breast milk
Healthy Living

How to Safely Store and Prepare Breast Milk

Aug 22 2022

One of the great things about breastfeeding is that you can take time to pump your milk and save it for another day. You can use the extra to feed your baby via a bottle when you’re out in public, you can leave it for a babysitter or you can give your baby’s other loved ones a chance to feed your little one. The possibilities are endless.

But if you don’t store and prepare your breast milk properly, all that hard work will be for nothing. With that in mind, we put together a list of breast milk storage guidelines and tips on how to prepare it when your baby is hungry.  

How should you prepare to pump breast milk?

How you pump your breast milk actually has a lot to do with how safe it is to store it. You’ll want to ensure it stays as clean and pure as possible to prevent contamination.

Always start with clean hands, whether you’re using a breast pump or expressing your milk by hand. If you do use a pump, make sure all parts are properly cleaned.  

What should you store breast milk in?

What you store your breast milk in is also important. The best option is to use bags made just for storing breast milk. You can find these in most supermarkets and big box stores that sell baby supplies. You can also use glass or plastic food-grade containers. Just make sure they have a secure lid. However, you’ll want to make sure you don’t use plastic with the recycling number 7.

Make sure you label your breast milk containers clearly. Put the date the milk was pumped or expressed on the bag or container. You’ll also want to store it in increments of two or four ounces. This way, you won’t have to thaw more than you need and waste it for each feeding. 

How long can you store breast milk for?

Fresh breast milk can stay at room temperature for up to four hours. If you want to keep it in the fridge, you can usually keep it there safely for up to four days. Just don’t place it in the door as it can affect the temperature. 

When you freeze breast milk, it’s best to use it within six months. However, it’s usually OK to store it in a deep freezer for a year. If you’re going somewhere and want to take breast milk with you in a cooler, it will be good for one day with ice packs surrounding it. 

What is the best way to thaw frozen breast milk?

You can thaw breast milk two ways.

First, you can place the frozen container in the fridge and leave it there overnight but for no more than 24 hours. Second, you can use warm water to speed up the process. Some people choose to hold it under warm running water. Others like to place it in a bowl of warm water. Either way, make sure you don’t use hot or boiling water.
Also, never use a stove or microwave to thaw your breast milk. Make sure you test the milk before feeding it to your baby to make sure it’s not too hot or still slightly frozen.   

How long can you store frozen breast milk that has been thawed?

Thawed breast milk can never be re-frozen. If you leave it in the fridge, don’t do so for more than 24 hours. If you’ve fed your baby and have milk leftover, it might be good for about two more hours at room temperature, but after that you’ll want to throw it out.  

Learn more about the maternity care and lactation services we provide at Mercy Health.

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