How to Collect Breast Milk To Be Frozen

How to collect breast milk to be frozen. Freezing and storing breast milk.
Breast milk can be collected, frozen, and stored.. Ceneri/E+/Getty Images

At some point during your breastfeeding experience, you may need to, or want to, pump or express your breast milk. If you are not going to use the milk right away, you can store it to use in the future. When properly collected and stored, expressed breast milk can be frozen for 6 months or even longer.

Reasons You May Express Your Breast Milk

  • To provide breast milk to your baby when you cannot be with him or her.
     
  • You are returning to work or school, but you would like your baby to continue to receive your breast milk. 
     
  • You want to create a supply of breast milk to use when you are no longer breastfeeding.

How To Collect Breast Milk To Be Frozen 

If you are pumping breast milk for a premature baby or to donate to a milk bank, the collection and storage process may be more strict. You should always follow the guidelines given to you by the staff at the hospital or milk bank

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

  • Use a breast pump or hand express your breast milk into the storage container.
  • Do not fill your storage container to the top. Stop adding milk when the container is 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. Frozen breast expands, so it will need the extra room at the top.  A full container of breast milk can burst in your freezer.  
  • Once you put the desired amount of breast milk into the container, seal it with an airtight cap. Do not use a nipple from a baby bottle to seal a container that will be frozen.  
  • Label each bag or container with the date of collection.
  • Freeze your breast milk as soon as possible after you collect it. 
  • Place the storage container in the back of the freezer where it's the coldest.

How Long Can You Store Your 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 2 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.

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

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