Breast milk is truly a superfood for your little ones. It contains the perfect mix of easy-to-digest nutrients to support optimal growth and development and it’s loaded with immune-boosting antibodies. Research shows that breastfed babies have lower rates of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections as well as a lower risk of developing asthma and allergies, among many other benefits.
Freezing vs. Freeze Drying
It’s no wonder moms are eager to do everything they can to preserve their breast milk. However, most parents use their freezer to store breast milk without realizing that freeze-drying breast milk is often a better option, both from a nutrition and practical perspective (hello, freezer space!).
Unlike simply freezing breast milk, freeze-drying breast milk preserves its nutritional content over time. In a 2012 study, researchers found that both the fat and calorie content of frozen breast milk decreases with freezing time. In fact, there was a significant reduction in fat concentration of the frozen milk after just seven days of frozen storage. In comparison, a 2014 study found no significant difference in fatty acid composition after 90 days of freeze-dry storage.
Why does this matter? Fat should make up a significant portion of your baby’s diet because it supports healthy brain development, aids in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin K, A, D and E) and protects the nervous system.
It’s not just fat that is lost in frozen milk. The vitamin C and vitamin E content in freeze-dried breast milk decreases to a much lesser extent and at a lower rate compared to the fat in frozen milk. Vitamin C and vitamin E are powerful immune-boosting antioxidants.
The Bottom Line
While both frozen and freeze-dried milk are a “superfood” for your child, freeze-drying breast milk not only better preserves the nutritional quality of breast milk for a longer period of time, but it also makes storing breast milk easier and more convenient – it’s a win-win!
Frank, N.M., Lynch, K.F., Uusitalo, U. et al. The relationship between breastfeeding and reported respiratory and gastrointestinal infection rates in young children. BMC Pediatr. 19:339 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12887-019-1693-2
Bener A., Ehlayel M.S., Alsowaidi S., et. al. Role of breast feeding in primary prevention of asthma and allergic diseases in a traditional society. Eur Ann Allergy Clin Immunol. 10:337-43 (2007). PMID: 18386435.
García-Lara N.R., Escuder-Vieco D., García-Algar O. et. al. Effect of freezing time on macronutrients and energy content of breastmilk. Breastfeed Med. 7(4):295-301. (2012). PMID: 22047109; PMCID: PMC3411345. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2011.0079.
Lozano B., Castellote AI., Montes R. et. al. Vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidant capacity stability during storage of freeze-dried human milk. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 65(6):703-7. (2014) PMID: 24840090. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2014.917154.
About Claire Virga (RD, MS, CDN)
Claire Virga is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with her Master's in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Claire practices at Rooted Wellness, a nutrition counseling practice specializing in women’s health. As a dietitian, Claire supports and empowers clients at every stage of their motherhood journey including preconception nutrition, prenatal & postpartum health and childhood nutrition.