Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
By Anhoni Patel
Like any fresh food, pumped breast milk needs to be stored properly or it can spoil. And the last thing a pumping mother wants to do is throw out precious liquid gold. Or, even worse, sicken her child with milk which has gone bad.
Here are some guidelines to keep your pumped milk safe for baby.
ROOM TEMPERATURE: You can leave freshly expressed breast milk out at room temperature for up to 4 hours. (66° - 78° Fahrenheit)
- Don’t store in direct sunlight or right next to something that may be warm (toaster, kettle, etc.). Be mindful of the room temperature as it can vary with the season and location. If it is 90-degree summer weather in a room with no cooling source, that room’s temperature is too warm for the milk to stay out for 4 hours!
REFRIGERATOR: Up to 4 days (make sure your refrigerator is set to 38° Fahrenheit or lower).
- Within this time, use the breast milk, transfer to the freezer or discard after 4 days.
- It’s best to store the breast milk towards the back of the refrigerator and in the middle, especially if the refrigerator is frequently opened. Store away from refrigerator’s light bulb.
FREEZER: 6-8 months (with the freezer set between 0°- 4° Fahrenheit).
- Note: there is a difference between an enclosed freezer unit - one where the freezer is a seperate section from the refrigerator with its own door - and one in which the freezer is built into the refrigerator, for example, a mini fridge. In cases of built-in freezers, breast milk is best kept for only 2 weeks as the milk cannot be kept at proper freezing temperatures.
DEEP FREEZER: 8-12 months (with the deep freezer set between 0° to -5° Fahrenheit)
- Also called chest freezers. They offer more insulation and, depending on your settings, cooler temperatures than a regular freezer.
- Most moms don’t need separate deep freezers. But if you are an exclusively pumping mother, or an active milk donor, these may be helpful.
COOLER: 24 hours (with at least 3 ice packs; kept at approx. 59° Fahrenheit)
- Good option for work and for traveling
- Hard-sided coolers with keep your milk cooler than soft-sided insulated cooler bags
- Make sure it is properly insulated and the ice packs are COLD
- The more you open and close the cooler the warmer it becomes
- THAWING MILK: You can transfer frozen milk to the refrigerator (it can take up to 24hrs to fully defrost). You can also either run the milk storage bags or bottles under warm water or place the bag/bottle in a mug of hot water. Do not use boiling water; it can melt the bags/bottle and affect the quality of the breast milk. Also - DO NOT MICROWAVE BREAST MILK. It can both break down the bags/bottles, unevenly heat the milk and affect the nutrients of the milk.
- Once frozen breast milk is thawed, you must use it within 24 hours or discard it. DO NOT REFREEZE.
- Freeze only the amount your child drinks in the breast milk storage bags or freezer-safe bottles. If your baby drinks 3oz, store 3oz. If your child drinks 5oz, store 5oz worth of milk. This way you only defrost what you need.
- Most bottles are safe for both refrigerator and freezer storage.
- Some popular breastmilk storage bags include:
Medela Pump and Save Breast Milk Bags
Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags
Kiinde Breast Milk Storage Pouches
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