10 Tips to Ensure Safe Breast Milk Storage
Breast milk is an amazing fluid, full of anti-bacterial properties. You can retain the health benefits when storing breast milk. Here’s how.
Note: These tips are for healthy full term babies. Please check with your healthcare provider for special instructions if you are storing milk for a premature or ill baby.
Be sure to wash your hands before hand expressing or pumping.
Choose storage containers made of glass or BPA free hard plastic. Plastic storage bags designed for breast milk can also be used.
Clean the hard-sided storage containers with hot soapy water and rinse well before using.
Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored for 4-6 hours at room temperature (16-29 degrees C) and for 4-8 days in the refrigerator (4 degrees C). Store expressed breast milk near the back of the refrigerator rather than on the door to keep it as cool as possible.
It is normal for the milk fat to separate and rise to the top of the milk. Mix it well before using.
Breast milk can be stored for 3-4 months in your refrigerator’s freezer (if the freezer has its own door). In a chest deep freeze, breast milk can be stored for up to 12 months. To keep the milk as cold as possible, store it at the bottom of a chest freezer or the back of a refrigerator freezer.
If your thawed breast milk has a soapy smell, it may be due to the breakdown of milk fats. This milk is not harmful, but your baby may not like the taste. Scalding your milk (heating until it just until bubbles form around the edges) then quickly cooling can deactivate the enzyme responsible. You can learn more in this article by KellyMom.
If you are regularly pumping, this tip will save some time! Rather than washing your pump kit every use, store the pieces that have touched your milk in a ziploc bag in the fridge between pumpings. Once a day, wash them with hot soapy water, rinse well, then sterilize by boiling for 5 minutes.
Leave about 1 inch of space in the storage container. Milk expands when it freezes. To waste less of your precious milk, freeze milk in small amounts and thaw only what you need.
Label your expressed milk with the date before storing. Try to use the oldest milk first.
- International Lactation Consultant Association (2014). Clinical Guidelines for the Establishment of Exclusive Breastfeeding. Raleigh: International Lactation Consultant Association
- Jones F. (2011) Best Practice for Expressing, Storing and Handling Human Milk in Hospital, Homes, and Child Care Settings. Fort Worth, TX: Human Milk Banking Association of North America Inc.
- Mohrbacher, N., Stock, J. & Newton, E. (2012 Update). The Breastfeeding Answer Book Schaumburg IL: La Leche League Intl.
More answers from Cindy & Jana: Answers to the Top 9 Questions about Bottling Breast Milk.
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.