When you lose power for an extended period of time – for example, during a hurricane or blizzard – there are three things that you need to think about as an exclusive pumper. You need to make a plan to keep pumping during the power outage, to salvage as much of your breast milk stash as you can, and to feed your baby.
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Pumping during a Power Outage
Being able to continue pumping is crucial for maintaining your milk supply, to avoiding issues like clogged ducts or mastitis, and to feeding your baby. Here is how to be prepared to keep pumping when your power goes out.
1. Get a Car Adapter
If you’re able to go outside during the power outage (meaning you’re not in the middle of a hurricane), you might want to plan ahead and get a car adapter, so you’ll be able to plug your pump in and pump in your car.
If you know a storm is coming, make sure to fill your car up with gas beforehand.
2. Use a Manual Pump
If possible, every exclusive pumper should have a manual backup pump in case of a pump malfunction or power outage. Manual pumps aren’t ideal and they take longer to use, but they will get the job done in a pinch.
3. Keep Your Pump Charged
If you know that a storm is coming and you might lose power, make sure you keep your pump fully charged so that you’ll be able to use it as long as possible if the power goes out. (The battery on my Medela Freestyle lasts for about 3 hours when completely charged, which is about one and a half days of exclusive pumping.)
Even under ordinary circumstances, it’s a good idea to just be in the habit of plugging your pump in when you’re not using it, so it’s always ready in an emergency or if you need to go somewhere quickly.
4. Try Hand Expression
Before the power goes out, try watching videos and see if you can figure out how to hand express. This can be a great option if all else fails.
5. Use a Battery Pack
If your pump has the option of using an external battery pack, make sure to familiarize yourself with the batteries it requires and get plenty of them, or charge it if it’s rechargeable.
Keeping Your Breast Milk Stash Safe
The most important thing you can do to save your breast milk stash is to limit how often you open and close the refrigerator and freezer as much as possible. Keeping the doors closed helps them hold their temperature.
The two most important things you can do to keep your milk frozen are:
- Keep the freezer full. If your freezer isn’t full and you anticipate losing power, put water in ziploc bags (don’t fill them all the way, as water expands when frozen) and put them in the freezer to freeze until it’s full. This will help keep the freezer cold as long as possible.
- Don’t open it. A full freezer that stays unopened will keep its temperature for about 48 hours.
If your breast milk still has ice crystals when the power comes back on, it’s not fully thawed and you can refreeze it. If it is completely thawed, you should use what you can within 24 hours.
An unopened refrigerator should keep its temperature for about 4 hours.
Feeding Your Baby during a Power Outage
Because you need to keep the freezer and fridge closed, if you’re exclusively pumping, your best bet is to feed freshly pumped breast milk to your baby while the power is out, if possible.
So, pump before your baby will need to eat and then leave that milk out until it’s time to feed it to your baby. (Check this chart to see how long breast milk is good for at various temperatures.)
If you do need to use stored breast milk, one thing to consider is that frozen breast milk is not supposed to be thawed at room temperature, so you’d either need access to warm water to thaw it, or have enough time to thaw it in the fridge.
Therefore, it might be easier to use the refrigerated breast milk first. (Plus, the refrigerator milk won’t stay cold as long as the freezer will, so this might make sense anyway.)
Another option is to supplement with formula during the power outage using bottled water to avoid issues with thawing and warming. Obviously, you need to consider what works best for your particular circumstances.
Have you had to keep pumping during a power outage? Tell us what happened and any additional tips you have!References
- Smith, Anne, IBCLC. “Can I save my frozen breast milk during a power outage?” https://www.breastfeedingbasics.com/qa/can-save-freezer-stash-breastmilk-power-outage
- Seltzer, Howard. “Food Safety in a Power Outage.” https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/power_outages.html
- Kellymom. “Human Milk Storage – Quick Reference Card.” https://kellymom.com/store/freehandouts/milkstorage01.pdf
- Kellymom. “My power went out and I have breastmilk in the freezer – Help!” https://kellymom.com/hot-topics/frozen-milk-power-outage/