Melissa Portunato MPH, IBCLC, RLC
Every breastfeeding journey is special and filled with love. For you, it might include occasional pumping or only pumping when at work. Others choose to exclusively express breastmilk around the clock. It’s all breastfeeding! No matter how often you express your milk, you always want to ensure your liquid gold is handled with care and stored properly. Following proper milk storage guidelines will guarantee your breastmilk continues to support your baby’s health, growth and development.
Read below frequently asked questions, tips and guidelines on breast milk storage.
Breastmilk Storage Guidelines
How long is breast milk really good for? Remember the RULE of 4! According to the CDC, breastmilk is optimal for 4 hours at room temp, 4 days in the fridge, and 4-6 months in the freezer. If you will be freezing your breastmilk, it’s best to freeze it right away. Refrigerated breast milk can be frozen within 4 days of expression.
Keep your breast milk cool when a refrigerator is not available. Transport refrigerated/frozen milk by placing breastmilk in an insulated bag or cooler with a frozen cold pack. Milk should be refrigerated or frozen within 24 hours.
Proper Storage Containers
Breastmilk should be stored in clean food-grade containers such as BPA-free plastic, glass, or silicone as well as disposable milk storage bags. Never use regular disposable kitchen bags or plastic inserts made for bottle feeding because freezing may cause these to leak and break down.
Looking for a quick and effective way to pump, store and feed your baby? Check out the new Spectra Simple Storage Kit! Keep your milk clean, safe, and always ready to use with this new line of Spectra Baby USA products that lets you pump, store, and feed all from the same bag. This innovative storage solution also features a temperature sensor to ensure that breastmilk is just the right temperature for feeding.
Fresh or Frozen? What’s Best?
All breastmilk is best! Fresh breastmilk contains the highest concentration of anti-infective properties, next in line refrigerated milk and then frozen milk. Give your baby freshly pumped milk whenever available. Fresh, frozen, and refrigerated milk can be combined. It’s best to mix breast milk at the same temperature to keep the immunological properties intact.
Breastmilk should never be microwaved because it can heat unevenly and hurt your baby. In addition, microwaving can destroy valuable bioactive components found only in human milk. Gentle thawing of breast milk is best to preserve the quality. Thawing can be done in the refrigerator overnight or placed in a bowl of warm water.
The Pitcher Method
The Pitcher Method is a popular method of collecting pumped milk from several pumping sessions throughout the day into one container and then using that milk to prepare the next day’s bottles. So easy to do, The Pitcher Method can save space and valuable time for breastfeeding families!
Learn more about The Pitcher Method here.
Cleaning Pump Parts
It’s recommended that you wash all your pumping parts (except tubing) after every use in a designated basin with warm soapy water. The CDC recommends, sanitizing parts once daily for extra germ removal. If you know you won’t have access to a sink, bring enough sets of pump parts to get you through the day. Placing pumping parts in the refrigerator in between uses is not recommended.
✔ Remember to start every pumping session by washing your hands for 20 seconds.
✔ Store breastmilk in 2-4 ounce increments to prevent milk from being wasted.
✔ If using breastmilk storage bags, squeeze the air from the top before sealing tightly.
✔ Freeze breastmilk bags flat to save space.
✔ Once frozen breastmilk is defrosted, it’s good to use within 24 hours and shouldn’t be refrozen.
✔ Use leftover breastmilk from a feeding within 2 hours of finishing.
✔ Warm breastmilk first, then gently shake. This technique will mix the fat which may have separated.
✔ Breastmilk can be given cool, warm or room temp to healthy full term babies.
For more information on breastmilk storage and preparation, download a printable sheet here to share with your family and caregivers.
Do you have a question about breastmilk storage? Email us at IBCLC@spectrababyusa.com! Our International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are happy to assist you along your breastfeeding journey.
Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk. (2020, January 22). Center For Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm
Heating Human Milk. La Leche League International. (2020, August 6). https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/heating-human-milk/.