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6 Steps for Safely Storing Breast Milk

Don’t let it go to waste! We outline the guidelines for how to safely store breast milk

We’ve all heard it time and again — when it comes to feeding baby, breast is best. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year, but when maternity leave comes to an end and you have to head back to work (or maybe just out for a baby-free date night), you’ll need to have some backup milk for your baby. Here’s what to know about pumping and storing breast milk safely.

1. Wash your hands.

Make sure your hands have been washed thoroughly with soap and water before handling or expressing breast milk.

2. Storage is important.

Make sure the container you use for storage is BPA-free and made from capped glass or hard plastic. It should also be completely clean. If you choose to use a breast milk storage bag, make sure it is kept in a hard storage container with a lid that seals tightly in order to prevent leaking or contamination. Avoid using generic plastic baggies or disposable bottle liners.

3. Label and date.

Once you’ve bottled your breast milk, label the container with the date the milk was expressed and store it in the back of your refrigerator where the temperature is coldest.

4. Think about portions.

Each container can be filled with the amount of milk your child will need for one feeding, but it is also a good idea to store some in 1-2 ounce increments for unpredictable situations. Keep in mind that as it freezes, breast milk will expand.

5. Same-day pumping.

If you pump more than once in the same day, you can add new milk to bottles that contain milk from earlier that day, but make sure to cool it first.

Keep these guidelines in mind when storing your breast milk safely:

  • Room temperature: 4 to 6 hours at 66 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cooler with frozen ice packs: 24 hours at 59 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Refrigerator: 3 to 8 days at 39 degrees Fahrenheit or lower
  • Freezer: 6 to 12 months at 0-4 degrees Fahrenheit or lower

When thawing breast milk, start with the oldest first. Put the frozen bottle in the refrigerator or place it in a bowl of warm water. Do not use a microwave or stove to heat the milk rapidly. It is recommended that you use the thawed milk within 24 hours to minimize any risk.

If you’re having trouble with breastfeeding, look into our breastfeeding classes at OhioHealth.