If you're anything like me when it comes to breastfeeding, then you know how valuable your milk is and how important it is to not waste a single drop of this liquid gold.
My plan, when my son was still a wee thing, was to continue nursing him till a natural age of baby-led weaning (4-5 years of age), and also to provide him with pumped milk to drink when he started solids and was drinking from a cup. I decided long before he was even born that he would not drink cow's milk before the age of 5 (when the brain and immune system have both completed 98% of their total development), if ever.
[Update: my children have never consumed cow's milk. They finished their natural weaning journeys around 4.5 years of age, and currently use homemade cashew milk or store-bought almond milk for cooking, smoothies, cereal, and such.]
Cow's milk (in a breastfeeding mom's diet or fed to baby other ways) is the #1 culprit in upset tummies, discomfort, gas, bloating, and reflux, so I switched to rice milk in the early weeks after birth. After all, cow's milk is for baby cows. And human milk is for baby humans. They are comprised of entirely different compositions - each one perfectly suited for the babies of their own species and very much not suited for the babies of other species. So I pumped and pumped and donated a great deal to mothers and babies around me in need, but still froze about 6 ounces every other day to keep "just in case" we needed it down the road.
At 10 months of age (8 teeth and walking) our son started solids in baby-led weaning fashion. His first non-breastmilk foods were tiny pieces of soft vegetables and fruits and he quickly came to enjoy healthy foods. (Still to this day he'd select a tomato over a cookie and green beans rather than pancakes). However, when it came to my great plan to have him drinking pumped milk via cup, he had slightly different plans.
By the time he'd reached 7 months of age he refused to drink good ol' momma milk from anywhere but the source. He learned the difference, I suppose, and knew he preferred it fresh and wanted nothing to do with an artificial breast (bottle) from Dad or a babysitter any longer. When he started using a sippy cup, and drinking from straws (an early favorite) he'd happily drink water with his meals, but was not so keen on frozen (thawed) breastmilk.
I donated what I could (that which was within date range to qualify for donation), but needed to figure out additional ways to use the gallons of frozen milk we had stashed so it would be consumed and not go to waste.
One thing our son loves (like most toddlers his age) is a popsicle. They especially come in handy on tough teething days. And so, I started to experiment with different breastmilk popsicle concoctions. The first time I tried, the blend I thought would be perfect, (fresh berries and momma milk, frozen into little slushy cups) I failed to impress him. He took one bite and turned up his nose as though I was offering him liverwurst (no offense if you love liverwurst).
And so the experimentations continued until I found thee perfect breastmilk popsicle 'recipe' of sorts... Although there is really no culinary talent involved here (I am pretty much devoid of that), so I suppose it is more of a non-recipe. But the thing is, kids love it! And it is a healthy frozen treat option. Our son has still never had an ounce of cow's milk - but he does continue to enjoy the benefits of human milk.
Before you send off a note my way, "You are not supposed to thaw and refreeze breastmilk!" Yes, yes, I know this. However, when it comes to milk that is 6+ months frozen in your freezer and you are either going to use it, or toss it, thawing and re-freezing is not going to do any harm to the consumer. And while the properties of the antibodies, white blood cells, and glyconutrients may change slightly (this is still up for argument), the re-freezing into popsicle form is a great, healthy option for toddler treats.
So, with no further ado, here is the Peaceful Parenting Breastmilk Popsicle method:
Thaw frozen milk in a bowl of lukewarm water for several minutes or in the fridge for a few hours. Small chips of frozen milk can remain as it will still mix into the popsicle smoothie.
Pour milk into a glass
Prepare a raw veggie/fruit juice mix of your choice. I love juicing my own whole vegetables and fruits to use, but lately I've been very busy so my second choice is to use Bolthouse Farms veggie/fruit blends. They are natural, 100% puree/juice smoothies (no sugars added), and come in all types of healthy choices. The "Green Goodness" (while it looks a bit unappetizing) is one of our favorites for the antioxidants, veggies, and vitamins included - not to mention it tastes much better than it looks. Find Bolthouse Farms blends in the fresh produce section of your grocery store.
I realize a berry breastmilk popsicle mix would look prettier for these pictures than the veggie mix...but the green goodness blend is the one you will find most often at our house. :)
Gently stir about 40% breastmilk to 60% veggie/fruit smoothie. This will allow the popsicles to be thick, freeze easily and smoothly, be flavor-filled, and packed with goodness. Although there is some disagreement over whether or not white blood cells maintain their integrity when frozen, the high quantity in breastmilk is not the reason to avoid shaking your breastmilk popsicle mix (a common myth) -- rather it is because vigorous shaking adds air pockets to the mix, causing it not to re-freeze as well. Just stir things together briefly and go with it.
Pour mixture into popsicle molds and place into freezer. The best option I've found for use with toddlers and young children is the Orka Ice Pop Maker. They have a small 'catch' cup on the bottom of each popsicle for drips and slow eaters. They are a fun spiral shape, and easy to suck, eat, or chew for teething tots. They are simple to fill, and freeze quickly and easily. The Orka also pulls off the frozen popsicle without any hassle or 'sticking'. They can be re-used immediately and are very easy to clean. The molds come in both white and chocolate colors.
[Update: The fabulous Orka Ice Pop Maker can no longer be easily found on Amazon. Instead, we've enjoyed the Nuby Garden Pop Tray - perfect for little hands, or the fun Zoku molds in various fun (or standard) shapes.]
If you don't use all the breastmilk/smoothie mix in the popsicle molds you have available, place the extra into the fridge and use it to re-fill/freeze another when your child finishes one. No need to throw it out, just try to freeze within 24 hours of thawing. Or, (and I realize this is not a subject many lactating mothers talk openly about) take a drink yourself -- it will do YOUR body good too! You may be surprised at how many partners have (privately) admitted to consuming shots here and there of their wife's breastmilk in order to ward off the seasonal flu or quickly combat a cold. Human milk (as the Mongolians know so very well!) has powerful health benefits for all humans.
Freeze. Wait patiently. [We have 2 sets of Orka molds at our house that we switch out and refill regularly to assist in this 'patient' part.]
Give to your child to enjoy!!
*******For additional resources related to breastfeeding see: Books & Resources for Breastfeeding Mothers
For additional ideas on how to use your extra breastmilk, see these articles:
The Medicinal Uses of Breastmilk
More Ways to Use Breastmilk
The Breastfeeding Community (for nursing moms, female supporters, and lactation consultants)
Breastfeeding info to share, and encouragement for nursing moms at Etsy.
graphic by Rachele of Woman Uncensored