Breast milk: storage in glass or plastic bottles?


In one of my older posts I referred to the EU directive concerning the prohibition of using the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) for the production of plastic baby bottles. You can read the whole post "BPA ban" here.
The defenders of using glass containers for storing food, oil, potable liquids and other products are many. And as I have already written many times before, specifically essential oils should be stored only in dark colored glass containers.
I am reading this period an extremely enlightening book for future moms called "What to Expect the First Year". It contains lots of useful information for new parents about the care of an infant and its monthly growth and development issues of the first year. I unreservedly recommend you read it!
However I felt very surprised when I read in it that plastic containers, without BPA of course, should be prefered over glass ones in order to collect and store breast milk in the refrigerator or freezer. The reason is a study according to which in low temperatures the leukocytes in milk (the live cells that transfer immunity from you to your baby) tend to stick in greater amounts to the side of glass containers and are therefore prevented from reaching your baby!

After a research on the internet relatively to the subject here are the results:
according to an article of the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN) the anti-infective properties of breast milk are affected by the type of container used for storage. Glass, polyethylene bags, and rigid polyethylene containers are commonly used to store breast milk. Early research in breast milk banking reported decreased leukocyte counts in milk stored in glass containers (Paxson & Cress, 1979). Later studies reported cell count to be affected more by storage length than by type of container (Goldblum, Garza, Johnson, Nichols, & Goldman, 1981). Storing breast milk in polyethylene bags dramatically reduces the amount of secretory IgA antibodies while difficulty in filling and handling the bags increases the risk of contamination. Rigid polypropylene plastic containers maintain the stability of cells and immunoglobulins (Goldblum, Goldman, Garza, Johnson, & Nichols, 1982). Glass containers are the best choice for storing breast milk because there is no absorption of secretory IgA antibodies and other proteins of proven benefit to the infant (Hopkinson, Garza, & Asquith, 1990).
The mission of the international organisation La Leche League is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother. According to the LLLI the best options for storing breast milk are:
  • glass or hard-sided plastic containers with well-fitting tops
  • containers not made with the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA)
  • freezer milk bags that are designed for storing human milk
  • Disposable bottle liners or plastic bags are not recommended. With these, the risk of contamination is greater. Bags are less durable and tend to leak, and some types of plastic may destroy nutrients in milk.
Certainly choosing a container for storing breast milk is related to other factors as well, such as the cost, the available storage space in the freeze or the refrigerator, the transportation method if you are collecting milk outside your home, the cleaning options etc. However, whatever you decide keep in mind how important it is to follow all hygiene rules while collecting the milk and the manufacturer's guidelines for safe transportation and storage.