Important Breast Milk Storage Guidelines and Tips
Collect and store your breast milk safely with these tips.
Whether you're exclusively pumping, building a stash for when you return to work, or storing an extra bottle for baby to drink during late night feedings or the occasional date night out, it's important to keep in mind safe breast milk storage guidelines for your expressed breast milk.
Breast Milk Collection and Storage Guidelines
Remember to collect and store breast milk in clean containers specifically made for breast milk storage. Here's how long your liquid gold can be safely stored at different temperatures:
- Room temperature: up to 4 hours
- Refrigerator: up to 3 days
- Freezer: up to 6 months
Breast milk thawed in refrigerator:
If you thaw your frozen breast milk in the refrigerator, you can keep it there for up to 24 hours, or at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Once frozen breast milk is thawed, do not refreeze it. Download a copy of our breast milk storage guidelines - also available in Spanish! - for a convenient printable that can be placed on your fridge or kept on hand for easy reference whenever needed.
Note: Breast milk storage guidelines will differ if your baby was born early. Check with your healthcare provider on storage guidelines for premature infants.
Safe Handling for Pumped Breast Milk
- If you see that your stored breast milk has separated and there’s cream at the top, don’t worry – it’s normal for this to happen! Just gently swirl warmed bottles to mix the milk layers.
- You can add small amounts of cooled breast milk to the same refrigerated container during the day. Avoid adding warm milk to already cooled milk.
- Pumped milk may be added to frozen milk if it is first chilled, and the quantity is less than what is frozen.
- Thaw your frozen breast milk quicker by freezing in 2 to 5 ounce portions. Allow extra room at the top of your storage container, as liquids will expand when frozen. You don’t want to lose a drop of that liquid gold!
- Thaw frozen breast milk overnight in the refrigerator, or hold the bottle under warm running water.
- Don’t use the microwave to heat your breast milk – it can damage the composition of the milk and cause hot spots that could burn your little one’s mouth.
- You may notice sometimes that your defrosted breast milk may have a soapy taste or odor. This is caused by an enzyme called lipase, which helps digest the fat content of the breast milk. If this is bothersome to you or your baby, scald the breast milk before you freeze it. To scald, heat the breast milk on a stove top until tiny bubbles appear on the sides of the pan (do not boil).
Freshly Expressed Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
You’re doing a great thing by pumping and storing your breast milk for your little one. Following these breast milk storage guidelines will ensure that your hard work won’t go to waste.