Any mom who is breastfeeding, or who has ever breastfed, knows that breast milk is liquid gold. Each drop counts, and understanding how to properly store breast milk is essential to ensure that none ever goes to waste.
Whether you are needing to store breast milk because you are returning to work, having someone else watch your baby for a while, or to let your partner feed your baby, you can express breast milk and store it for a later stage.
Expressed breast milk keeps most of its great benefits, and it is still better to give your baby than formula. However, you need to ensure that good hygiene and proper storage are practiced to ensure that the milk is safe to give to your baby.
How Long Can You Store Breast Milk?
Deciding which method you are going to use to store your breast milk will depend on how long you need to store it. Here are storage guidelines for freshly expressed breast milk:
Room temperature (16 °C to 25 °C) – Up to four hours to ensure the best quality of the breast milk and up to six hours for milk which is expressed under very clean and sanitized conditions.
Refrigerator (4 °C or colder) – Up to three days in the fridge for the best quality and up to five days for milk which has been expressed in very clean and sanitized conditions.
Freezer (-18 °C or colder) – Up to six months for best quality, and up to nine months for milk which has been expressed under very clean and sanitized conditions.
Previously frozen breast milk which has thawed in the fridge can be kept at room temperature for up to two hours, and must then be discarded. If not moved from the fridge, it can be kept there for up to 24 hours. Previously frozen breast milk must not be refrozen.
Tips For Storing Breast Milk In The Fridge
- Place breast milk in the fridge as soon as possible after expressing it.
- Store the breast milk in clean breast milk bottles or in storage bags which are BPA free.
- Small amounts of expressed milk can be added to breast milk in the fridge provided that the milk is cooled beforehand. Do not add room temperature milk to cooled milk.
- Store breast milk in the coldest section of the fridge, right at the back. This ensures it is kept at a consistent temperature. Avoid storing it in the door.
Tips For Storing Breast Milk In The Freezer
- Place breast milk in the freezer as soon as possible after expressing it.
- Expressed milk may be added to breast milk which has been frozen. The breast milk needs to be cooled in the fridge first.
- Store milk in small portions of around 60 ml to allow for minimal waste and easy storing.
- Check to see your breast milk storage bottles or containers can be used in the freezer. Breast milk storage bags are a good choice as they can be laid flat and take up little space.
- Don’t fill bottles or bags more than three-quarters full, as breast milk tends to expand during freezing.
- Store breast milk as far back in the freezer as you can to keep a low, constant temperature.
- Label each bag or bottle of breast milk and use the oldest breast milk first.
Transporting Breast Milk
If you need to transport your breast milk between work and home, use a cooler bag and ice packs. It is always a good idea to keep some ice packs in the freezer. You will always have some ready to use to safely travel with breast milk.