How To Store Breast Milk Properly: A Guide For Pumping Moms

Breast pump and bottles

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Every breastfeeding or pumping mom needs to know how to store breast milk properly in order to ensure your hard work doesn’t go to waste. I mean breast milk is like liquid gold, right? 

Factors like where you store breast milk, the temperatures, what container you use, and how long you store it, can all have an impact on how your milk can stay fresh, nutritious and safe for your baby.

When you store breast milk, you can use containers like hard plastic or glass containers with leak-proof lids, BPA free containers, and breast milk storage bags.

The amount of breast milk you want to store should be the smallest amount of breast milk your baby would take. This is better than having too much and then wasting or throwing away leftover milk.

Babies 1 to 2 weeks old will usually have 2-3 ounces per feeding. Babies 1 to 6 months will have 3 to 5 ounces per feeding.

Related: How To Increase Your Milk Supply

When warming or defrosting breast milk, never use the microwave since this could cause hot spots that could burn your baby’s mouth or throat. Don’t use boiling water to run over it or boil it in water. Instead, use warm or hot water in a cup and place the milk on it.

Give the milk a gentle swirl in order to check the temperature and evenly distribute it since it could separate into a thick layer and a more watery layer at the bottom. Avoid shaking the milk.

Test it the milk before giving it to your baby to make sure that it isn’t too hot. Breast milk should only be warmed once in order to prevent the risk of bacteria growth.

Here are some guidelines to store breastmilk:

For fresh breast milk:

  • Storing for up to 6 hours – Room temperature (countertop) at about 66 degrees Fahrenheit to 72 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Storing up to 24 hours – in insulated cooler bag up to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Limit the opening of the bag.
  • Storing for up to 8 days – In the refrigerator (32 degrees Fahrenheit to 39 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Storing 4 to 6 months – In a refrigerator style freezer (0 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Storing for 12 months – In a deep freezer (less than -4 degrees Fahrenheit )

For thawed breast milk:

  • Store in room temperature for 1 hour
  • Store in refrigerator for up to 24 hours
  • Do not refreeze

How To Store Breast milk Bonus Tips:

1. Don’t fill the storage container or bag all the way up to the top since milk will expand so leave a little room. Don’t go past the indicator line in the bag and seal tightly.

These breast milk storage bags are my favorite! 

2. Store breast milk on a countertop in the coolest place, without direct sunlight.

3. When storing frozen or non-frozen milk in the refrigerator, make sure to put it at the center or back of the fridge, which is the coldest area of the fridge. Don’t put it in the door since this could cause the milk to defrost every time you open and close the door due to the fluctuating temperatures. This could lead to the milk going bad.

4. Store milk bags flat in the freezer. You can also place something hard under them like a cardboard so that they will really stay flat. Once they are frozen, you can also put it on a container stacking them vertically. You can use a soda container for instance. Storing it this way in a container can take up less space.

5. Write the date on the package as well as the ounces using a non-toxic marker or sticky label. Doing this will make things a lot easier for you.

6. When you store breast milk at work, make sure you label it with your name.

7. Storing milk in bottles isn’t ideal because they are expensive, takes up space, and will also be hard to thaw later on as it will be frozen like a brick.

8. Don’t use thin disposable feeding bottle liners or plastic sandwich bags because it could split open when frozen or easily leak and spill – use these instead!

9. You can add freshly expressed milk to stored milk, just put the fresh milk in the refrigerator first before adding it to the stored one.

10. If your thawed milk has a soapy odor, it doesn’t mean it is spoiled. It could mean that your milk is high in lipase, which is an enzyme that digests fat. When you thaw the milk, it could release this kind of smell. This is safe for your baby to drink but at times, your baby could reject it. You can get rid of this by scalding the milk first prior to freezing it. Heat the milk in the pot until bubbles form at the edge. You can then cool it then freeze it.

11. Always use the oldest milk first.

12. If you have a premature baby, always check with your pediatrician for storage guidelines since your baby could have a more sensitive immune system.

If you are thinking about storing your breast milk, planning is key. Try out these tips and tricks in order to ensure that you are always keeping the best milk for your baby.

Social media graphic of mom looking down at baby with bottle with text the right way to store breast milk  Social media graphic of breast pump and bottles with text how to store breast milk a guide for pumping moms

Social media graphic of woman giving baby a bottle and breast pump with text a pumping moms guide for safely storing breast milk

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