The Pitcher Method: A Complete Guide to Managing Pumped Breast Milk

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

The article has been reviewed by medical expert Margaret Dogwood, BSN, RN

The pitcher method has been one, if not the most-used methods in keeping, storing, and managing milk. In this article, we will be discussing everything you need to know about it!

The pitcher method is the process of collecting all the pumped milk in a day and securely storing it inside a large container – a pitcher. Bottles for the following day can be prepared and everything in excess is refrigerated or frozen.

Don’t worry – we’ll be bringing you everything you need to know about the pitcher method!

The website’s general material is given for informative purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. This article has been reviewed by the necessary medical and healthcare professionals and departments that we work with.For emergencies, contact your local physician or certified healthcare provider RIGHT AWAY!

What is the Pitcher Method?

In the easiest and simplest ways possible, the pitcher method is known as the process of collecting and pooling breastmilk. The time frame is usually a 24-hour period and is stored inside a freezer or a refrigerator.

After collecting milk for the entire day, parents can proceed to prepare bottles for the next day, freezing and refrigerating the remaining milk.

The question still stands, though – is this process safe? Can the pitcher method assure the safety and security of your baby?

Is the Pitcher Method Safe?

Yes, this particular method is deemed and considered safe, especially if it’s done correctly and if the milk is stored properly. There are a lot of mothers who do this in order to save time and to ensure that they get the most out of their breast milk.

Pitcher Method Pros and Cons

Now, some you might not think of the pitcher method as anything – at all. However, you will find people who would see the advantages and benefits of this process, while some would see its drawbacks and disadvantages.

Pros of the Pitcher Method

  • It can save a lot of time as you don’t have to pump and pump!
  • It’s also a space-saver because you’ll use a pitcher instead of several bottles.
  • You’ll be able to freeze the milk you don’t need
  • You can systemize the storage and feeding process

Cons of the Pitcher Method

  • You’ll need to be strict on the extra steps, which is more tedious
  • You have to ensure that the timing is correct and appropriate
  • It’s under-researched

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Do the Pitcher Method

We wouldn’t actually let you do it on your own without giving you guidance. In fact, we prepared this brief, concise, but highly useful guide on how to start the pitcher method.

Step 1: Setting the System Up

To start the process, you’ll have to prepare particular equipment to ensure that the operation will be fast, clean, and seamless.

Among those, you’ll want a clean pitcher or container with a properly shut cover. This container will be the primary storage location for your pumped milk, ensuring its freshness and preventing contamination.

To add to those, you can have tools to help with the operation.

  • Pour spouts are handy for pouring milk into bottles without spilling or wasting any.
  • Labeled tags or markers will make it easier to organize and identify the milk bottles, allowing for quick retrieval when needed.
  • Funnels are also useful especially when transferring milk.

Step 2: Collecting and Storing Pumped Milk

The next step entails the collection and storing of pumped milk. In doing so, it’s crucial to grasp the optimal storage temperature and time for pumped milk.

In order to keep the milk fresh and nutritious, refrigerate and store it at a temperature between 0°C or 32°F and 4°C or 39°F.

Moreover, it’s best to refrigerate the milk right after pumping it and make sure to feed it to your little munchkin within 48 hours. If you do not intend to utilize the milk within this time period, freezing is an alternative.

NOTE: Frozen breast milk (at 0° F or -17.77° C or colder) can be stored for up to twelve months!

Step 3: Combining and Chilling the Milk

In case you didn’t know, you’ll have to at least make the newly-pumped milk meet the temperature of the previously stored milk (or even colder). To do this, place the pitcher in the fridge. Chill the milk until it reaches the proper temperature in order to retain quality and prevent spoiling.

This process aids in the mixing of the several batches of milk, maintaining a constant composition for your infant.

The Mayo Clinic says that you want to make sure to cool recently pumped or collected milk before you mix it with previously stored milk. Why? Because it can thaw partially and rewarm the initial, making it an avenue for bacteria to grow.

If you mix warm breast milk with frozen breast milk, the frozen milk will partially defrost.”

Step 4: Daily Bottle Preparation

Bottle preparation is one of the most tedious tasks because you’ll have to do it manually. There’s no tool or robot to help you out with this! However, you can streamline the process – here’s how!

  1. Warm and sterilize the bottles ahead of time!
  2. Be sure to clean, disinfect, and sterilize all components of the bottles.
  3. Use pump bottles that can easily be warmed up and served.

Step 5: Freezing the Excess Milk

And for the last step – it’s freezing time! It is vital to determine when you have leftover milk that might be useful if you freeze them. Should you have more milk than your baby needs within the suggested storage period, freezing the excess is the perfect step.

To safely freeze excess milk, use airtight freezer-safe containers or breast milk storage bags.

Remember to allow for expansion when the milk freezes. To preserve good organization and quick retrieval, identify each container or bag with the date of pumping.

And that’s the step-by-step procedure of how to do the pitcher method, breast milk edition!

Can I Freeze Formula Milk?

To be frank and honest, no, it’s not recommended. Breast milk is natural milk and did not come from powdered form, making it great for freezing. Formula milk, however, has various components in them that can be deemed inefficient.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that freezing formula milk can cause component or ingredient separation. They’re not designed to be frozen, since you control whether or not the milk will be prepared.

