Breast Milk Storage Basics

Everything you need to know about how (and how long!) to store breast milk.

Breast Milk Storage Basics

Storing breast milk can be confusing! What's the best way to store it? For how long? What are the rules when it comes to using stored milk? Here is a quick breakdown, some helpful tips and a chart for easy reference: What to do Directly After Pumping:

  • After each pumping session, write the date on the storage container for easy organization in the freezer. If you’re giving the milk to a caregiver or day care provider, make sure to write your child's name as well.
  • Refrigerate or chill the container right after pumping. This can mean putting in a cooler bag with ice packs, straight into a fridge or into the freezer for later feedings.
What to Store Breast Milk in:
  • Breast milk can be safely stored in glass, hard plastic bottles, or polyethylene milk storage bags especially designed for storing human milk.
  • Breast milk storage bags are designed to protect the nutrients and anti-infective qualities of the milk.
  • Breast milk storage bags come in a variety of sizes so that when you are ready to use, you can thaw in appropriate amounts.
Where and How to Store your Breast milk:
  • When storing in the freezer or the refrigerator, it is best to store in the back and not on the doors, so it lessens the chance of warm air getting at the container.
  • It can be easiest to store milk in 2-4oz amounts so that you aren't forced to thaw large amounts of milk at a time, which hopefully lessens the chance of waste when you need it later.
  • Try to leave an inch or so from the top of the container to the milk as it will expand when freezing.
When and How to Use Stored Breast milk:
  • There are a few ways to thaw frozen breast milk: Running the container under warm water, letting it thaw in the refrigerator overnight or setting it in a container of warm water to thaw. Never microwave breast milk because there’s a risk you could create hot spots, which could burn your baby or possibly damage the milk.
  • It helps to organize the breast milk containers according to date, using the oldest breast milk first.
  • It's important to swirl the milk around in the bottle or container to mix it up and then test it on your wrist to make sure it is the proper temperature. Milk should never be too warm but can be as cool as you want. Some mothers prefer to serve their baby cooler milk so they don't have to heat it each time.
Guidelines when it comes to Storing Fresh Breast milk: Print this chart and post on your refrigerator for quick reference (especially on those tired eyes!). Happy Pumping!   Source: Lactation Consultant Melanie Venuti Original Illustration by Miranda Bruce.

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