First, I should say that I struggled for weeks while pregnant trying to find a zero-waste storage solution for my breast milk once the baby came, and originally settled on a combination of silicone ice trays (to make frozen milk pucks) and glass tupperware.
That solution worked fine on while I was still on maternity leave, but there were two problems: 1; the storage was much bulkier and less space efficient in the freezer than bags would be; then, once I went back to work about a month and a half ago, the 2nd problem emerged: when pumping at work I couldn't freeze the milk in the trays to bring home, because I had no access to a freezer. As a result, I ended up getting a few junobie bags (which are silicone bags with sliders, which I would fill at work, store in a small travel mini fridge at my desk, and then bring home in a lunch box). But the junobie bags, as great as those are for everyday storage, were not ideal for traveling to and from work because depending on how they were carried in my lunch box they sometimes leaked-- probably because they are not designed to be tossed around in a bag on the way to and from work while full and in the company of other full milk bags (go figure *shrug*). Unfortunately, given my commuting situation there wasn't much I could do about the rough treatment they received. I needed a sturdier solution! So, after that no longer worked, I turned to mason jars-- that worked just fine, but was not ideal because carrying glass jars to and from work also has its own risks. In addition, the metal rims of the mason jars rust fairly easily with regular exposure to liquids.
FINALLY, I took to the internet one last time to look for a better idea, and found these! My first thought was, where the heck were these six months ago when I was planning for the baby??? Then I realized that they're actually brand new on the market. I ordered ten of these haakaa silicone bags right then and there, and it's been smooth sailing ever since.
Reasons why I love them: They stand upright so nicely when full. They also stand even when half full, so long as the other half is filled with air (i.e., don't squeeze the air out before putting the cap on, because that tends to make the bag fold over on itself). Their shape is fantastic for washing in the dishwasher because the bags will stay open when placed on a peg, and they are also great for drying on a bottle-drying rack upside down (although they may take a few hours to fully dry). I can fit a whole bunch of them in my microwave sterilizer at once, and they stand up in that as well (they stand up much better after the first time they are washed in the dishwasher, because the material gets 'ironed out' by the heat, if that makes sense). You can't necessarily wash them by hand unless you have a narrow bottle brush that can fit in through the opening. Speaking of the mouth of the bottles-- they are compatible with medela / spectra (any of the standard size small mouth pumps / bottles), which means if you have that kind of pump, you can pump directly into the bags!!! Game changer! I personally have an Ameda Mya, which does not fit these bags directly, but there are definitely adapters you can buy for ameda to pump into medela / spectra bottles, which should probably work (I have not purchased this yet-- will do so soon-- and may update this review once I've tried it to see how well it works).
Some additional tips for how to use these wonderful bags to their full potential:
1. TIPS TO AVOID MESS: These do NOT leak if the cap is plugged all the way in. REALLY. See my video and pics posted above for proof. I have used these for over a month and they have taken all manner of abuses. Here are my findings: So long as the cap is firmly pushed into the opening, they work just fine even if 1) they are full and you are carrying them around by the handle on the cap, 2) even if you were to swing the full bag round and round by the handle, 3) even if they are full and you pound them with a fist on the table with moderate force, and 4) (not pictured) even if they are stored in a lunch box on their side with another full haakaa bag on top and the box is tossed around (which happens on my commute at times). See the above video for proof of 1-3! I have tested it out with water both before using and for the purposes of this review, and was amazed by how hard I could shake these by the handle and have not a single drop leak. Despite this amazing resilience to rough treatment, I can take the cap off one handed-- yes, with just one hand, while filming on my iPhone with the other--using a fingernail and a table for support! (See the last test in the above video for proof of this point). Out of curiosity, I even tried squeezing the bag when it was full of air (I haven't tried this with water or milk) and the cap did not budge (although I did not put 100% of my strength into that test). With all of these tests, I'd like to point out that I only did them to explore the extremes of what the bag can handle, and I don't necessarily recommend doing these things on a regular basis with your precious milk inside! With all this being said, there is one thing to be aware of: When using these, the only real potential for a mess is if you mistakenly try to open these bags by pulling on the handle in order to pull off the cap. DO NOT do that. The cap handles are for hanging or carrying the bottles, and are NOT intended to be used to pull off the caps. (I think it even says as much in the instructions). If you try removing the cap with the handle, because the handle is very stretchy and the cap sealed well, it takes enormous force to even manage it, so that by the time the cap comes off the recoil will send the milk flying, even with a hand on the bag to hold it steady and even with the bag only half full. I was dumb and tried doing this anyway about a week into using these (I was in a rush) and milk went everywhere, LOL. First and LAST time I made that mistake. That also happens to be the only time I made a mess while using these.
2. TIPS FOR OPENING: when opening these when they contain milk, use your fingernail to pry the rim of the lid away from the rim of the bag's mouth, and slowly tug the lip up and off. It's super easy, doesn't take much pressure at all. It's really quite amazing how well the lid stays on given how easy it is to remove if needed.
3. TIPS FOR WASHING: Wash in the dishwasher on the top rack, and then leave them on a bottle drying rack to let them dry out completely, if that is important to you. Sometimes there is small bit of fat dust in the bag corners after going through the dishwasher, BUT this only happens if you forget to rinse out the bag after emptying, and the milk stays in the bag for a while before going through the wash. I find that even when there is a small amount of residue after washing, it rinses out well by filling the bags with a bit of scalding or boiling water, putting the cap on, and shaking it a whole bunch to let the fat dissolve. Then, pour out the water and it's squeaky clean. (I usually just let the sink get steaming hot, but if it's faster for your kitchen boiling a bit of water in the microwave or kettle would do the trick). However I find this really isn't necessary at all if you practice good bag hygiene, and rinse out the bags with warm water right after they are emptied. If you do that, there shouldn't be any residue after the dishwasher.
4. TIPS FOR FREEZING: Don't fill above the 240 ml line if you're going to freeze the bag. I do wish these had ounces marked in addition to ml, but in case you're not used to thinking in MLs, 240 mls is just over 8 ounces. My baby is 4 months old, and drinks 4 oz in a feeding, so I have to pump 12 ounces at work in order to pump enough for her to eat enough the next day at daycare. That usually means that I fill a bag and a half at work, sometimes a little more.
5. TIPS FOR DEFROSTING: I usually defrost these in the fridge. I would not recommend freezing them if you're just going to use the milk the next day, because it can take 10+ hours for a full bag to completely defrost, depending on the temperature of your fridge (mine tends to run cold). If I want the milk to be defrosted in the fridge, I usually move it to the fridge a minimum of twelve hours before it will be needed. Usually it defrosts top down. If you defrost these in a heater, it should fit in some bottle heaters but not necessarily all. It's approximately 3.5/4" wide at the base, I would say, although I haven't directly measured it.
6. HOW MANY CAN I KEEP IN A MINIFRIDGE? I can probably fit three or four of these babies in my mini fridge on my desk at work (and it is a truly mini fridge-- it's one of those travel fridges with a handle). If you have a larger mini fridge, you can fit a ton. Not even a problem, unless you share your fridge at work, in which case they fit really well on the door shelves and can easily be tucked into most spare spaces by leaving them on their sides. Again, so long as the caps are on correctly, there shouldn't be any leaking even if they are stored sideways. I wouldn't necessarily store them that way in the freezer, though.
I hope this review helps other people like me decide if these are the bags for you! Happy milk storing. I'd like to mention that I have NOT been paid to leave this review, and am not doing this as part of a promotion or anything. Just a very happy customer, guys!