Breast Milk Storage

Pumping and storing your breast milk can offer new moms like you a bit of freedom, relief and reassurance by knowing your baby will have a nutritious meal even when you are separated. Knowing the ins and outs of breast milk storage will help keep the milk sanitary and maintain the integrity of its nutrients.

Here’s what you need to know about breast milk storage:

Always wash your hands before pumping or storing breast milk.

After pumping your breast milk, store it in a glass or plastic bottle or a storage bag meant for human milk. Many pumps are compatible with adequate storage containers so you can pump directly into the container without having to transfer milk.

Breast Milk StorageLabel your breast milk storage container with the date it was pumped and the volume.

Breast milk can remain at room temperature for up to 6 hours, can stay in the refrigerator for 4-5 days, and can be frozen for 3-6 months (or up to 12 months in a deep freezer). If you have trouble keeping these storage lengths straight, just remember the number 5: 5 hours at room temp, 5 days in the fridge, 5 months in the freezer.

Refrigerated breast milk maintains more nutrients and antibodies than frozen breast milk so if you have the choice, use refrigerated milk first. It will go bad first anyways.

When using frozen breast milk, always use your oldest milk first. Develop a system to help keep your milk organized in your freezer. Some moms freeze their breast milk bags in “shingles” so they are easily stackable. You can also put the bags in larger storage bags dated by week or month.

Store breast milk in small amounts – usually 3 to 4 ounces per container. This will make it easier to use in one feeding without wasting any.

Never combine frozen breast milk with fresh breast milk, even to complete a bottle. Instead, serve them separately or pour the fresh milk in the bottle once the frozen milk is drunk.

To thaw frozen milk, run warm water over it until it is your desired temperature or let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Never microwave breast milk because it may produce “hot spots” that could scald your baby and microwaving zaps some of the nutrients from your milk. Also, do not thaw your breast milk by leaving it unrefrigerated.

Once milk has been thawed it should be used within 24 hours. Never refreeze breast milk.

Discard any remaining breast milk in a bottle that your baby drank from. The enzymes in her saliva can break down the nutrients in the breast milk and potentially introduce germs into the bottle.

Stored breast milk may look different from fresh breast milk. It is common for the fats to separate, leaving an “oil and vinegar” effect with the fat floating on the surface. Gently swish the bottle to re-blend the milk but do not shake it vigorously.

Frozen breast milk sometimes smells soapy from the fats. This is normal and doesn’t mean it has spoiled.

Frozen breast milk may also have a different color depending on the stage you were in when it was pumped, your diet and any medications you may have taken at the time.

If your baby will be drinking the milk at a day care facility or school, be sure to label each container with your baby’s name. Give caregivers thorough instructions on how to properly handle breast milk.

Sources: BabyCenter, What to Expect and CDC

 

Loving Moments believes moms should have the knowledge, resources and power to make the healthiest choices for their babies, starting with breastfeeding. In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month in August, we are sharing Breastfeeding Basics, our educational blog series that we hope will empower you with information, encouragement and inspiration to meet your breastfeeding goals.