear. Again, get a green light from your pediatrician before doing this!
Why do moms care so much about leftover breast milk?
Society doesn’t talk about this often enough. Producing fresh breast milk is actually hard work. Even just finding the proper breast pump to help you get as much milk out and into bottles as your baby needs takes a lot of research and often trial and error. Most every breastfeeding mom has some difficult story in their breastfeeding journey, whether it be that their milk simply didn’t come, that they didn’t produce enough milk, or too much, from clogged ducts to mastitis and so much more. What’s more is that breastfeeding and pumping takes a lot of time and mental energy. (Did I pump enough milk to feed my baby through tomorrow’s work day?! Did I miss a feed?! Did I remember to bring my electric pump and storage container with me to work?! Not to mention washing everything up again!)
Guidelines to storing and freezing breast milk
The general guidelines I received from our family practice with my first daughter was that breast milk can stay in room temperature for 4 hours (as long as it hasn’t been partially fed), in the refrigerator for 4 days and in the freezer for 4 months (though I know many moms keep it for longer if it remains properly frozen). A partially finished bottle should be finished within an hour (though the Center for Disease Control says 2 hours).
The CDC guidelines can be seen in a nice visual table here:
What to do with breast milk baby didn’t finish
The answer to the question of what to do with breast milk that the baby didn’t finish falls under the category that would likely be dumped. If your baby doesn’t finish their milk within 2 hours, it is no longer considered safe for the infant to consume. You could, however, use it on baby’s skin in the various forms mentioned above, in a milk bath, in soap and lotion you are making for yourself, as well as for jewelry. It would probably even still be safe for you to use in your own baked goods. Check the list above for more details on each idea.
What to do with breast milk instead of dumping
Dumping breast milk is surprisingly painful for a lactating mom (or a parent receiving breast milk as a donation). But fear not, you can use milk in other forms, even if it isn’t safe for baby to consume anymore, just as long as it isn’t stale! You could use your breast milk on baby’s skin in the various forms mentioned in the detailed list above, in a milk bath, in soap and lotion you are making for yourself, as well as for jewelry. It would probably even still be safe for you to use in your own baked goods. Check the list above for more details on each idea.
Do you use soap in breast milk bath?
I personally don’t use soap on my babies. Period. Like, at all. However, even if you normally use soap on their babies (which is what most people do!), I would recommend you skip it for the milk bath. After all, you are likely doing this bath because your baby’s skin could use a little TLC. Soaps tend to dry out skin, so adding it into your breast milk bath would somewhat undo the milk’s best quality on baby’s skin.
What to do with frozen breast milk after 6 months
Ask other breastfeeding moms and you will get different answers. I know many people will feed their infant milk that was frozen for up to 1 year. The CDC guideline says up to 6 months is best and up to 12 months in the deep freezer is acceptable. So, in short, you can still feed it to your child as long as it never thawed. Test it out and see if your baby has any issues with the milk’s taste after having been frozen for this long. If you’d rather not use it for feeding, then there are creative ideas in the list above that will still met your baby’s needs (or your own!).
To sum it up
As you can see, there are various factors to go into why you might have leftover breast milk. I hope this list gave you creative ideas on what to do with that milk, no matter what your milk supply is like, how many ounces of breast milk you are looking to use, or what condition said milk is in. I hope you enjoy using the rest of the milk by utilizing some of the above ideas!
How have you used leftover breast milk? Leave a comment below!
These links are NOT affiliate links. They are simply companies that were recommended to me by local moms when I made the research for this post.