Do Milksicles Dream of Frozen Sheep?

Or Bottle Wrap (Part 2)

If the accumulation of sterile, empty plastic in our cabinets marked the expansion of a once dominant civilization, then our freezer was littered with a poignant reminder of its passing, embodied in fist-sized chunks of frozen milk.

The whole time that Jenn was pumping and I was managing the milk, there was one issue that we didn’t like to talk about that much. It was a cold, dark secret that guarded against ominous uncertainties. There should always be enough fresh milk in the fridge thanks to Jenn’s dedication. But if something happened that interrupted the milk line, the extra in the freezer was designed to give us a temporary backup supply or even enough to facilitate a gradual transition to formula.

We were lucky and there never was a milk emergency. We kept good track of how much milk we needed, tried to minimize the waste and Jenn was always able to pump enough. We had good reason to try to make it work. Fresh refrigerated milk is nutritionally better than frozen. The freezing process is destructive, and even though the cold slows the decaying process, the milk’s proteins and enzyemes continue to break down as the months go by.

Nonetheless, whenever the milk line was full, but Jenn still needed to pump a little, we added a bag to the freezer just in case. Over the course of the last six months that Jenn pumped, we deposited 17 bags into frozen storage.

Gallery of Frozen Milk

I was never attached to these little frozen bags. But for Jenn, I think it was a little different. She obviously didn’t want us to be forced into the emergency supply by unknown circumstances. But she also hated to think about the milk lying dormant in hibernation, eventually reaching its life expectancy and becoming unusable. (Just for the record, she’s more than happy to pitch them now.)

In a standard refrigerator freezer, breast milk doesn’t last more than about four months. It’s just not cold enough. This is where we truly reach the end of the milk cycle. It doesn’t end with a bang, but a cold, silent stillness that steadily envelopes the darkness in a deep frozen catacomb. Now, let’s see if the neighbor’s cat is around.

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49 Responses to Do Milksicles Dream of Frozen Sheep?

  1. hannah says:

    This is just painful – what a waste! If you really loved Jenn you would’ve gotten her a deep freezer for mother’s day and saved this for the next baby, or for someone else’s baby, or just as a cryopreserved time capsule for posterity. Or to drink yourselves in case of a bio-chemical nuclear emergency, for the extra healing power. Anything but tossing it. . . I hope you at least uttered a few eulogizing words or something.

  2. hannah says:

    p.s. I’ve also heard there’s a hot black market for the stuff, especially in CA amongst two-dad families who want breast-fed babies. Don’t know if it’s true or just homophobic propoganda designed to make us think gay men are even *more* deviant.

    Hmm . . . breast-pumping as moonlighting, or even as primary income, that’s a thought . . .

  3. Maddie's Mom says:

    There are milk banks (at least here in the granola-y Pacific Northwest), but I think they want fresher milk. When Maddie was weaned, I trashed a couple of gallons of milk from our freezer as well…and I did say a few “eulogizing words!” It was nice to have freezer space back, though!

    btw, Lansinoh makes bags for milk that stack much more neatly and take up much less room than the Medela bags…for future reference. (I don’t work for Lansinoh, but I tried dozens–ok, three–types of storage bags!)

  4. haeshu says:

    every pumping mothers dirty little secret revealed to the rest of the world. i did, i put milk in the freezer, and im not afraid to admit it! even though i knew i was dooming this milk, i needed the sense of security it provided. even now i think there is one floating around in there with the peas and fish sticks…

  5. lori says:

    Before I read hannah’s comment, I was thinking the same thing. There IS a black market for breast fed milk, so to speak. The WSJ just had an article about this very topic just recently (within the last 2 wks). Mothers are selling their extra supply to other mothers who either can’t nurse, or who have adopted a baby and want to give their baby the nutrients of BF milk. (They ship it in dry ice.) And, yes, they mentioned there is a high demand from gay men who adopt.

    I cannot begin to imagine what Jenn (and all the other breast-feeding/pumping mothers out there) have gone through, but I commend you!

  6. lori says:

    P.S. Oh BTW, not all cats like milk (must be a “cats tale”). I actually offered mine a sip the other night (he seemed intent to find out what I was drinking), but turned his nose up in the air and looked away at first sniff. Although, I wasn’t drinking BF milk – he might have gone for that instead!

  7. jen/mom says:

    I don’t follow the news very well, but wasn’t a zoo somewhere soliciting breast milk for baby monkeys or something a while back? I’m not sure – maybe I imagined it.

  8. Jamie says:

    Is it just me or do the bags in that picture look like a time-series photograph of one bag dancing a little jig?

  9. haeshu says:

    they do!! maybe ben can animate them?

