Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
- August 7, 2012
- by Melissa Lawrence
This show is for all breastfeeding moms! Are you confused on how to store your breast milk for later after you’ve pumped? Is freezing breast milk safe? Keep watching my video for answers to these questions and many more!
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
Always remember that the first step to storing any kind of milk is to wash your hands! When your hands are dried off (with a clean cloth or towel, not paper towel!), take your freshly-pumped breast milk and pour it carefully into a breast milk storage bag. I hold the bag open with one hand and I pour carefully with the other – trying not to spill! And yes, I have cried over spilled milk (aka liquid gold!).
According to the AAP, once your milk is in the refrigerator, you have up to four days to use it. After the four days are up, you’ll need to discard it. Once your milk is taken out of the fridge, feed it to your baby within 4 to 8 hours. If you know you’ll be on a longer trip and out of the house, bring your bottles in an ice pack or cooler.
When freezing your breast milk, it’s a good idea to freeze as soon as you’re finished pumping. Fresh milk can stay in a freezer bag for up to a month, and in a deep freezer for up to three months! You’ll want to freeze this milk in easy-to-use quantities, such as 2 or 4 oz. or even 6 oz., depending on your baby’s needs.
When thawing breast milk, it’s most convenient to take the bottle out of the freezer the night before and stick it in the fridge when you know for sure that you will use the bottle within 24 hours. Don’t ever put a frozen milk storage bag in the microwave or a boiling pot of water.
For more breast milk storage guidelines, keep watching my video!
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines: How to Freeze and Thaw Pumped Milk
Breast milk is called “liquid gold” for a reason – once you’ve gone to the trouble to pump milk for your baby you want to make sure you’re saving every last drop properly! I’m going to walk you through the rules for refrigerating and freezing pumped milk, and tell you how to thaw and warm it safely to feed to your baby.
Breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer, and because it has antibacterial properties, it can also be left out at room temperature and fed to your baby within a few hours. However you save it, make sure to handle with care, or you really will be crying over spilled milk.
Handling Breast Milk:
- Wash your hands in hot soapy water
- Make sure the storage bag is flat on the bottom and cradle it in one hand
- Gently pour the milk into the bag
- Label the bag with the amount of milk and the date you pumped it, with a Sharpie or ball point pen
- IMPORTANT: Keep the oldest milk in the front of your refrigerator or freezer so you use it first
Here are the guidelines for how long you can store breast milk at different temperatures, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Storing Breast Milk at Room Temperature
- Safe to store 4-8 hours (4 hours to be on the safe side)
- Use an ice pack when traveling
Storing Breast Milk in the Refrigerator
- Safe to store up to 4 days
- Best to use within 1-2 days
Storing Breast Milk in the Freezer
- Freeze 4 or 6 oz. bags and some 2 oz. bags
- Freeze milk immediately after pumping
- Safe to store for 1 month in the freezer, or 3-6 months in a deep freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit
*The one month guideline in the freezer is the AAP’s recommendation and is the most conservative storage estimate. Using frozen milk within one month is the best way to ensure that it retains all of its anti-bacterial and immunological properties, but many lactation consultants and doctors will tell you the milk is safe in a conventional freezer for up to 3 months and in a deep freezer for 6-12 months. Either way, you should always smell the milk before serving it. You’ll know if it’s actually gone bad (it will smell like sour milk!).
Thawing and Warming Guidelines
From the Refrigerator:
- Take out milk to warm to room temperature or warm in a glass of warm water
From the Freezer:
- Defrost overnight in the refrigerator or thaw in warm water
IMPORTANT: Never thaw or heat breast milk in boiling water or in the microwave. It can cause hot spots and burn your baby’s mouth, and it also destroys some of those great immunological properties in the milk. You should also never shake a bottle of breast milk to mix it up, which can also break down some of those properties. You should gently swirl the bottle if the milk has separated (you will often see the high-fat hind milk or “cream” rise to the top).
What tips do you have for breast milk storage that you can share? Comment below!
Is it safe to combine refrigerated milk throughout the day, into one storage bag, then only freezing it at the end of the day?
after defrosting the stored breast milk and once it is at the room temperature.
Can we put it in microwave for 20 seconds so that milk becomes warm?
I think directly breastfed milk is slightly warmer due to our body temperature and the baby might like warm milk more.
am not sure about this just a thought!
NNNOOOOO! Breastmilk can NEVER from what I’ve learned be put in a microwave because the milk can get heated differently and have hot spots that are dangerous for the baby. You have to warm it in lukewarm water. M
I have two questions about breast milk. I read the breast milk storage guideline and it says freeze milk immediately after pumping. When I breast pump, I sometimes get 2 oz on the left and 3 oz on the right or less or more. I put two first bottles in the fridge and wait for the next breast milk. After I get other second bottles, I put them in the fridge to become cold. Then I mix the first and second bottles together to make 4 oz each. Then pour in the storage bag and put them in the freezer. Is it still good? Or I am supposed to put them in the freeze immediately after pumping?
Last, when I get the bottle out of the fridge, I shake it, but the breast milk guideline says I am not supposed to do that. I only need to gently swirl. How do I do that? Swirl by my hand or straw to swirl in the bottle?