How to Properly Store Breastmilk – Our Guide

Storing breast milk is a confusing affair. As a mom, the last thing you want is for your baby to consume spoiled milk. You would want to feed them fresh milk as much as you can, but if you’re working or have other obligations you need to attend to, the best thing you can do is use a breast pump to prepare milk ahead of time. However, with pumping milk, you also have to ensure that the milk is stored correctly.

To help you prepare the best expressed milk for your baby, here are some of the best practices when it comes to storing milk:

Steps to proper breast milk storage:

  1. After you pump breast milk, the next thing step is to store it into a glass or plastic bottle, or a dedicated milk storage bag. What you choose ultimately boils down to preference. Some moms prefer bumping into bottles and pouring the milk into bags to freeze and store because they’re easy to label.
  2. When labeling the container, be sure to write the date clearly. This will help you ensure that the oldest milk is used first. If you’re entrusting the care of your baby to someone else, you would also want to write the name of your child on the bottle or bag.
  3. When storing milk, store it in increments of 1 to 4 ounces. Overfilling milk storage bags will only cause the container to leak, or worse break. This is because the milk expands as it freezes. When you store it in smaller amounts, you can reduce waste, especially if your baby isn’t interested in drinking more than a few ounces at a time.
  4. It’s normal to combine milk from different pumping sessions on the same day. Just be sure to thoroughly cool the milk before you combine them.

How long expressed milk will last depending on the storage:

  • 6 to 8 hours at room temperature
  • 24 hours in a cooler bag with ice packs
  • Five days in a refrigerator
  • Two weeks in a freezer compartment within a refrigerator or mini-fridge
  • 3 to 6 months in a freezer compartment
  • 6 to 12 months in a deep freezer
  • Should you notice that the chilled milk is starting to separate into layers, remember that it’s normal. Once it’s warmed, you can swirl the layers back together.
  • It’s also worth noting that the color of breastmilk can change depending on what you’re eating or drinking, so when you notice a change of color, don’t panic. 

Breast milk dos and don’ts according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • When thawing breastmilk, do it in a cup of warm water or under warm running water. Swirl it as it thaws to mix the layers.
  • Don’t put breastmilk or formula in the microwave as it destroys the nutrients. It can also produce hot spots that could harm your baby.
  • Use thawed breastmilk within 24 hours.
  • Never refreeze breastmilk after thawing.
  • Once the baby has drunk from a bottle, use the breastmilk within an hour. After the hour is up, dispose of the excess milk. While it can be wasteful, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Need advice on the best fridge to store breastmilk? Check out our resource page.

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