November 06, 2009

Mission breastmilk: Accomplished, but not quite

How did my breastmilk mission go? Well, I managed to cart home 203oz of frozen breastmilk from halfway round the world, though not in optimal condition.

I thought I had it all figured out – I'd freeze my breastmilk at the hotel's freezer for the first part of my trip, and for the second part where I extended my stay for two days, I had booked a hotel which has a full refrigerator.

The hotel apartment with a bedroom, living room and a kitchenette

And I had my dry ice supply arranged for packing home the frozen breastmilk. I neglected one very important detail though - that is I'd be flying home on a Sunday. The dry ice supplier that the hotel contacted would only deliver on Friday as they don't work weekends but that would be two days earlier than my scheduled departure. I finally managed to find another supplier who would deliver on Saturday. Taking into account the time lag between delivery and my departure from Montreal, I ordered two bags of 12kg dry ice in the form of small pellets (for small quantities like this, all the suppliers only supply in small pellet form). I was hoping against hope that there would be enough dry ice left for me to pack on Sunday but alas, when I opened the bags on Sunday afternoon, almost all had sublimated, leaving only less than 1kg in each bag. The guy who delivered the dry ice had suggested putting them into the fridge but I read that it may shut off the fridge's thermostat due to the extreme cold so I dared not try, just in case I would cause the fridge to break down.

Nevertheless, I packed the frozen breastmilk tightly into my Fridge2Go bags, threw in whatever dry ice I had left, and added in extra layers of Techni Ice sheets on top, before covering them up with a towel to minimize air space. I wasn't optimistic that the milk would survive the 31 hours from the point of checking out to reaching home, but at that point, I could only hope for the best. I was really disappointed, and the thought of all the wasted effort and $$$ to buy the dry ice (they didn't come cheap – I paid CAD 57 including delivery and taxes) left me feeling down all the way back.

My expression schedule across three time zones - Malaysian, Amsterdam and Montreal times. Luckily my effort was not in vain.

The first thing when I got home was to check on the milk. There was no more dry ice left but the Techni Ice sheets were still frozen solid. Almost all the milk packets had started to thaw – some only slightly at the edges and felt soft to touch (not rock solid), while some had started to liquefy. The bags with liquid (about 70oz) were left to thaw in fridge completely. I kept about 45oz for Yan Yan's feed for the next two days, and gave about 25oz to mum to give to Xiaoyu (my 2-year old niece). I refreeze those that were thawing only at the edges as I don't have the heart to toss them all away. I sms this frequent traveler mummy, who assured me that it would be alright to refreeze them, as she had done so herself in the past. I also called up Dr. K, a lactation consultant and she said that as long as the milk packets were still cold, it was OK to refreeze. And so I did.

Here's my breastmilk tally:
Total stock in freezer/fridge before I left: 388oz
Balance stock in freezer when I returned: 146oz (so Yan Yan consumed about 242oz while I was away)
Carted home from Montreal: 204oz (refreeze 134oz, 70oz consumed by Yan Yan and Xiaoyu)
Total stock left in freezer: 280oz*
Discarded: 43oz (on flights to Montreal), 43oz (on flights back from Montreal)
So in fact, what I managed to express in total (290oz, including those discarded) was more than what Yan Yan consumed throughout my entire trip :-)
*There's more now as I'm still adding to the stock whenever my daily output exceeds the amount Yan Yan consumes :-)

On hindsight, these are some of my thoughts:
- if I had enough dry ice, I'm pretty sure everything will still be rock solid by the time I reached home. I should have stayed one more night in Montreal and leave on Monday, so that the dry ice could be delivered to me just in time for check-out. And if I did stay an extra day, I would even have time to make a side trip to Mont Tremblant, a famous ski resort in the Laurentian Mountains 1.5 hours from Montreal :-)
- I should have bought the styrofoam container that the guy brought along to store the dry ice. I declined coz it would have cost me another CAD 15. Had I bought the styrofoam container, probably the dry ice wouldn't have sublimated that rapidly.
- the dry ice was in the form of small pellets (smaller than ice cubes), hence the rate of sublimation was much swifter compared to dry ice blocks. Unfortunately for small quantities like this, all the suppliers I contacted only supplies in pellet form.
- I think the Fridge2Go bags probably helped to keep the milk frozen for longer. If I had used a normal cooler box, more could have thawed out.

Another valuable lesson learnt in my breastfeeding journey.


~LiLHypPo's mUMmy~ said...

I salute you Mummy!! So 'geng'...

Hui-Wearn said...

that's super great effort on your part.... if it were me..... i really would just decline to go. the things that we moms would do at great lengths to continue exclusive breastfeeding.....

BuffaFly said...

all I can say is WOW!!! I'm beyond impressed by your dedication and perseverance. And you certainly produce A LOT of milk!!! Can feed other ppl's kid some more.... I never ever had more than 60oz in my freezer. Just don't produce that much... Good job!!!

michelle@mybabybay said...

Wow tat's a lot of milk you brought back.

A Mom's Diary said...

LilHyppo's Mummy - haha, I'm expecting people to label me crazy.

HW - I could have chosen not to go and my boss wouldn't have minded but it was a really good conference which I didn't want to miss either. Hence gotta work harder a bit lor to bring home all the EBM.

Buffafly - I actually tried sneaking some into Yiu Yiu's formula but she didn't like it anymore, and said that bottle of milk was not nice :-) My niece took them without complaints..haha. The stock in my freezer would be useful as top-up as and when my production starts to drop, which I hope won't be so soon.

Michelle - yes, this time is the most I've brought home coz it was such a long trip.

HN said...

WOW! I salute you for taking so much effort in making sure your kid get sufficient breastmilk :)Bravo mommy!!!

SleeplessInKL said...

wow! you ARE amazing. so rajin one do pumping while away. and bring back some more! you should be a La Leche League spokesperson or something ;)

ryeli said...

respect! congrats although you didn't achieve what you wished for but trust me, your effort itself is an accomplishment.

kudos to you!

A Mom's Diary said...

HN/Syn - thanks, breastfeeding is one area I pursue with dogged, and stubborn determination :-)

Mimi - haha, LLL spokesperson? Let me try to offer myself ;-)

Angeleyes said...


I must go and 'pai-see' from you lar! I've no idea how to store breastmilk at all!

A Mom's Diary said...

Angeleyes - come come, and we can share notes on bf too :-) But since you will be with baby at home, it's sooo much easier to nurse her direct.

Chinneeq said...

is there anyway u can still get dry ice on the last day?

i was taught by a dr that using cheap styrofoam is actually the best way to keep bm cold. my neighbour who travels on the road all time on hot afternoon puts a styrofoam box in her car boot with lots of ice pack so she her milk can tahan under the hot sun.

anyway, u really did very great! Bravo to your effort.

A Mom's Diary said...

Chinnee - unfortunately none of the dry ice suppliers work on weekends.