Wondering what the best way is to store your breast milk? Whether you are exclusively pumping, have returned to work, express more than your baby eats each day, or would simply like to have a bit saved up for a date night or some Me time, it is important to follow proper breastmilk storage guidelines.
Storing Expressed Breast Milk
Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored at room temperature (up to 77 degrees F) for up to 4 hours before needing to refrigerated or frozen.
Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days before needing to be used or frozen.
Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in a freezer (0 degrees F/-18 degrees C) and is optimally used within six months, but can be frozen up to 12 months.
A cooler bag with ice packs may be used to keep freshly expressed breast milk cool for up to 24 hours, with ice packs being changed as needed.
Thawing and Warming Expressed Breast Milk
Once breast milk has been completely thawed (ice crystals are no longer present), it needs to be used with 24 hours. It can be refrigerated until you are ready to warm and feed.
The CDC and the USDA recommend that the safest way to thaw and warm breast milk is to use warm, flowing water (140F/60C or below). This can be done by sitting your pouch under a stream of running water, placing the pouch in a cup or bowl of warm water, or using a circulating style of breast milk/bottle warmer (we recommend our Kozii warmer).
Breast milk should never be steamed, boiled, or microwaved. Warming at high heats can destroy some of the nutrients in breast milk, as well as create hot spots which can scald your baby’s mouth.
Once breastmilk has been thawed and warmed, it should not be frozen again and should be used within the recommended guidelines.
Newest research from the American Academy of Breastfeeding medicine tells us that milk that has been warmed and fed to a baby is probably safe to use one more time, within 2 hours of the original feeding.
Feeding Expressed Breast Milk
Freshly expressed breastmilk can be fed to your baby right away. You can leave it at room temperature for up to 4 hours if the next feeding is within that time.
If you are not going to use the milk within a couple of hours, it is a good idea to immediately refrigerate or freeze it. This prevents the breast milk from being left out past the recommended time, or accidentally knocked over (sometimes you do cry over spilled milk, if it’s liquid gold!).
Handling of Expressed Breast Milk
Always wash your hands before expressing or handling expressed milk.
Before pumping, inspect your parts for any possible defects.
Always use a new breastmilk storage bag or clean food-grade containers, with tight-fitting lids made of glass or plastic. Most breastmilk storage bags are single-use only and should NOT be rinsed and re-used.
Your pump parts (flanges/breast shields and reusable collection containers) should be rinsed and washed after each pumping session. Check with your manufacturer for sterilization guidelines.
Always follow these breastmilk storage guidelines to protect your liquid gold! If you have any questions about expressing or storing your milk, please send us an email to [email protected] and your questions will be answered by our IBCLC.