Collecting & Storing Breast Milk

November 29, 2011

Storing breast milk is a great option no matter if you’re returning to work, exclusively pumping, or just looking to give other family members an opportunity to feed your little one. The benefits of breastfeeding are extensive, however it’s important that nursing mothers understand breast milk storage guidelines and safe handling instructions before they get started. So, use the information below as reference when giving your baby the best nutrition possible.

Breast Milk Storage Guidelines:

  • Room Temperature: up to 4 hours
  • Refrigerator: up to 3 days
  • Freezer: up to 6 months
  • Breast Milk Thawed in the Refrigerator:
    • At room temperature up to 2 hours
    • In the refrigerator up to 24 hours
    • Do not refreeze!

Safe Handling Instructions for Collecting and Storing Breast Milk:

  • Store breast milk in clean, BPA-free containers intended for breast milk storage.
  • It is normal for stored milk separates into layers with the cream at the top.  Gently swirl warmed bottles to mix the milk layers. Don’t shake.
  • You can continue to add small amounts of cooled breast milk to the same refrigerated container throughout the day.  Avoid adding warm milk to already cooled milk.
  • Pumped milk may be added to frozen milk provided it is first chilled and the quantity is less than what is frozen.
  • Store your milk in collection bottles or in disposable bags specifically designed for breast milk. Avoid using plastic bottle inserts.
  • Freeze milk in 2 to 5 ounce portions.  Small amounts will thaw more quickly.  You will also waste less milk this way and avoid over-feeding.  Liquids expand when frozen so be sure to leave some extra room at the top of the container so the bottle or bag won’t burst.
  • Seal containers tightly.  Write the date on a piece of tape on the bag or bottle.  You can also use Medela’s Labeling Lids for convenient organization.
  • Sometimes defrosted breast milk can have a soapy taste or odor.  This is due to a normally occurring enzyme, lipase, which helps to digest the fat content of the breast milk.  To avoid this from occurring, scald the breast milk (do not bring to a boil) on a stove until tiny bubbles appear along the sides of the pan; do this before it is frozen.  The scalding process will neutralize the enzyme preventing the soapy taste or smell.
  • Never microwave breast milk.  It causes hot spots that can burn your little one’s mouth.  Microwaving can also change the composition of breast milk.
  • Thaw milk overnight in the refrigerator, or hold the bottle under warm running water to quickly thaw.  You can also place the sealed container in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes to bring it to body temperature.

Note: These guidelines may differ if your baby was born premature. Check with your healthcare provider for specific breast milk guidelines for premature babies.

Do you have any tips for breast milk collection and storage? Share them in the comments below.

118 thoughts on “Collecting & Storing Breast Milk

  1. hi!do you really sell in bulk(without retail packaging) to yr authorized sellers/distributors?i’ve seen 2 mèdela bottles with fishy design, both with embossed logos/volume marks,one with normal medela bottle shape the other one is like spectra bottle shape.

  2. Pingback: Collecting & Storing Breastmilk « life, love and living with boys

  3. When freezing in bags: Lay bag flat in freezer to solidify then you can place into either a storage block or into zip lock gallon bags by the month or week of collection. It helps keep easy track of your milk and also collection dates for rotation. it is easier to stack those flat bags of milk and they thaw quicker for being thinner.

    With my first DD I would freeze Fridays milk and thaw frozen milk for Monday.

  4. Hi,

    I have a query. I have recently bought the Medela ice cooler bag with 4 bottles. I am planning ot go on vacation. My query is can I store the already refrigerated EBM in the Medela ice cooler bag and take the milk out for vacation. If yes then how long the milk will remain good. Once I will reach the destination then can I keep the milk back to refrigerator .

    So in Short I want to express the milk, store in refrigerator for few hours and then before starting my journey place the milk in the Medela cooler bag. Once reached destination put the milk in refrigerator. Please advise. Thanks

  5. Can you take milk out if fridge for a couple hours (room temp) and then return to fridge if not used or heated beyond room temp?

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