  10. cj says:

    My son is now 7 and I still have one small bag of breastmilk in my freezer. I don’t know why I save it other than to remind me of one of the most precious times in my life. I nursed him for 18 months and I also worked full-time for a newspaper. I pumped diligently in the woman’s restroom because the company I work for didn’t provide any other place. I’m proud to say that my son never had a drop of formula in his life. Not that I have anything against formula but I was determined to make breastfeeding work for me. I love your website and your love and dedication to your beautiful baby is inspiring!

  11. aidens momma says:

    i only pumped a handful of times since i have been nursing aiden. he is still nursing now at 13 months, though only first thing in the morning and ocassionally at night. i think i froze one…maybe two bags at first when i was paranoid that something would happen to me and he would starve. lol. i long ago threw those out…though my mother still has frozen milk in her freeze. i think she is more nostalgic than me….im keeping my mouth shut to see how long it remains there…teeheehee.

  12. Todd says:

    It’s funny to see you throwing out milk just as our freezer is beginning to overflow with milk.

    Our second is feeding like a champ after a few frustrating weeks (he was five weeks early) but my wife continues to pump after each feeding “just in case.”

    I took a page from your book, btw, and tried my own hand at prediction of weight gain based on current trends and I believe Henry may have Trixie beat. I’m predicting 100 pounds by six months! (R^2 is 0.95, which is horrible correlation, I know.)

  13. Diana says:

    Makes me want to cry that you had to throw away all that milk…so much pumping, so much washing.

  14. benmac says:

    Well, all I have to say is that it’s a real shame to hear about this breast milk black market now. Before I pour any more money down the drain, how about half-empty bottles of Pedialyte? Any market for that?

  15. John says:

    Alecia just tossed our scattered backup bags out as well.

  16. Nina says:

    I’d like to see the bag dance like Jamie suggested. It can be made into an animated gif in image ready. Heehee yay!

  17. benmac says:

    I’ll add it to the list. Maybe I’ll be able to post it as a surprise one day.

  18. Beth says:

    I have about that many bags in my freezer, prob a year old, and I cannot bear to discard them. My husband will have to do away with them while I’m not looking. And eulogizing words will certainly be appropriate whenever he does.

  19. kaye says:

    I have about half a dozen little bags in my freezer from last September. Can’t bear to toss them even though I’m sure they’ve gone “bad.” And, I second the recommendation about Lansinoh bags. They have 2 little “zip-loc” seals on each bag. I just didn’t trust those little ties for the Medela bags – despite my reverenace (sp?) of the Medela pump!

  20. Michele says:

    I had about a 100 oz stored up in the freezer in those god-awful medela bags!! I hate the stupid twistie ties! (the lansinoh are much better, but i only had 2) I’d pumped every night for two months (with a much less powerful pump than Jenn’s- 8 oz at a time- I wish!)for an overnight trip, and had TONS left over. So my husband and I used every last drop for Date nights. No emergency supply whatsoever, but I just can face the pump anymore!

  21. Michele says:

    I saw some people on craigslist willing to buy bags of frozen breastmilk. One woman had Chrohn’s disease, and a few people thought they would cure a certain STD. The worst part was, the woman with Crohn was only going to pay like 10 bucks for 6 oz! Totally not worth my time!

  22. Dana says:

    Although the ‘black market milk’ thread has been pretty thoroughly covered, I just wanted to add that it does indeed exist. A girl I knew in college pumped extra milk and once or twice a week shipped it packed in dry ice and a styrofoam cooler overnight. I don’t believe though that she was paid for it (except supplies and shipping) … she was very much into breastfeeding and the Le Leche League and such.

  23. haeshu says:

    im sorry, but im not putting those plastic suckers on any more than i have to, and certainly if there isnt big money involved…

  24. Kelli says:

    A friend of mine pumped extra for freezing while she was breastfeeding her son. Her 9-year-old nephew had cancer and she shipped her frozen breastmilk to him – apparently while he was undergoing treatment for the cancer, breastmilk was one of the best/only nutritive things he could keep down, because it’s so easily digestible. Of course, that breastmilk (like the milk in milk banks) had to be pasteurized prior to his getting it.

  25. haeshu says:

    well thanks kelli for making me feel guilty! ok, ok, so i wouldnt put on the plastic suckers of death unless there was big money or a really good cause involved.

  26. FrumDad says:

    This is embarassing. We tossed all of HW’s backup bags except one, that I’m keeping.

    A mohel (ritual circumcision rabbi-type) once told me that a quick cure for a baby’s cold was to squirt some breastmilk in its nose. I think he meant *fresh*, but I was never able to convince my wife to try it. So now I’m waiting for the next time Rachel gets the sniffles and I’m thawing that bag out. Problem is, I have to wait ’till my wife’s not around to try it, since she won’t let me do it.

