I first learned about this nifty organizational tip from my local breastfeeding group’s moms, and I just knew I had to try it. During my four years as an undergraduate at Louisiana State University, I recycled as much as I could. That is something I’ll always appreciate about my alma mater: they continuously push recycling and becoming a ‘greener’ campus. When I graduated and moved, I was disappointed that I couldn’t continue this ‘green’ lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to because there were no facilities nearby. To satisfy my ‘green tooth’, I have turned to upcycling. You’ll see more posts about some great ways to upcycle (like wool for all of you cloth diapering fans!) in the future!
Now, back to breastmilk. If you gave birth in a hospital and informed your nurses or lactation consultant that you wanted to breastfeed (especially if your child was like our little Buddy Doo and born premature with a sucking difficulty, even with bottles), you may have received the biggest brown paper bag EVER filled to the gills with Medela breastmilk 2.5 ounce storage cylinders. I know we received close to 40 or more! This is to encourage you to pump because not all babies can latch right away. I found that it also provides positive re-enforcement since each are only 2.5 ounces, because breastfeeding or pumping those first few weeks is incredibly important to establish your supply. Seeing those vials slowly fill up more with every pumping session is like a visual pat on any new mom’s back!
Once you start producing more, you will find that you need to graduate into bigger containers (yay!) which also means bigger containers for storage. At first, I used some Ameda and Lansinoh 4 oz freezer storage containers that I received. While these did the job, it was awkward always looking for them in the back of our freezer since my husband always managed to knock them over and well, they roll. Then (and possibly my favorite) we used the Tommee Tippee breastmilk storage pods because they have an easy tray to prevent this; if you use Tommee Tippee bottles, their pods also fit into the 9 oz bottles! We still had a space issue with these though, and our deep freezer was slowly becoming more of a milk station.
The solution to our dilemma: gift bags! Yup, gift bags! Why spend $10, $20, or even $30 on different brand’s breastmilk storage bag organizers when you can upcycle one of those gift bags you just received from the holiday season! I would even hang on to a few if you plan on building a ‘stash’ before returning to work or as a back up supply.
- standard size gift bag(s) (small-medium; big enough for a Lansinoh or other brand milk storage bag to lay flat without cutting into the corners)
- Your breastmilk stash!
I apologize in advance for the low quality and/or blurriness of the following photos…I had to use my phone, and I didn’t realize the camera was all smudged! (Oops!)
Laying your breast milk storage bags flat in the freezer takes up far less space. I’ve always found the ounce markings to be a little off anyways, so I find this much easier since I always mark them. Plus, since the storage container is thinner it defrosts a lot faster! **Side note: Every breastfeeding and pumping mom knows how important each and every drop of breastmilk is, and hate to waste it. Instead of filling up all of your storage bags with the amount your little one eats in a feeding, fill up some in increments of 1 oz, 2 oz, and 3 oz as well.
I unfortunately didn’t have any gift bags because we had moved since the last big holiday or birthday, so I had to run to Dollar Tree for one. Since it’s the holiday season, they were sold out of the size I preferred and I had to go up one size.
Make the cut just big enough for your thickest storage bag to be able to slide out with ease.
It’ll slide out just like this! My bag is a little big, but if you can find the smaller (not mini ones though) then the dimensions should work perfect for milk storage bags.
Here’s my favorite part: No more fishing for the oldest! Just stack with the oldest on the bottom and newer on top, and as you store more milk storage bags, you just throw them on top!
If you have a deep freezer and have a ‘stash’ already, I would recommend having a gift bag organizer in your deep freeze, and another in your freezer (and rotate!). If you can find a standard size gift bag among the gifts being passed around this year, grab it! They are a perfect fit for most freezer shelves and you can just grab n’ go from them as you please! If you have a shorter freezer, you can always trim away from the height of the gift bag to fit your needs.
I hope you enjoyed this little trick for reusing those gift bags. Stay tuned for future upcycling posts, and if there’s something you’ve always wanted to see an upcycle tutorial for (or have one yourself), please feel free to leave a comment or suggestion!
*Brittany is a contributing writer as part of the Thrifty Nifty Mommy Blogger Network. You can read more from Brittany on her personal blog, Buddy Doo’s Adventure-Roos!*