How to store breast milk?

How to store breast milk?

Given the modern hectic lifestyle, the need to express and store breast milk has become a necessity. If you are a new mom, and especially a working mom, then you know breastfeeding is no less than a challenge. It may so happen that, many times when you are willing to feed, the baby might not be in a mood to be breastfed. To overcome this situation, many moms consider using a breast pump to express and store breast milk. Here is when the confusion arises. Moms often get confused about how to store breast milk and how long breast milk can be stored. Sharing the complete guide on how to store breast milk.

Why should I store breast milk?

Storing breast milk allows you to have it ready for your baby whenever you need it. It’s important to store breast milk properly so that it’s fresh and maintains its nutritional and anti-infective qualities. 

What kind of container should I use to store breast milk?

How to store breast milk is a widely asked question. Storing breast milk depends on how soon you want to use it. It can be stored at room temperature, in refrigerators and freezers, depending on the duration you want to store it. It is important to make sure that breast milk does not go bad or lose the health benefits that it provides. The best practice is to always put the date and time on the container in which you are going to store the milk. Labeling with time helps others to feed the baby when the mom is away, otherwise, they wouldn’t know which one to feed first. 

Can I add freshly breast milk to already stored milk?

Mixing freshly expressed breast milk with already cooled or frozen milk is not advised because it can rewarm the older stored breast milk. It is best to cool freshly expressed milk before combining it with older, previously cooled, or frozen milk. It is also important to consider storage duration guidelines for breast milk. For example, if combining cooled milk pumped on different days, the duration of storage should be based on when the older milk was first stored.

How long can breast milk be stored?

It is important to take care of the below points while storing the breast milk.

At room temperature

Freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to six hours. However, it’s optimal to use the breast milk within four hours, especially if the room is warm.


Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator for up to four days in clean conditions. However, it’s optimal to use or freeze the milk within three days.

Deep Freezer

Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of a deep freezer for up to 12 months. However, using the frozen milk within six months is optimal

Insulated Cooler

Pumped milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 1 day.

Here are some helpful guidelines for storing your breast milk safely

Type of container

There are two ways to store breast milk – bags or bottles. Most mothers specifically choose plastic or glass bottles, or sterile, sealable bags. Do not use ordinary plastic bags, or cow milk bags to store breast milk. There are special milk storage bags and baby bottles available to store breast milk. Just make sure that whatever container you use, it should be BPA-free and safe for storing food.

Quantity of milk for storage

It is recommended that mothers only store the amount of milk that they are going to need in one feeding session. Especially when you are freezing milk, it doesn’t make sense to thaw a large quantity of milk as you can’t refreeze breast milk once it has been thawed.

Freezing breast milk

Breast milk needs to be frozen as soon as it is expressed and stored at around -18 degrees Celsius. There are some bags for storing breast milk that are specially designed for freezing and can be stored flat.
If you want to opt for containers, then glass offers the best protection as it is the least absorbent. Do not fill your container to the top as breast milk tends to expand. This can cause the bottles to burst and the milk bags to tear. Never leave the breast milk uncovered. If you are using a bag to store breast milk, then close the seal completely. In case you are using a bottle, then use a one-piece screw or cap for the best seal. Store breast milk at the back of the refrigerator as this will minimize contact with the outside temperatures.

Thawing breast milk

To thaw frozen breast milk, the best way is to leave it in the refrigerator for 12 hours. This can be best done overnight. Always avoid leaving the breast milk out at room temperature to thaw. For faster thawing, you can place the frozen bag under hot water. Never refreeze milk that has already been thawed. It’s best to check the label and first use the oldest milk to thaw. This way you won’t be wasting any milk.

Signs breast milk has spoiled

Always smell the milk before feeding it to the baby. If the milk smells particularly bad, then avoid feeding it to the baby. Always make sure you label the milk storage bag so that it doesn’t go to waste.

How much milk should I store to meet my baby’s needs?

Consider storing 2 to 4 ounces of milk per container. This is the average amount of milk consumed in a single feeding. This amount is particularly good for babies less than 6 weeks old. Milk that’s stored in smaller sizes can be warmed quickly and may cut down the amount that would otherwise go unused and have to be thrown away.

Breast milk is healthier than baby food formulas. Storing breast milk will help you keep your milk supply up and will feed the baby even when you are not around.