    That same person said it would help with an ear infection to squirt some in the ears. We’ll see how it works with the cold, first.


  27. haeshu says:

    actually frumdad, i have tried it. and it does work, sort of. i read once that breastmilk is saline and works really well to soften up all that goo in a babys nose. so we squirted some up eliots nose a few times, and after the milk did its trick we added insult to injury and used the blue sucker thing to get the goo out. he wasnt very happy during the process, but always seemed to appreciate the added airflow afterwards. on a side note, has any other parent had the urge to try the blue sucker on their own nose? i cant say that i have, but i have certainly thought about it for a while. isnt it awful that i have no problems shoving it up my kids nose but im too chicken to try it on my own??

    now ear infection, thats another story…

  28. Kelli says:

    Well, FrumDad, I can’t imagine that breastmilk (especially warmed) in the ears would be any worse than my grandmother’s “sweet oil” remedy, which, apparently, was warmed olive oil dropped into the ears to cure earache. At least the breastmilk contains antibodies! Probably would be more effective (if at all) if it were fresh.

    Oh – and sorry Haeshu – my intention wasn’t to make you feel guilty! I almost started to post this a while back, but didn’t, and thought it was interesting. As for the rest of the story, the mother of my friend’s nephew actually did something (pumped? took hormones? I don’t know) to cause her own breasts to start producing milk so she could pump and they could give her breastmilk to her son (without pasteurizing it apparently). I guess you’d do whatever you had to if your kid had cancer though. Here’s an article that talks about an adult who uses breastmilk to combat the effects of chemo, though docs are skeptical.

  29. kshel says:

    I have been an outsider looking in for a couple of months and love the site!! I have a 7 month old myself and all of the advice is great. You never know when to “jump in”, but after reading the post from Haeshu, the time has come. I hate to admit it, but I have used the blue sucker – on myself. We brought an extra home from the hospital and I couldn’t resist the urge although it took me 5 months of thinking about it. I was suffering from a case of BIDS and blowing my nose just wouldn’t work and I was desperate. I expected immediate relief, but I was a little disappointed. I think because the tip is just too small for big people noses. You would kind of have to run it around like a vacuum up there. As a side note, the brown suckers are much more baby snot effective, haven’t tried that one on myself…

  30. haeshu says:

    way to go kshel!! so what you are saying is in order for the blue sucker to be effective, i need to cut the tip off to make the hole bigger? interesting… ben, are you still in a desperate BIDS induced state? perhaps you could try this and let us know?

  31. kshel says:

    Didn’t think to cut the hole. I think I was let down by my intial trial. We need a current BIDS sufferer to test the theory. Could this be the solution to all suffering parents?

  32. Heather says:

    I’ve not heard of the breastmilk trick for a cold, but I was told to try it for pink eye & IT WORKED (on my son). While we’re on the subject of weird things… to get rid of diaper rash- brown some flour. Cool it (frig or freezer) & apply. My mom said that she learned it from my grandma & when I tried it- IT WORKED. Be warned though- it smells.

  33. lori says:

    About the blue nose sucker things: When I was a baby/kid, they didn’t have different colors. Ours was beige. I’m pretty sure this is the same thing as what you’re talking about. Sounds like the one we had had a bigger opening than described above.

    My parents used them on us all the time. I had really bad allergies growing up – had the stuffed up nose & sinus infections all the time – and actually used it myself a lot when I was old enough. I loved it! When you’re that congested, it works wonders especially when you just can’t stand to even look at a tissue any longer. How do parents get babies to blow their nose into a tissue anyway???

    We finally had to throw it out (they’re only sanitary for so long, ya know). I’d have one in the house now, but I’ve been keeping the allergies in check.

  34. FrumDad says:

    I could never get the blue sucker thingie to work right with Rachel (See my comments to this TPOD), but I tried it on myself. I cut the hole to make it bigger and tried getting a good seal, but, ah… well, ah…

    I’m Jewish, right. And the stereotype is a stereotype for a reason. So, well… suffice that I was never able to get a good seal and the experiment was frustrated.

    Btw, BenMac, in light of the fact that it’s been cut and stuck up my nose, my offer to send you ours is rescinded. I don’t think you mind.

    Also — thanks everyone for that info about breastmilk as recuperative aid. It’ll help me convince my wife to try it on Rachel.

    Finally, how do you “brown flour?”


  35. haeshu says:

    oh good, i thought i was the only one that didnt know what “brown flour” meant. and how much? are we talking like a few tablespoons or two cups? and what does it smell like? speaking of smell, last nignt in a brain fart moment, i made the mistake of tossing a poopy diaper in the trash instead of stuffing it into the diaper thingy and man did the kitchen stink this morning! stupid points on that one…

  36. Heather says:

    Brown Flour- Simply put some flour (a cup is enough) in a skillet & simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Then put it in the fridge or freezer to cool. It smells like, flour that’s been burned.

  37. Kelli says:

    The kids I nannied for had the nose bulb thingy, but theirs was grayish with a detachable plastic end on it – the end was larger, so it was easier to get a seal – similar to this one
    They had the blue one piece kind, too, but I preferred the gray one. The kids hated both of them!

  38. lori says:

    Kelli: That sounds exactly like the one I was trying to describe (from memory). I think the detachable feature is key, along with the larger opening. Plus, you can take it off to clean it out easier.

  39. aidens momma says:

    i think the suction bulbs are a torture device for babies…and aiden agrees. so when the puppy decided it made a good teething toy, i just ignored the situation lol.

    and as for the ‘brown flour’…i never heard of that. though my mother in law used cornstarch on my husband when he was a baby. he had really wicked diaper rash. aiden next to never gets it so we dont worry.

    Kelli- my mother did the warm olive oil thing too…yuck. it always felt so nasty. she also would water down hyrdogen peroxide and put it in our ears to loosen wax when we had earaches. that was fun because it felt like someone put soda in your ear..pop pop pop. lol

  40. purple says:

    Did you ever think of getting a REAL life? I suggest one in which you spend time with your child, rather than feed your child’s quotidian mysteries to the masses as a 21st century sideshow.

  41. Maddie's Mom says:

    So, how many hours since the broadcast before the first troll appeared?

  42. nina says:

    I use to play with that bulby thing in the bathtub. Ok I probably sound really stupid but I never knew it was to stick up babies noses, I always thought it was to do with ears,suck out wax or something. Eh… I always just played in the tub with it. Oh well.

    And to purple I say if someone spends this much time on any subject it is obvious that subject is loved. Wether it be a site about a baby or a car, no one would go to this much trouble unless they loved that subject and wanted to share in the joy. ALso its just really fun.

    Besides its easy to see that Ben spends alot of time with Trixie, otherwise he wouldn’t have much to say about her.

    So maybe you should stick to your own advice and get a life instead of checking out sites you don’t like and bad mouthing them or maybe lighten up and share the joy of children with others who think they’re wonderful too.

  43. Summer says:

    Oh purple… that makes me mad. Honestly, it seems like Ben only works on this when Trixie is sleeping– i also, when my baby is sleeping, do a lot of things I like to do, hobbies I like, etc…. This is a sort of hobby i think for Ben and, even if he were to do it a lot when she’s playing by herself or something, that teaches her she can play by herself too! There’s just so much you don’t know, so hopefully some of these comments help you understand more and quit criticizing what you don’t know about!

  44. KR says:

    Breast milk is also good for eye infections. When my son was born he had chronic eye infections. Three months of doctor visits and prescription medication didn’t clear them up. One day an older lady (probably in her 60’s or 70’s) told me to put breast milk in his eyes. Although I was skeptical, I figured it wouldn’t hurt. She was right. Cleared up the infection completely.

  45. lori says:

    To Purple (and all other skeptics out there):
    It’s obvious that Trixie’s parents LOVE her – probably more than some parents. They are also fortunate that he can stay home and raise their daughter. How can you say he should spend MORE time with his daughter when he knows every little detail about her! He knows more about his daughter than most people know about themselves. I can’t believe he doesn’t care about her if he’s put so much effort in getting to know her & understanding her – isn’t that the whole point to being a parent?

    But, if you must know, the true behind-the-scenes story is that Trixie is running the show here. (Sorry, Ben, it was going to get out sooner or later.)

  46. benmac says:

    Thanks for stepping in to defend against the trolls everyone. To be honest, it baffles me when people say “Spend more time with your child.” Once you are a stay-at-home parent, how can you possibly spend any more time with your child? I suppose you could have your kid grafted to your body, but I don’t think they do that surgery in the US.

  47. Ellie's Mom says:

    Hate to break it to you, but the neighbor cat wouldn’t want the human milk. One day while pumping for my four month old daughter, I spilled a few precious drops on the floor. My enormous black and white tomcat sniffed at the tiny puddle, and instead of lapping it up, he tried to bury it litterbox style.

    I should be so lucky to remember to sterilize my feeding equipment once a week. Here you’ve set up this whole layout and I can’t even get it together to start the baby’s photo album. Your site is an inspiration.

  48. beth says:

    The milk page is a riot… what are you a scientist turned stay at home dad? Your figures and graphs are worthy of peer-review publication!

  49. I fond that the Mothers Milkmate storage rack is excellent for storing milk for a long period in the freezer. They are also made with BPA Free plastic so there is no concerns over safety issues.