Breast Milk Storage: Guidelines And Recommendations

How To Store Breast Milk at Room Temperature, In The Refrigerator, In The Freezer, In A Cooler.
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines. Image Source/Getty Images

Breast Milk Storage Guidelines And Recommendations 

This reference guide is meant to be used for the home storage of breast milk collected for a healthy, full-term infant. If your child is premature or hospitalized for an illness, these guidelines may not apply. Talk to your doctor or the hospital staff for more information.

How To Store Freshly Expressed Breast Milk

At Room Temperature (Up To 77 degrees F or 25 degrees C): 5 to 8 Hours

  • Place the top onto the collection bottle or seal the storage bag, and keep the container away from heat and out of the sun.
  • At temperatures greater than 77 degrees F (25 degrees C), it may not be safe to store your milk at room temperature. Place it immediately into the refrigerator instead.

In An Insulated Cooler: 24 Hours

  • Use frozen ice packs inside of the cooler to keep your breast milk cold.

In The Refrigerator (39 degrees F or 4 degrees C): Up to 5 Days

  • Place your breast milk at the back of the refrigerator where the air tends to be colder.

How To Store Frozen Breast Milk

At Room Temperature (Up To 77 degrees F or 25 degrees C): Never

  • Do not leave frozen breast milk out in room temperature to defrost. Defrost frozen milk in the refrigerator, in a bowl of warm water, or by running it under a warm faucet.

In An Insulated Cooler: A Few Hours

  • The amount of time that your milk can remain frozen in the cooler with the ice packs will depend on the temperature and the length of the trip.
  • If your milk begins to defrost, use it immediately or store it in the refrigerator (see below).

In The Refrigerator (39 degrees F or 4 degrees C): 24 Hours

  • You can defrost frozen breast milk in the refrigerator, or store it in the refrigerator once it is defrosted.
  • Do not refreeze defrosted milk, and use it within 24 hours.

In A Freezer Compartment Within A Refrigerator (5 degrees F or -15 degrees C): 2 Weeks

  • Place your milk in the back of the freezer compartment where it is colder.

In A Freezer Attached To A Refrigerator With Its Own Door (0 degrees F or -18 degrees C): Up To 6 Months

  • A standard top and bottom or side by side refrigerator/freezer unit can be used to store your breast milk for 3 to 6 months. Just don't store your milk on the freezer door. The temperature is not as consistent on the door as it is in the back of the unit.

In A Separate Upright or Chest Deep Freezer (-4 degrees F or -20 degrees C): Up To 1 Year

  • When not opened regularly, the deep stand alone freezer can keep your breast milk frozen for 6 to 12 months.

How To Store of Previously Frozen or Thawed Breast Milk (Not Warmed)

At Room Temperature (Up To 77 degrees F or 25 degrees C): Up To 4 Hours

  • If your breast milk has been defrosted in the refrigerator, but not yet warmed up, it can stay out at room temperature for up to 4 hours.

    In An Insulated Cooler: 24 Hours

    • Milk that has been defrosted in the refrigerator and not yet warmed up can be placed into an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours, as long as it remains chilled.

    In The Refrigerator (39 degrees F or 4 degrees C): 24 Hours

    In A Freezer (Any Type): Never

    • Do not refreeze defrosted or thawed breast milk

    How To Store Breast Milk That Has Been Thawed and Warmed 

    At Room Temperature (Up To 77 degrees F or 25 degrees C): Never

    • If your milk has been thawed out in warm water, do not leave it out at room temperature. Use it immediately or place it in the refrigerator (see below).

    In An Insulated Cooler: Never

    • Once your breast milk has been warmed up, do not place it into the cooler to store or transport. Use it immediately or place it into the refrigerator (see below).

    In The Refrigerator (39 degrees F or 4 degrees C): Up to 4 Hours

    • Thawed and warmed breast milk can be placed in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.

    In A Freezer (Any Type): Never

    • Do not refreeze breast milk once it has been defrosted.

    How To Store Breast Milk Left Over After A Feeding

    Storage (Any Type): Never

    • Do not store any breast milk that is left over after a feeding. If there is any breast milk remaining in the bottle once your baby has finished his feeding, throw it away.

    See Also:

    Sources:

    American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

    Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

    Riordan, J., Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2010.

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