Friday, October 26, 2012

Preserving Your Frozen Breastmilk Supply in the Event of a Power Outage

( EspaƱol / English )

In the event of a power outage, it’s important to make sure your frozen breasmilk supply stays safe!  Here are some handy tips to help you through such an event.

1 – The best protection is obviously to keep power flowing to your freezer.  If you have it in the budget to buy a generator, that is your best bet.  You can buy a small one that only runs a couple of appliances, or a large one that powers the whole house!  But keeping power supplied to your freezer will ensure that your breastmilk stays safe.

You can buy a small (3000 watts or so) generator for as low as about $400.  This is more than adequate to keep a deep freezer or two cold.  If you are worried about running out of gasoline to power your generator, just try switching it on for a few hours a day, then shutting it down to conserve fuel.  Remember, the insulation of the freezer will keep its contents cold for a long time.

2 – If you do not have the funds to buy a generator, find out if you have any friends or family members who have freezer space.  In the event of a widespread outage, you will have to find someone who has their own generator.  If you know in advance that bad weather is on its way, start making calls to see who would be willing to lend their freezer space.

Note:  If you are storing your milk in a freezer with another baby’s milk, make sure yours is bagged up and clearly labeled!

3 – If you do find yourself without power and no running freezer to turn to, there are steps you can take to keep your stash frozen for days – even weeks!

Freezers are built to hold the cold for long periods of time.  The less they are opened, the colder they will stay.  If your milk is in a deep freezer, the first thing you want to do is take 2-3 days’ worth out of the deep freezer and put it in the freezer on your fridge.  This way, you won’t have to even open your deep freezer for a couple of days.  Even without power to that freezer, those bags of milk should thaw pretty slowly.
The next thing you want to do is make sure that your deep freezer is packed as tight as possible to stay cold longer.  

The first thing you want to consider is where to store the milk: 

In an upright freezer, store the milk all the way in the back.

In a chest freezer, store your milk all the way on the bottom.

Air space warms up much faster than frozen items in a freezer.  The less air you have inside, the longer it will take to warm up.

In an upright freezer, pack as much extra stuff in front of the milk as possible.  For a chest freezer, put it all on top of the milk.  This includes food from any other freezer(s), foods that can be frozen (flour, grains, etc), even clean linens, blankets or towels.  You want to fill up as much air space as possible.

If you have time to plan ahead, one good option is to create your own ice packs to fill the extra space.  Buy some freezer quality plastic storage bags and fill them with water.  Toss them in the freezer before the outage, and you will have extra ice to keep your milk cold.

4 - If your freezer does start warming up (you will know when the outside packaging of your frozen items is wet on the outside), you can no longer count on residual cold to keep your milk frozen.  The best thing you can do at this point is add dry ice to bring the temperature down.

Where to find dry ice:

-         -  Grocery stores (or Walmart and Target stores that have grocery stores within)

-          - Call your power company.  Many of them give out dry ice in situations of long-term outages

-         -  is a great place to find sources of dry ice.  Since you will likely not have internet access in such a situation, it is a good idea to look up your local vendors ahead of time and write down their number.  

When you pack your freezer with dry ice, remember to leave some headspace on top.  Dry ice does not melt into a liquid, it will sublimate into a gas that will be looking for a way out.  If your freezer is packed too tightly, the door could pop open.  Do NOT pack your freezer if you are using dry ice.

Here is a helpful guide with information on how much dry ice to use for your freezer:

Do not touch Dry Ice directly. Use insulated gloves, potholder, towel, etc. Use the following guidelines for each type of freezer. For each 24-hour period:

(1) Freezer on bottom:
use 15 to 25 pounds.
(2) Freezer on top: use 20 to 30 pounds.
(3) Side by side Freezer: use 30 to 40 pounds. Place each slab, starting with the top shelf, on top of the food to be kept frozen. Bottom shelves will be kept frozen by the Dry Ice above it.
(4) Chest Freezer: use 40 to 50 pounds. When taking out the frozen food, carefully lift the dry ice slab up with gloves, potholder, towel, etc., without touching the dry ice directly.

IMPORTANT:  Do NOT handle dry ice with your bare hands.  Handle only with thick gloves, pot holders or something similar.
It is also extremely important that you do NOT let the dry ice touch the milk bags directly.  The extreme cold of the ice can easily break the plastic and result in leaks down the road.

By following these suggestions, you can easily keep your frozen breastmilk stash safe!