How to store breastmilk

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  • Store breastmilk either in a refrigerator or freezer based on when it will be used.

Once breastmilk has been pumped into a bag made especially for breastmilk or bottle, be sure to place the container in your cooler bag, refrigerator or freezer. Always allow some space in the container for the milk to expand if you plan to freeze your milk for later use.

Breastmilk storage times


Temperature Breastmilk Length of Storage
Room temperature
(16-29° c/ 60-85° f)
Freshly expressed. 3-4 hours is optimal.
6-8 hours is usually acceptable.
Refrigerator
(Less than 39° f)
Store in the back of the refrigerator for a more stable temperature. 72 hours is optimal.
5-8 days under very clean conditions.
Freezer
(0° f)
Frozen after a few days in the refrigerator / frozen right away. 6 months is optimal.
12 months acceptable.
(According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol #8 revision #1 March 2010)

Things to remember

  • Remember to always date the bags and use the oldest first.
  • Fill the containers with only 2 to 4 fl. oz. of milk to minimize waste when thawing.
  • Store breastmilk in the middle or back of the refrigerator or freezer, and not in the doors where temperatures may vary.

Thawing and warming breastmilk

  • Frozen milk is best thawed in the refrigerator the night before it will be used.
  • Frozen and refrigerated milk can be thawed under running warm (not hot) water or placed in a container of warm water for 20 to 30 minutes before a feeding.
  • Never add fresh breastmilk to refrigerated milk or frozen milk.
  • Gently rock the thawed milk to help mix the fat layer back into the rest of the milk.
  • Once milk is offered and exposed to baby’s saliva, any unconsumed milk should be discarded within 1 to 2 hours after a feeding begins.
  • Defrosted breastmilk is good for up to 24 hours if kept in the refrigerator under appropriate conditions.

Good to know

Never thaw breastmilk in a microwave. In addition to creating hot spots in the liquid that may burn your baby, the microwave may destroy some of the breastmilk’s nutrients.

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