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Storing Breastmilk

Pamela Drynan RN, BScN

Storing breastmilk has important guidelines to follow to prevent contamination and protect the physiochemical and antibacterial properties of breastmilk.

Storage times

  • Room temperature: 3-4 hours
  • Cooler with a freezer pack: 24 hours
  • Fresh milk in refrigerator: 3-5 days
  • Thawed milk in refrigerator: 1 day
  • Freezer that is inside a refrigerator: 2 weeks
  • Refrigerator freezer (separate door): 3-6 months
  • Deep freezer (Chest or Upright): 6-12 months

Use clean glass or hard plastic containers that are BPA-free and have an airtight lid or use bags made specifically for storing breastmilk.

Storage Tips

  • Refrigerate or chill expressed breastmilk with 1 hour of expression if it is not going to be used within 6-8 hours
  • Always chill freshly expressed breastmilk before adding it to frozen breastmilk.
  • Place breastmilk at the back of the fridge or freezer where it is coldest.
  • When freezing, leave 1 inch space at the top of the storage container or breastmilk freezer bag because breastmilk will expand when frozen. If using a bag, remove as much air as possible from bag.
  • Label each container or bag with the date and time expressed. Add child’s name if being used outside the home.

Thawing Frozen Breastmilk

  • Check the date on the label to ensure it has not expired. Expired breastmilk must be discarded.
  • Place the container or bag in the refrigerator for 4-24 hours.
  • Place the container under running water or place in a bowl of water. Do not permit tap or water to touch the opening of the container.
  • Do not thaw breastmilk on the stove top or in microwave, as extreme heat could destroy vitamin C and antibodies in breastmilk.
  • Never refreeze thawed breastmilk.
  • Always shake the thawed breastmilk, as the breastmilk will have separated into layers.
  • Thawed breastmilk may have a different taste and smell.
  • Warmed breastmilk should be used within 1 hour of being warmed, and do not return to fridge after being warmed.

Did you Know?

Glass containers are the first choice for freezing as fewer antibodies are lost with glass than with plastic when freezing breastmilk.