Because what is in your breast milk changes as your baby
develops, it is best to use milk as soon as possible after pumping or
expressing it. Also, the antioxidant and other protective properties are most
important and beneficial to your baby when breast milk is fresh. The protective
components of breast milk decrease with refrigeration and freezing. But stored breast milk is the next best thing to fresh
breast milk as a complete and nutritious food source for your baby. Stored
breast milk is still better for your baby than formula.
milk can be stored and then used in the following ways:footnote 1
Kept at room temperature [60Â°F (16Â°C)] to [85Â°F (29Â°C)] for 3 to 4 hours. If the milk was collected under clean conditions, such as properly washed hands and properly cleaned pump parts and containers, milk may be kept at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours.
Kept fresh in a cooler with blue ice [59Â°F (15Â°C)] for 24 hours
Stored fresh in the refrigerator [39Â°F (4Â°C)] for up to 72 hours. If the milk was collected under clean conditions, it may be stored for 5 to 8 days.
Kept in a
refrigerator freezer [4Â°F (-15.6Â°C)] for up to 6 months
Safe storage tips
Follow these tips when you prepare breast milk for storage.
Be sure to wash your hands before pumping or handling milk that will be stored.
Storage containers should be clean and dry. They do not need to be sterile. Wash them in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher.
Plastic bottle liners or small ziplock bags can be used for storage, held
upright in cups. Be sure the bags are sturdy and stored in a place where they will not get punctured or damaged.
If you plan to freeze the milk, allow a little space at the top of the bag-the milk will expand when it freezes. It’s also important to put the date the milk was pumped on the outside of the bag. The date will help you know which milk to use first and when to get rid of milk you didn’t use.
Milk from both breasts expressed during the same session can
be combined in one container. It is best to use a container that holds enough
milk for one feeding. You are less likely to have to discard unused milk.
For the most consistent temperature control, store milk at the back of the refrigerator or freezer
When thawing or warming
breast milk, run warm water over the storage container (which may be a bottle
or a plastic bag) until the milk becomes slushy. You can then heat the
container gently in a pot of warm water on the stove until the milk is slightly
warm to the touch.
Frozen breast milk will separate because the fat floats to
the top. This separation is normal and does not mean that the milk has spoiled
or is otherwise unusable. After thawing breast milk, shake the container gently
and the fat will redistribute evenly.
Refreeze thawed milk.
(and then refrigerated) breast milk after 24 hours.
Use a microwave
oven for warming milk. Microwaves heat unevenly, creating hot spots that can
burn your baby’s mouth and throat.
There is very little research about how safe it is to refrigerate and reuse breast milk left over from a previous feeding. But many experts say it is best to throw away any breast milk left in the bottle after a feeding.
Other Places To Get Help
La Leche League International
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Women’s Health
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (2010). Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Healthy Full-Term Infants. New Rochelle, NY: Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD – Family Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerMary Robbins, RNC, IBCLC – Lactation Consultant