Tips for Storing, Freezing, and Reusing Breast Milk
It’s essential to store your breast milk properly - Check out our advice and guidelines for the safe saving, storage, and reuse of your milk.
Many families rely on the storage of breast milk to supplement their little one’s diet, whether as a regular part of your daily routine or as a convenient option when nursing isn’t available or ideal. While breast milk storage and reuse is extremely practical, it’s essential to follow best practices that ensure your reused breast milk is fresh and safe for consumption. In an effort to help you offer your baby the safest and most nutrient-rich breast milk possible, we’ve compiled tips and guidelines to adhere to while storing or freezing extra breast milk at home.
CDC Guidelines for Storing and Reusing Breast Milk
As you get into a routine of pumping, feeding, and storing breast milk for your baby, it’s important to always follow CDC guidelines to ensure that the milk you’re feeding your baby is safe and chock-full of the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and other essential components that aid in your little one’s growth and development. These guidelines cover the full range of breast milk storage and feeding, including evidence-based directives for how to refrigerate breast milk and what to do when reusing breast milk. Some of the most important rules to remember from the CDC are noted below:
Freezing Breast Milk
Frozen breast milk is good for up to 6 months when frozen, which is more than enough time for most mothers to find a time to reuse it – whether it’s stored for when your little one is with another caretaker or it’s used creatively to make teething popsicles, baby cereal, or homemade purees.
However, once thawed, frozen milk should never be refrozen. If you’re concerned about wasting breast milk once it has been thawed, try initially freezing it in smaller amounts. This can help you avoid having to dispose of already-thawed breast milk that does not get finished.
Refrigerating Breast Milk
Freshly pumped milk can be stored in your refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 6 months. Previously frozen milk that is being thawed can be stored in your fridge for up to 1 day. This means that your thawed breast milk can safely remain in your refrigerator for a full 24 hours from the time it is thawed (or no longer frozen) – not the time that it was taken from the freezer.
Room Temperature Breast Milk Storage
Freshly pumped milk can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 hours, while previously frozen milk can be thawed at room temperature for up to 1 – 2 hours.
Additionally, leftover milk not finished from your baby’s bottle can be used for up to 2 hours after he or she has finished feeding. Used breast milk can become contaminated with bacteria from your little one’s mouth during their first feeding, which is why using the rest of it within your 2-hour window or disposing of the remainder – before any bacteria grows – is important.
How to Thaw Breast Milk
Per the CDC, there are three best practices for thawing your breast milk:
- Storing your frozen breast milk in the refrigerator overnight.
- Placing your frozen breast milk in a container of warm or lukewarm water.
- Placing your frozen breast milk under lukewarm running water.
When reusing breast milk, never thaw or heat it in your microwave. This can create hot spots in your milk that may burn your baby’s sensitive mouth. Microwaving may also destroy important nutrients in your breast milk before it even reaches your little one.
Additional Tips and Considerations for Storing and Reusing Breast Milk
Freeze Breast Milk as Quickly as Possible
To protect the quality of your breast milk and all its nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, freeze freshly pumped milk right away if you don’t think you’ll use it within 4 days. Clearly labeling your stored breast milk with the date it was pumped can help you remember to always use the oldest milk first while keeping your refrigerated and frozen supplies organized. This is also beneficial because the quality of your breast milk can decrease over time.
Start a Breastfeeding/Pumping Log
You may also wish to download a printable feeding and pumping log to help you record your baby's feedings and your pumping sessions. This way, you can stay as organized as possible during those early days and nights at home. Doing so can also help you remember which pumped milk to use or freeze so none of that precious liquid gold goes to waste.
How to Travel With Breast Milk
Your milk can be stored in an insulated cooler bag with ice packs for up to 24 hours if you are traveling or away from home. Once you arrive at your destination, be sure to use, refrigerate, or freeze it right away. If traveling or away for a longer period of time, there are solutions for shipping your breast milk that may ensure it gets to your baby sooner.
Though it may seem as though there are a lot of rules and guidelines for properly storing, freezing, and reusing breast milk, you’ll quickly ease into a routine that will soon become second nature. All that work is helping your baby receive the best possible nutrition right away in life, no matter how long you may choose to breast milk feed. A happy, healthy baby who continues to grow, develop, and thrive is what’s most important!
For more information, download our storage guidelines infographic - also available in Spanish - for a convenient printable resource that you can keep on hand, stick on your fridge, or store in your pump bag!