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Breastmilk Storage: How To Store At Home

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 03, 2022

    Breastmilk Storage: How To Store At Home

    What’s the key to proper breastmilk storage? These are general recommendations for storing breast milk. The length of time that milk can be stored safely depends on a number of factors, including the quantity of milk being stored, the room temperature at which the milk is expressed, temperature fluctuations in the refrigerator and freezer, and the cleanliness of the environment. Transport factors must also be taken into account for donated milk and those coming from milk banks. 

    Breast Milk Storage: Recommendations

    The CDC advises using breast milk within two hours of bringing it to room temperature or warming it after keeping it in the freezer or refrigerator.

    Freshly expressed or pumped milk can be kept in the freezer for around six months, in the refrigerator for up to four days, or at room temperature (77°f or colder) for up to four hours.

    Expressed Breast Milk

    What are the best breastmilk storage tips for expressed milk? Mothers can express breast milk manually or with an electric or manual pump. If using a pump, check the pump kit and tubing to ensure it is clean. Discard and replace any moldy tubing right away. If using a shared pump, clean the pump dials, power switch, and countertop with a disinfectant wipe. Should you be using a pump that is not your own, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

    Use breast milk storage bags or clean, food-grade containers to store expressed breast milk. Ensure the containers are made of glass or BPA-free plastic and have tight-fitting lids. Stay away from bottles marked with the recycle symbol 7. Never store breast milk in plastic bags or disposable bottle liners that are not designed for the purpose.

    Milk that has just been expressed or pumped can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or at room temperature (77°f or lower) for up to 4 hours.

    How Long Can You Store Milk?

    Although food can be frozen practically indefinitely and still be safely stored for up to 12 months, it is essential to adhere to suggested storage times for maximum quality.

    Clearly mark the breast milk with the date it was expressed. Avoid storing it in the door of a refrigerator or freezer to prevent temperature changes caused by the door opening and closing, and immediately freeze freshly expressed breast milk if you don’t think you’ll use it within four days to preserve the quality of the milk.

    When freezing breast milk, leave about an inch of room at the top of the container since breast milk expands as it freezes. Store little amounts to prevent wasting milk that may not be used up. Store in 2 to 4 ounces or the amount supplied at one feeding. Talk to your childcare provider about any additional guidelines for labeling and storing breast milk, and clearly mark the container with the kid’s name if you are delivering breast milk to them.

    Breast Milk While Traveling

    What are the best breastmilk storage tips when you’re not at home? When traveling, breast milk can be kept for up to 24 hours in an insulated cooler with frozen ice packs. Once you get to your destination, you can either use the milk immediately or put it in the refrigerator or freezer.

    Always defrost the oldest breast milk first. Keep in mind that the quality of breast milk can deteriorate over time.

    Thawing Breast Milk

    You can thaw breast milk in a number of ways, such as by leaving it in the refrigerator overnight, putting it in a container with warm or lukewarm water, or running lukewarm water over it.

    Never thaw or heat breast milk in the microwave because doing so can destroy its nutrients and create hot spots that could burn a baby’s mouth.

    Breast milk should be used within two hours after being warmed or brought to room temperature.

    If you defrost breast milk in the refrigerator, start counting the 24 hours from the moment the milk is fully thawed, not from the moment you take it out of the freezer.

    Whenever breast milk has thawed, never refreeze it.

    Breast milk can be served cold or at room temperature; it does not need to be warmed.

    Here are some suggestions if you decide to reheat the breast milk:

    • Keep the container sealed, submerge it in warm water for a few minutes in a bowl or hold it under warm, but not hot, running water.
    • Do not heat breast milk on the stove or in the microwave.
    • Test the temperature of the milk by putting a few drops on your wrist.
    • Stir or swirl the milk to combine any fat that may have separated
    • If your infant didn’t drink the bottle, use the remaining milk within two hours of the feeding.
    • Remaining breast milk should be thrown away after two hours.

    Safety and Cleaning

    Breastmilk storage tip: To prevent contamination of your breast milk, thoroughly clean, sterilize, and preserve pump equipment, baby bottles, and other feeding supplies. See the CDC’s recommendations for proper cleaning and storage of pump equipment and baby feeding supplies.

    Key Takeaways

    Freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to six hours. However, it’s optimal to use or properly store the breast milk within four hours, especially if the room is warm. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to one day.

    Learn more about Breastfeeding here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 03, 2022

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