Storing Breast Milk Safely

August is National Breastfeeding Month and storing breastmilk safely can be an essential practice for continuing to breastfeed. In this article, you’ll learn how long you can store breastmilk safely and the benefits of having stored breastmilk.

Pumping is a reliable and convenient tool for many parents. Busy moms, stay-at-home dads and daycares all rely on stored breast milk when nursing isn’t possible. When breast milk is stored safely it can be used to nourish your baby at a moment’s notice. Follow our guide below for best practices for storing breast milk.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to store breast milk safely and maximize freshness
  • How long you can store breast milk
  • The benefits of having stored breast milk

How to store breast milk

With washed hands inspect your pumping supplies and storage containers. Proper storage techniques can not prevent bacteria and germs from spoiling contaminated equipment.

There are three options for storing breast milk. You can leave it at room temperature, refrigerate or freeze. Before pumping determine how long the milk will be stored before feeding.

Only fill each bottle or container with enough milk for one meal. You can also fill 1-2oz containers for a quick meal, or to supplement regular feedings. Filling the bottle to the brim may cause a burst or overfill when freezing.

Always label your storage container with the date you pumped. If you are pumping for a caregiver with more than one nursing baby you can add the child's name as well.

How long will breast milk last at room temperature?

Breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to 6 hours before bacteria becomes harmful. If possible do not leave out for more than 4 hours in a room at or below 77 degrees. If the milk is near a heat source, in direct sunlight, or in a room 77 degrees or more it is best to refrigerate immediately.

Never freeze fresh milk if it has been out for more than 2 hours. It will not keep as long as fresh milk that is immediately frozen after pumping. If you do not have access to a fridge or freezer you can temporarily store in a cooler bag for up to 24 hours. Like all food products nutrients break down overtime, if the milk is still warm after several hours it may be best to discard it.

How long will breast milk last in the fridge?

A fridge at or below 40 degrees can store breast milk from 3-4 days. If it is closer to the three day mark you can move the milk to the freezer for future use. Put the milk in the back of the fridge to keep cold. Leaving in high exposure areas like fridge doors can lead to faster bacteria growth.

Milk does not look the same after refrigeration with some milk taking on a bluish or orange hue. The fats in the milk can also separate creating a thick creamy layer on top of the milk. Shaking or stirring the milk is an easy remedy for separating.

If you detect a sour or rancid smell after four days you can dispose of the milk. In some cases there is a soapy smell which is not harmful. It is simply an enzyme, lipase which breaks down the fat in milk to release fatty acids. These fatty acids combat bacteria, and make stored milk safe to drink. If you notice a smell and/or separation do not freeze your refrigerated milk to extend its shelf life.

How long will breast milk last in the freezer?

A freezer that reaches 0 degrees can keep your breast milk fresh 3-5 months. Savvy parents suggest stacking milk storage bags in the backs of their fridge to save space. Materials such as glass or cheap plastic may shatter when milk expands, make sure you only store breast milk in containers specifically intended for such use.

Some deep freezers can keep milk fresh for up to 12 months. The keys to safely storing breast milk for a period longer than 5 months in a freezer are:

  • Choosing the right containers and handling them hygienically
  • Ensure your deep freezer can maintain a temperature of or below 0 degrees, keeping breast milk away from the door

Check out this video for more tips on proper freezer storage and thawing.

How to thaw breast milk

Thawing breast milk can be done at room temperature or in the refrigerator. At room temperature you can keep milk out for an additional 2 hours after thawing. If thawed in a fridge you can keep the milk refrigerated for 24 hours. Do not refreeze milk once it has come from the freezer.

Thawed milk may also look and smell different from freshly expressed milk. You can add freshly pumped milk to thawed or refrigerated milk. However, all of the milk should be considered as old as the batch the fresh milk was added to. In other words, if you have 2oz of fresh milk added to 2oz of thawed milk you can not keep it for 3-4 days. It should still be thrown away after 24 hours.

The Benefits of Pumping

Storing breast milk safely can be a life saver. Having a reliable supply in your own home, and knowing how to stock it is a major parenting advantage. Parents who choose to pump do so because they know how important food is to their baby’s health. Unfortunately breast milk alone can not protect your child from food allergies

Parents who pump love Ready. Set. Food! because of how easily it mixes into breast milk. Landmark clinical studies prove that babies have the best chance at prevention when peanut, egg and milk are introduced between 4 and 6 months.

With limited options available for safe allergen introduction for this age group, Ready. Set. Food! stands apart for its commitment in preventing food allergies in children.

The best storage method for breast milk depends on how soon you plan on using it. Ready. Set. Food! works with fresh, refrigerated and thawed breast milk, allowing parents to introduce peanut, egg and milk to your baby even if they are not yet eating solid foods.

You can start mixing Ready. Set. Food! into a bottle of breastmilk as early as 4 months of age. Introducing peanut, egg, and milk with Ready. Set. Food! can help reduce your baby's risk of allergies to these foods by up to 80%.

Learn more about how Ready. Set. Food! works for every family.

Introduce Allergens Safely and Easily with Ready. Set. Food!

All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.