From labeling to refrigeration, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about storing milk safely and having it ready when your baby is hungry. Note: These guidelines are for healthy babies.
When storing your breastmilk, whether you put it into a glass or plastic bottle or into a milk storage bag is really just a matter of preference. Some moms like to pump into bottles, then pour the milk into bags to freeze and store because they’re easy to label. Whichever container you choose, follow these guidelines for safe breastmilk storage:
- Clearly label your container with the date. This will help ensure the oldest milk is used first (and it’s a lot easier to write on an empty bag). Also, if the milk is being taken to a childcare provider, you’ll want to go ahead and put your baby’s name on it.
- Once you’re ready, wash your hands and make sure your pumping space is clean.
- Store milk in increments of 1 to 4 ounces. Overfilling milk storage bags will cause the bag to leak or even break because the milk expands as it freezes. Storing smaller amounts also helps reduce waste if your baby isn’t interested in more than a few ounces at a time.
- Know that it’s OK to combine milk from different pumping sessions within the same day.
Here are some guidelines for how long your freshly expressed breastmilk will last depending on how you store it:
- 6 to 8 hours at room temperature
- 24 hours in a cooler bag with ice packs
- 5 days in a refrigerator
- 2 weeks in a freezer compartment within a refrigerator (like a mini-fridge)
- 3 to 6 months in a freezer compartment
- 6 to 12 months in a deep freezer
If you notice chilled or frozen milk is separating into layers, don’t worry. It’s normal. Once the milk is warmed, you can swirl the layers back together. Also, don’t panic if your milk varies in color. The color of breastmilk may change depending on what you’re eating or drinking.
When you’re storing breastmilk, there are some do’s and don’ts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends in order for expressed breastmilk to be completely healthy for your baby:
- Never put breastmilk or formula in the microwave because it destroys nutrients and creates hot spots that can burn your baby. Instead, thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator or in a cup of warm water.
- Swirl the milk as it thaws to mix the layers.
- Do not refreeze milk once you’ve thawed it.
- Use thawed milk within 24 hours.
- Once a baby has drunk from a bottle, use the milk within 1 hour. After the hour is up, dispose of the excess milk. No one wants to waste milk, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your baby’s health!