Tips for Storing Breastmilk

By Carrie Bruno

February 20, 2019

Carrie is the founder of The Mama Coach. She is a RN, IBCLC lactation consultant, sleep consultant and mama of two little guys. She leads the North American team of Mama Coaches and is committed to making motherhood easier.

Baby is here and you’ve decided you’d like to start pumping to increase your supply or so that Dad can also feed babe with a bottle. Great idea! The first step to pumping is finding a breast pump you’re comfortable with. They range from inexpensive manual pumps to pricey electric double pumps. Once you have that figured out your next question might be “how do I properly store all this breastmilk?”

Preparation

It’s important to wash your hands before pumping and ensure all the pieces of your pump are clean before you use it each time. The containers you collect your breast milk in should also be clean. Be sure to follow your pump’s manufacturer instructions to properly clean your pump.  Collect the milk in glass or plastic bottles or special bags specifically intended to store breast milk. Never mix fresh milk with frozen or cold milk as it may cause bacteria to grow and could make your baby very sick. Always write the date you collected the milk on the container you stored it in. This is important because your milk is only safe to use for a specified amount of time, dependent on where it is stored.

Storing Breast Milk

Once you have expressed your milk, it is safe to use for 6 to 8 hours at room temperature when stored in a clean container. If you have collected more than you can use for the next feed you might want to store the excess in the fridge or freezer. You can store fresh breast milk in the fridge for up to 5 days, but ensure the fridge temperature is 4 degrees Celsius. If you’d like to freeze it, you have a few different options. When stored in a refrigerator freezer, the breast milk is good for 2 weeks. Make sure it isn’t stored in the door of the freezer and always place it near the back of the freezer if possible.

If your fridge has separate doors for the freezer and fridge it may be stored for 3-6 months. Breast milk may be stored the longest in a chest type freezer below -20 degrees Celsius. In this space it is good for 6-12 months.

Preparing Expressed Breast Milk for Baby

So now that you have properly labeled and stored your breast milk you want to use it! How do you safely do that when it’s frozen? Although the microwave may seem like the fastest and easiest way to thaw it, please don’t use it! It can create hot spots in the milk and possibly scald it and affect the quality. The best way to thaw your frozen breast milk is to simply place it in the fridge. If you need it quickly you can place it in a bowl of warm water, or run warm water over the container until it thaws. Try to only thaw what you need. Thawed breastmilk is good in the fridge for 24 hours and should not be refrozen.

BUT once baby has drank from the bottle, whatever is left should be thrown out. There isn’t much research out there to support reusing milk left in a bottle from a previous feeding. Pour the thawed milk into a clean bottle and use a clean nipple. From there you can use a bottle warmer to heat it to the temperature you would like. Make sure you don’t over heat it though! Always test the temperature on your wrist before feeding baby.

You might notice once it has thawed the milk has separated. This is normal because the fat floats to the top. Just gently shake the bottle to mix it up before feeding your baby.

 

Good luck with pumping Mama! Don’t forget to also give babe supplemental Vitamin D every day! But other than breast milk, that is all your baby needs to grow and thrive until 6 months of age when she is ready to start solids! Don’t hesitate to reach out to a Mama Coach in your area if you have more questions about breastfeeding, pumping or anything baby related. We are here to support you every step of the way! You got this Mama!

Share this Article