How to Store Breast Milk

Having enough breast milk is a big worry for moms. That’s why breast milk storage is important and has to be done properly. Whether you’re a new or experienced mom, your body goes through a lot of effort to produce that precious breast milk, so don’t waste it! These storage guidelines will teach you how to store breast milk in the best manner, and answer your questions about breast milk storage.

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How to store breast milk

how to store breast milk - whereWhere should I leave my breast milk?

When deciding what method of breast milk storage to go for, keep the following in mind:

  • If you’ll use the breast milk it in the next few hours: you can keep it out at room temperature
  • If you’ll use it in the next few days: putting it in the fridge will be your best choice
  • If you’ll use it within the next few weeks or months: freeze it

How long can breast milk sit out?

Breast milk can stay out at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours. If you pumped breast milk during the night, you can keep it out and put it in the fridge within this timeframe. However, you need to make sure the room isn’t warmer than 25°c/77°f.

how to store breast milk - fridgeHow long can you keep breast milk in the fridge?

3-4 days.

Store breast milk at the back of the fridge where it’s coldest. Don’t place it in the door and keep it away from meat, eggs, or uncooked food.

How long can you freeze breast milk?

Up to 6 months.

Freezing breast milk will make it lose some of its nutrients, but it’s still better for the baby than formula. Freezing breast milk is a great solution when you’re going back to work, when you want to keep extra milk in case of an emergency, or if you want to donate human milk.

Some moms think that 4fl oz./120ml of breast milk is the best quantity to freeze. Of course, this can vary depending on your baby’s age and your own preference. If you pump more than that, you can freeze 4 fl oz./120ml and store the rest in the fridge. Add more to what’s in the fridge from the next pump until you get the desired amount. Remember to write the date of the first pump, not the second, on the bag/container you freeze the milk in.

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How long goes breast milk last?

At room temperature In the refrigerator In the freezer
Fresh breast milk lasts for… 4 – 6 hours 3 – 4 days Up to 6 months
Defrosted breast milk lasts for… Up to 24 hours

Other Useful Tips

how to store breast milk - freezing tipsTips for freezing breast milk

  • Breast milk storage bags are a savior when it comes to freezing breast milk
  • Label each with the date it was pumped one of them and use the oldest ones first
  • Use bags with double zips for extra safety
  • Try to squeeze out all the air before you zip it closed
  • Freeze them horizontally for more storage space
  • If you freeze the storage bags flat between two cooking trays, they will be easier to store

When introducing solids to your baby, you can mix food with breast milk. Freeze very small amounts of milk in an ice cube tray with a lid. These small cubes defrost quickly and are ideal to mix into your baby’s food.

Tips for breast milk containers

  • You can use glass bottles, plastic bottles (BPA-free), and breast milk freezing bags
  • Label and date all your bottles and bags, and use up the oldest ones first
  • Always wash your hands before handling any container
  • If you choose glass, be careful with creating drastic temperature changes i.e. washing with very hot water to immediately fill it with very cold liquid. This will cause the glass to break.
  • When using storage bags, be aware of any tears
  • Use big zipped bags or long boxes for freezing your breast milk. If you use a bag, place it horizontally. If you use a box, place it vertically with the label face-up.

How long is breast milk good for at room temp?

4-6 hours.

This comes in handy when you’re pumping in the middle of the night and you might not want to leave the room. It’s also handy when you pumped away from home and need a couple of hours to get back.

how to store breast milk - warmHow do you warm up breast milk?

Some babies might like drinking cold milk straight from the fridge, while others like it warmed up. You can warm the milk by placing the sealed bottle or bag in a bowl of warm water.

Don’t be tempted to defrost or warm your breast milk in a microwave. This will heat it unevenly and it can burn some spots of the milk and can cause burns to you and your baby.

If you need the milk in a hurry, warm it under cool, then warm, running water. Then, dry the outside of the container before you open it. Use it straight away.

Another option is to use a bottle warmer. Try to get the one with a timer to prevent the milk overheating.

If your milk has been stored for some time, you may notice that it separates. This is normal, so just give it a gentle swirl to mix it up again.

How to defrost human milk?

Frozen breast milk should ideally be defrosted in the fridge overnight. It can also be defrosted in a jug surrounded by hot water.

However, once thawed milk can only be stored in the fridge for a maximum of 24 hours. You should also never refreeze breast milk once it has thawed.

how to store breast milk - freezingCan I put freshly pumped milk in the freezer?

Absolutely!

It’s recommended that if you want to freeze your milk, to do it as soon as possible after pumping.

  • Leave a gap at the top of each bottle or bag, as your milk will expand during freezing
  • If you’re storing milk in bags, watch out for any tears, you will notice them once you start to thaw the milk.
  • Remember that plastic bags tend to fall over when thawing, so try and keep it upright or thaw horizontally
  • You can add fresh breast milk to previously frozen milk, as long as the fresh milk is chilled for at least an hour first

How long does breast milk last after warming?

Ideally, it should be used right away. You can still leave it up to 4 hours in the fridge if, for any reason, you need to store it again. Don’t leave it out and never refreeze it!

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