Collecting Breast Milk To Be Frozen

Tips for Pumping and Freezer Storage

Breast milk in a storage bottle with a cap
Breast milk can be collected, frozen, and stored. Ceneri/E+/Getty Images

Why You May Need to Collect and Freeze Your Breast Milk

At some point during your breastfeeding experience, you may need to pump or express your breast milk. If you are not going to use it right away, you can store your breast milk to use in the future. When properly collected and stored, expressed breast milk can be frozen for six months or even longer.

Woman express their breast milk for many reasons.

You may need to collect and freeze your breast milk if:

  • You need to relieve the pain and swelling of breast engorgement.
  •  You want to slow down a forceful let-down reflex or a fast flow of breast milk. 
  • You would like to provide your baby with breast milk when you cannot be with him or her.
  • You have to return to work or school, but you would like your child to continue to receive your breast milk. 
  • You want to create a supply of breast milk to use when you're no longer breastfeeding.

How To Collect Breast Milk To Be Frozen

If you're pumping breast milk for a premature baby or to donate to a milk bank, the collection and storage process may be more strict. Ask the hospital staff or the representative at the milk bank for the proper collection and storage guidelines and follow them.

Here are the breast milk collection guidelines that you can use at home for your healthy, full-term baby.

#1. Wash Your Hands

Always wash your hands before expressing or handling your breast milk.

You want to try to protect your breast milk from contamination in every way possible.

#2. Use Clean Supplies

Again, to prevent any contamination, make sure your pumping equipment and your collection containers are clean and dry.

#3. Choose Your Collection Container

When you're planning to freeze your breast milk, be sure you choose a container that can withstand the freezing and thawing process.

Use a glass container, BPA-free (Bisphenol-A) plastic container, breast milk storage tray, or plastic storage bag made specifically for the collection and freezer storage of breast milk. You should not choose regular plastic sandwich bags which can leak and break, and you should avoid containers that are not meant for food storage.

#4. Express Your Breast Milk

Use a breast pump or a hand expression technique to remove the breast milk from your breasts and place it into your breast milk storage container.

#5. Don't Overfill Your Storage Container

When you plan on freezing your breast milk, you don't want to fill your storage container to the top. You should stop adding breast milk to the container when it's 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. Since breast milk expands when it's frozen, it needs the extra room at the top. If you fill the container to the brim with breast milk, it can burst in your freezer.

#6. Seal Your Storage Container 

Once you put the desired amount of breast milk into the container, seal it with the proper airtight zipper seal or cap. A bottle nipple cannot provide an airtight seal, so don't use a nipple when you're storing your bottles in the freezer. 

#7. Label Your Breast Milk 

After you seal your collection bag or container, write the date of the collection on it before you store it.

#8. Freeze Your Breast Milk

As soon as possible after you collect it, place your breast milk into the freezer. 

How Long Can You Store Frozen Breast Milk?

The type of freezer you have will determine how long you can store your frozen breast milk. 

A Freezer Compartment Within a Refrigerator: Breast milk can be stored in a freezer compartment inside a refrigerator for approximately two weeks.

A Freezer Attached To a Refrigerator With Its Own Door: Breast milk can be stored in a standard Side by Side, or Top and Bottom Refrigerator/Freezer Unit, for up to 6 months.

A Stand Alone Freezer: Breast milk can be stored in a deep freezer without a defrost cycle for up to one year.



Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. ABM clinical protocol# 8: Human milk storage information for home use for full-term infants. Original protocol March 2004; revision# 1 March 2010. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2010;5(3).

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 Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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