How To Store Breast Milk

Pumping breast for milk

Ensuring the proper storage steps for your expressed breast milk is vital to your little one's nutritional needs. Improper collection and storage can cause both bacteria growth and the breast milk to lose nutrients. There are three phases to breast milk storage: Collecting, Storing and Feeding Preparation.

  1. Decide on a pump that best suites your lifestyle. A hand pump works well for light pumping, whereas an electric pump is best for heavy pumping or for working moms and those on the go.
  2. Before each use, wash and sterilize all breast pump parts that touch your breasts and breast milk.
  3. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  4. Use the pump according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  5. Feed your baby before you pump to ensure she gets the amount she needs first. One method is to feed on one side, then pump on the alternate side. You can extract whatever is left in your breasts after a normal feeding. Never pump just before a feeding.
  6. If you are working, try to pump at least three times a day to keep your supply up and to remain on schedule for nursing.
  7. Pump when you are relaxed and remain flexible. You will likely express more breast milk in the morning than any other time of day.
  8. Don't be alarmed if your breast milk is not white. This does not mean it is bad. Diet can affect the color and smell of breast milk.


  1. Find storage containers to fit your needs. If you are only storing expressed breast milk to use the following day, you can often store in glass or plastic bottles with tight lids. If you are collecting large amounts and storing breast milk in the freezer, storage bags made for breast milk are a good option as they take up less space and are less expensive than bottles.
  2. Date the storage container and indicate the amount stored. Once frozen, the breast milk will expand and it is difficult to know the amount unless labeled.
  3. Pour expressed milk into the bottles or bags. Store small amounts, such as 2-4 ounces, at a time. This helps to avoid wasted breast milk.
  4. Leave enough room for expansion.
  5. Push air out of the bags before freezing and seal tightly. If your bags are thin, consider doubling the bags to avoid puncturing.
  6. Cool freshly expressed milk before adding it to previously cooled milk. If you are pumping throughout the day to collect enough to freeze, store in separate containers in the refrigerator, then after it is cooled you can combine for freezing.
  7. Breast milk storage:

      • Room temperature - up to 10 hours
      • Refrigerated - up to 8 days
      • Freezer - 3 months
      • Deep freezer - 6 months

Feeding Preparation

  1. Use the oldest stored milk first.
  2. Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator overnight when you know it will be used the following day.
  3. To thaw frozen breast milk immediately, run under warm water or place in a bowl of warm water until defrosted. DO NOT use hot water as it can destroy the nutrients in the milk.
  4. If milk appears layered, swirl bottle to mix the layers. Fat separates and rises in the breast milk.
  5. Never use the microwave to defrost breast milk. Microwaving heats unevenly and can cause hot spots and can change the composition of the breast milk.
  6. Do not refreeze breast milk. Use defrosted milk within 24 hours.
  7. Immediately discard any unfinished milk.


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