Storing and Freezing Breastmilk

There are several guidelines that recommend slightly different times for storing and freezing breastmilk. It’s fine if you are close to, but not exactly on target with the schedules.

Stick this guideline on your refrigerator, include it in the diaper bag with your baby’s daily supply. That way, everyone who cares for your baby knows what to do. Here, also, is a handy chart from Kellymom that you can download and print.

When expressing and storing milk, always remember to:
• Wash your hands before expressing or pumping milk.
• Use clean containers, glass is preferable.
• If it’s plastic, check that it is BPA free.

Here are general guidelines for storing breast milk:
Freshly Expressed at Room Temperature 4-10 hours. (This varies depending on how clean and how warm the environment is.).
Refrigerator: 5-8 days.
Freezer: up to 6 months, even up to 12 months.

Before you store the milk, write the date on it. Then put it in the back of the freezer where it’s coldest.

Store small amounts, two to four ounces at a time. That thaws more quickly and you’ll have fewer leftovers. Some  women use ice cube trays to make handy little ingots of breast milk.

To warm milk, leave it at room temperature or put it in a bowl of warm water. A microwave’s uneven heating creates hot spots that can burn a baby’s mouth. Never use a microwave for breast milk or other baby food.

Once thawed and at room temperature, use it within an hour. Otherwise, store thawed milk in the refrigerator for another day (24 hours).

If it is partially thawed…. that is, there are still ice crystals in it, you can refreeze it. However, once it’s thawed, you can’t refreeze it. You do have to use the thawed milk…. or if you can’t use it, you have to discard it. Oh my, this is liquid gold…so it would be good to give it to your plants or a tree. That is some mighty compost.

To clean up breastmilk bottles, a simple wash in hot soapy water and a thorough rinse will do. There’s no need for a major sterilization of the bottles every time. If you have one, a dishwasher is fine. That’s better for glass bottles. The heat in dishwashers and microwaves degrades plastics and then they (the plastics) leech chemicals.

If you can’t clean the bottle right away, at least rinse it well and wipe it. Human breast milk does have active macrophages that eat up bacteria. However, in a few hours, it’s good to do a complete clean with soapy water and rinse.

Expressing milk is a useful skill. Cleaning the bottles can be an easy three step (soap, rinse, dry) habit.  You can simplify a routine and appreciate the effort you make to provide breast milk.

Centers for Disease Control
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine protocols.