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How Long Can You Store Breastmilk?

How Long Can You Store Breastmilk?

Breastmilk is a valuable resource because of its life-giving properties. After all, a mother’s milk is supposed to be first source of nutrients that a baby receives once they are born. The adage “breastmilk is still best for babies” has gone beyond advertising copy, and it is encouraging how many mothers today prioritize breastfeeding for their baby. And as a mother and child’s breastfeeding journey progresses, expressing and storing breastmilk may become a viable option. How long can you store breastmilk?

How Long Can You Store Breastmilk?

Various factors affect how long you can store breastmilk. Among these factors are milk volume, the temperature when the milk was expressed, temperature fluctuations in the refrigerator and freezer, and cleanliness of the environment.

Room Temperature

For breastmilk that is 25oC (room temperature) or colder, freshly expressed or pumped milk can be stored for up to four hours. If it is previously frozen and thawed milk, it should be consumed in one to two hours.

In the Refrigerator

In the case of breastmilk in a refrigerator with a temperature of 4oC, four days is the maximum storage time. For thawed or previously frozen milk, the milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

In the Freezer

Finally, in the case of milk that has been stored in a freezer at a temperature of 18oC or colder, freshly pumped milk can be stored for six months, but it is still acceptable to consume it within 12 months. After breastmilk has been thawed, it should no longer be refrozen in a freezer.

If the baby has leftovers from a feeding, the milk must be consumed within two hours.

When storing breastmilk, use breastmilk storage bags which are made for freezing human milk. You can also use clean glass or hard BPA-free plastic bottles with tight-fitting lids. Avoid using containers with the recycle number 7, which may contain BPA. Do not use disposable bottle liners or other plastic bags to store breastmilk.

How To Thaw and Warm Breastmilk

When thawing breastmilk, always thaw the oldest breastmilk first. Remember that breastmilk does not need to be warmed. Some moms actually prefer to serve it at room temperature while other moms serve it cold. Thaw the bottle or bag of frozen milk by putting it in the refrigerator overnight.

If you decide to warm the breastmilk, remember to keep the container sealed while warming. And remember not to heat breast milk directly. Hold it under warm — not hot — running water, or set it in a container of warm water. Never put a bottle or bag of breastmilk in the microwave. Microwaving creates hot spots that can either burn your baby or damage the milk.

You can test the temperature of the milk before feeding it to your baby. This is done by dropping some milk on your wrist and testing if it feels warm. It should feel warm, not hot. Since the fat may have separated from the milk, swirl to mix, but do not shake the milk. Remember, do not refreeze breastmilk after thawing.

Best Way To Store Expressed Breastmilk

Labeling each container with the date the breastmilk was expressed is strongly advised. Using waterproof labels and ink when labeling. If you’re storing expressed milk at your baby’s child care facility, add your baby’s name to the label.

Place the containers in the back of the refrigerator or freezer, where the temperature is the coolest. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator or freezer, store the milk temporarily in a cooler with ice packs.

Key Takeaways

How long can you store breastmilk? It’s good to know that breastmilk can keep for a few hours or even longer, depending on how it is stored, refrigerated, or frozen. And that way, your baby can always have the goodness of breastmilk.

Learn more about Breastfeeding here.

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

Sources

Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk, https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm, Accessed December 16, 2021

Breast milk storage: Do’s and don’ts, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/breast-milk-storage/art-20046350, Accessed December 16, 2021

Pumping and storing breastmilk, https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/pumping-and-storing-breastmilk, Accessed December 16, 2021

Storage of breast milk: effect of temperature and storage duration on microbial growth,  https://europepmc.org/article/med/11320771t, Accessed December 16, 2021

The Storage of Breast Milk, https://alzahrahosp.tbzmed.ac.ir/Uploads/User/26/container%20of%20BM.pdf, Accessed December 16, 2021

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Written by Jason Inocencio Updated 2 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD