Are you pumping your milk for your baby? Maybe you are heading out once in a while for an exercise class or a family member would like to help with the occasional feeding. Do you have low milk supply and are needing to increase it, or are having some breastfeeding challenges which are requiring supplements? Whatever your reason, knowing how to store your milk – liquid gold! – is important.
Wash your hands before expressing or handling breast milk.
- It’s best to store breast milk in glass or hard plastic bottles. Fewer antibodies are lost when freezing breast milk in glass bottles.
- For healthy term infants, containers should be washed in hot soapy water, rinsed in hot water and allowed to air dry then stored in a clean, covered container.
- Disposable plastic bottle liners are not designed for long-term storage of breast milk
- Individually sterilized breast milk freezer bags are designed to store breast milk for freezing
- Breast milk tends to lose some of its immune properties when stored in plastic bags which should not be a problem for a healthy baby who is getting only an occasional bottle of breast milk
Fresh breast milk
- Can be kept at room temperature (less than 25°C) for 6 to 8 hours
- Can be kept in the fridge for 5 days for healthy full term babies. Place breast milk at back of fridge where it is coldest.
- Freshly expressed breast milk, once cooled, can be added to the same bottle as breast milk expressed on the same day.
For a premature or hospitalized baby
- Use a sterile container
- Refrigerate milk within one hour after pumping
- Use or freeze the milk within 48 hours
Freezing breast milk
- Breast milk can be frozen in small amounts (2 to 4 oz/ 30 to 60 ml) and labelled with the date.
- Store in back of freezer on upper shelf in separate refrigerator freezer for 3 to 6 months (bottom shelf warms during defrost cycle)
- Keep up to 6 to 12 months in a deep freezer
Thawing breast milk
- Check the date on the container to make sure that it has not expired. Use the container with the earliest date first.
- Breast milk is best thawed under warm running water. Once frozen breast milk has come to room temperature, it must be used right away or discarded.
- Frozen breast milk can be thawed in the refrigerator and must be used within 24 hours of being taken from the freezer. Do not thaw breast milk at room temperature.
- Frozen breast milk separates into low and high fat layers. Gently swirl or shake to mix.
- Do not heat on the stove or in a microwave. There is a risk of mouth burns as well as loss of immune components. A bottle heated in a microwave may feel cool but can contain pockets of very hot liquid.
NOTE: Some babies do not like the taste of frozen milk, so always use fresh milk when possible.