How to Properly Store Breast Milk

milk in a bottleA nursing mother should always be educated on how to properly store her pumped breast milk; acquiring this knowledge will help in many aspects of her life as a nursing mother. A mother may need to store her breast milk for events like traveling, or when her child is in the care of others, or if she is going back to work, and any other time when she may need to be away from her child. There are a few essential ingredients to storing breast milk. Read on to find out what they are!

The first ingredient is cleanliness. It is very important that the mother’s hands are washed and dried well, before handling her breast milk. Everything else that comes into contact with the breast and the breast milk needs to be very clean as well.

The second ingredient is choosing what to store the breast milk in. A general rule of thumb to follow, when selecting a container to store breast milk in, is to use a size that is equivalent to how much your baby will eat at one feeding. This greatly reduces the risk of wasting breast milk.

Plastic bags made especially for storing breast milk are one option. Many breast pumps come with plastic bags to store the pumped breast milk. If additional bags are needed, or you don’t have any, many manufacturers make them. These bags are easy to freeze, and take up less space in a freezer or refrigerator. The disadvantage is that they can easily tear, or leak, and may be very hard to handle. The plastic bags are also more prone than other storage methods to becoming contaminated.

Reusable, hard plastic and glass bottles, or containers with a tight fitting and secure cap, are a great choice for moms to use as well. Most breast pumps come with attached containers, which are suitable to remove from the pump and then place in the refrigerator or freezer. These types of containers are easier to use, as well as sterilize. All containers should be sterilized before use, even if they are new.

How to sterilize a bottle/container properly

  1. Place bottles/containers in the dishwasher- the hot water, liquid, and heated drying will effectively sterilize the chosen container.
  2. Placing bottles/containers in boiling, hot water for five minutes, then set to dry on a dish rack.

The stored breast milk should be labeled and dated, to help avoid any confusion as to when it was stored, and if it is still okay to use. If a mother is sending stored milk to the hospital, the milk container should be labeled with the date, baby's name, parent's name, and room number. This will minimize the risk for any mix up. If you are sending the baby to childcare, or anywhere else, make sure the milk is labeled, dated, and named, along with any storage instructions.

The third essential ingredient is the temperature at which breast milk should be stored. It is okay to store breast milk in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. If you want to freeze the breast milk, it is best advised to do so immediately. Milk may be kept for 3 to 6 months in your standard freezer. In a deep freezer, your breast milk can be stored for up to 12 months, though 6 is preferable. Place the stored breast milk in the coldest part of your refrigerator or freezer (anywhere, besides the door, should be fine).

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When the mother, or whoever, is ready to use the frozen milk and feed it to the baby, there are some do's and don'ts to follow.

Do:

  • Thaw it in the container in which the breast milk was stored.
  • Thaw it in the refrigerator, or thaw it by running the container under warm tap water.

Don't:

  • Thaw the breast milk in the microwave; this can cause pockets of heat to form, which can burn the baby. Microwaving it also causes nutrients to be destroyed.

Thawed breast milk must be kept cold until fed to the baby. The milk must be used within 24 hours, and cannot be placed back in the freezer. The proper storage of breast milk is essential in keeping your baby healthy. Follow these tips, and you’ll be ready to go!

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How to Properly Store Breast Milk

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39 comments

  1. Profile photo of Dawn Dawn says:

    This information on storing breastmilk is not accurate and is not consistent with the protocol publishes by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. We.kellymom.com, http://www.llli.org, or http://www.breastfeedingusa,com I are so much better resources on breastfeeding than this.

    • Profile photo of Sara McTigue, CLCEditor Sara McTigue, CLC says:

      Hi there Dawn! We’ve added some extension on some of the dates, but our recommendations before and now are in accordance with the optimal timelines suggested by the ABM.
      Many of us are frequent users of the other websites you mentioned, as those are specialty breastfeeding-focused sites that will have the most detailed information specifically for nursing mothers. We have a much broader scope on our site, but do our best to provide mothers with relevant and reliable info to help with all their parenting questions and challenges. Thanks for reading!

    • Profile photo of Dawn Dawn says:

      http://Www.kellymom.com is another excellent resource

      They state 24-48 hours after thawed.
      Refrigerator up to 8 days
      freezer 3-6 months
      Deep Freezer 6-12 months.

  2. Profile photo of Lindsay Lindsay says:

    I have the Kiinde system for my pump and can’t wait to try the bags out. hopefully they are user friendly.

  3. Profile photo of Susan Susan says:

    Can you place the bag directly in the bottle or do you need to transfer it? I heard there is a 3 transfer rule.

  4. Profile photo of amanda amanda says:

    That was very helpful because I t hi u ghat it could only be stored for 24 hours

  5. Profile photo of Schazaura Schazaura says:

    This was really helpful! I want to breastfeed and I didn’t know how to store it! I’m so glad that I found this 🙂

  6. Profile photo of Hayley Hayley says:

    i love the bags the work well and they freeze well too ive never had an issue and they are easy to transport for instance when my mom needs more milk for my daughter when she watches her. love them

  7. Profile photo of amanda amanda says:

    we use the plastic bags and just use warm water to unthaw them.

  8. Profile photo of MrsPearson MrsPearson says:

    I love the bags i also got some tubes also but bags are great

  9. Profile photo of Jamie Jamie says:

    So helpful to have this great website 🙂

  10. Profile photo of carrie carrie says:

    The bags are great to store milk in… It makes it really easy to thaw

  11. Profile photo of ALEJANDRA ALEJANDRA says:

    THIS HELPS ME OUT A LOT!

  12. very helpful, thank you 🙂

  13. Profile photo of KaelinRae KaelinRae says:

    This is a great article 🙂

  14. Profile photo of RavenGrey RavenGrey says:

    I very much enjoy these articles and tips. They will all be so helpful when I have to go back to work.

  15. Profile photo of Marilyn Marilyn says:

    This is so helpful!

  16. Profile photo of allie_cat allie_cat says:

    very helpful and informative

  17. Profile photo of Sara Sara says:

    Storing breast milk will be very important and essential since I will be starting school roughly 2 weeks after delivery and I want to feed him as much breast milk as I possibly can before formula…

  18. Profile photo of emi285 emi285 says:

    The plastic bags have always worked best for us in the past, and now that little one is here that is what I am going to use again!

  19. Profile photo of Dina Dina says:

    This is very helpful. im glad i found this

  20. Very helpful info for a first time mom

  21. Profile photo of Ida Ida says:

    you should warm it up in a bowl of hot water

  22. Profile photo of Jeanetta Jeanetta says:

    This article is very helpful, I was going to store my breast milk in bags, I’m not sure I will now. This will be a go to article after my baby is born.

  23. Profile photo of MommyBeasley MommyBeasley says:

    this article just explained alot to me cuz i am a first time mommy. Thanks great article

  24. Profile photo of Mom2two12 Mom2two12 says:

    Great article, i will be reading it again when my daughter is born. Wish it would tell me how to warm up the breast milk. It just says don’t use the microwave. :0(

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