Updated for 2018! With Hurricane Florence approaching I decided to update this post.
While I no longer have frozen breastmilk stored, I am preparing for this hurricane as well.
If you need to evacuate here is an article I found with tips on how to evacuate with your frozen breastmilk.
I wrote a post last week about losing all of my frozen pumped breastmilk. It was a horrible accident, but what about when it's not an accident, but a power outage looming?
After I lost my milk I worked to build my stash back but was then faced with hurricane/super storm Sandy. While we do not typically lose power from hurricanes where I live (in the DC metro area) it has happened rarely in the past for even extended amounts of time of a week or more.
Let me tell you I was not taking any chances after losing my stash. We were forecast to get hit pretty hard and power outages were likely. The first thing I tried to do was find a generator. Yeah, not happening in those last couple of days before Sandy. I couldn't even find one on Amazon that was not backordered for weeks.
I did some research and and learned the basics when it comes to frozen breast milk. Basically if the breastmilk has started to thaw but still has ice crystals, or appears slushy, it can be safely refrozen.
Once thawed it should be used within 24-48 hours if possible. Now that sounds great if it's a small amount of milk, but most of us are not going to use up a huge stash in 24 hours if it has all been thawed.
The good news is that many refrigerator freezers and deep freezers can keep our food frozen 24 - 48 hours (from the USDA) without power.
How full the freezer is can play a big role in how long foods will stay frozen without power. The fuller the better. You can fill up bags or bottles with water to fill space, use ice, or use dry ice.
So, that's what I did. Since a generator was not happening, I prepared for Sandy by filling my freezer up as much as possible with ice and water. I placed my milk in the middle and hoped for the best.
If you do lose power try not to open the door. Keeping the door closed is critical to keep it as cool as possible (once power is out).
Now there is some evidence that it may be safe to refreeze milk that has already thawed. It is not routinely recommended but in an emergency situation it may be safe. If the milk smells fine, it may still be fine to be refrozen.
Look for a generator if you have time to prepare before a power outage.
Fill up your freezer with food, ice, and water to help keep it as cold as possible once power is out.
Place your milk in the middle of the freezer between the other products to keep it protected.
Do not open the door of the freezer if you lose power.
Look for a friend or neighbor with power to store your milk during an extended outage.
Milk that still has ice crystals can be refrozen.
Milk that is thawed should be used within 24 - 48 hours.
It may be safe to refreeze completely thawed breastmilk, but the data is not clear. If the milk smells and seems fine you can try.
In my case we did lose power during Sandy but it was less than 24 hours and my milk was fine. I don't believe it thawed at all. I did not open the freezer to check on it while the power was out though. It was nerve racking after losing all of my pumped milk two months earlier, but it was fine.