Tips For Storing Breast Milk in a Pitcher

There are a lot of things to remember when storing breast milk in a pitcher (regularly refrigerating them or freezing them). For those of you who want more guidance, here are a couple of tips you can follow!

Tip #1: Cleanliness and Sterilization is Key

Make sure the pitcher has been well sterilized and cleaned before using it to store breast milk. Rinse it well with hot, soapy water.

NOTE: Use a bottle brush to get into all the corners and crevices and ensure that stubborn milk and debris are cleaned!

Tip #2: Use the Right Pitchers

You’ll find many different types and kinds of pitchers in the market. However, you must choose a pitcher made exclusively for storing breast milk.

One thing you can do is to look for one made of safe, BPA-free materials with a firmly sealed cover to avoid contamination.

Tip #3: Pour With Caution

Pouring the milk into the pitcher should be done carefully and softly to avoid spilling or splashing. This will assist to reduce the spread of germs and other pollutants.

Tip #4: Add Labels and Dates

Each batch of breast milk must be labeled with the date it was pumped. To maintain correct organization and to keep track of the freshness of the milk, use detachable labels or markers.

Tip #5: Don’t Forget the Cover

Even if you store it inside the fridge or the freezer, it’s essential to keep the lid of the pitcher closed and sealed. Seal the pitcher securely with the lid after adding breast milk. What this does is help preserve the quality of milk by preventing smells from infiltrating and lowering the chance of contamination.

It’s also useful if you have other things inside the freezer that could meddle with the milk.

Tip #6: Check it Regularly

And last but most definitely not least is to check your milk regularly. Although freezing is the best way to lengthen its validity, you still don’t want anything to happen to it, right? So, what do you do? Regularly check up on it even though it’s frozen!

NOTE: Some indicators to look out for include unusual texture, curdling, discoloration, or sour smell. If you notice any of these signs, you might want to reconsider using the milk!

CDC Pitcher Method Guidelines

The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention or the CDC has a few guidelines in storing and preparing breast milk via the pitcher method.

  1. Wash and sanitize your hands before touching any of the things you will use for this process
  2. Freeze milk in small amounts to avoid wastage
  3. Refrain from using plastics that aren’t BPA-free
  4. Use high-grade storage bags for breast milk and food-grade containers
  5. NEVER use the microwave for thawing frozen milk – use milk 24 hours from the time it’s thawed
  6. Use hot water in cleaning and in sainting any of your baby’s things

The Best Pitcher For the Pitcher Method

There are a lot of pitchers out there that have been used – and are still currently being used by parents all over the globe in doing the pitcher method. But, what is the best? A few considerations to think about include, but are not limited to:

  • Material Type and/or Quality
  • Pitcher Capacity
  • Pouring Mechanism 
  • Lid
  • Opaqueness or Transparency

Out of the many options out there, Dr. Brown’s formula mixing pitcher is what we consider the best. It has a unique mixing blade that helps dissolve and blend powder. It also has easy-to-read levels so you can get exact measurements!

Of course, let’s not forget the spill-proof nozzle and the engineering of the pitcher to satisfy highly-accurate pouring to bottles!

Other than Dr. Brown’s mixing pitcher, you can also use different pitchers so long as they’re made from heavy-duty, military-grade material, and that they have a lid that you can tightly close!

FAQs

It’s common knowledge that the pitcher method is an under-researched topic. So, there could still be a few questions that remain unanswered and we did due diligence to find and present them to you!

Is It OK To Mix Warm And Cold Breast Milk?

No, it’s not. The pitcher method requires parents to cool the newly pumped milk before combining it with the refrigerated or frozen milk. The reason why is because adding new warm milk can rewarm the frozen and refrigerated milk, which can possibly allow bacteria to grow.

Can You Do The Pitcher Method For Breast Milk? 

Yes, in fact, the pitcher method has initially been introduced for breast milk and the idea behind it is for pumped breast milk not to go to waste.

Can You Do The Pitcher Method For Formula? 

Yes, definitely! Doing the pitcher method for formula milk is a great way to save time and effort for the entire day. Instead of making milk every time your little angel wants it, you can just get from the pooled, refrigerated milk you’ve prepared!

What Is The Dr. Brown Pitcher Method?

The Dr. Brown’s Pitcher Method is actually just how you do the regular method. It’s just that, the brand has their formula-mixing pitcher where you can easily mix and create your baby’s milk without the need to use another one of your regular pitchers. It’s great because it contains a blade inside it that can easily dissolve powder. It also has an anti-spill and anti-leak technology, too!

How Long Does It Take For Frozen Breast Milk to Go Bad?

The CDC says that breast milk stored at 0° F or -17.7778 ° C (or colder) for up to twelve months. However, it’s best to keep it under six months for you to be sure that it’s neither rancid nor spoiled.

Final Verdict

There are different ways and strategies out there to help parents out in preparing milk for their little munchkins. However, the pitcher method has been one, if not the most-trusted and most-used way of mothers to help them store milk in such a fashion that they won’t exert much effort.

Prevent the spoilage of milk and maximize pumping! Let nothing go to waste! 

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "mamallove.com" and "cashsavvytips.com", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

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