Breast Milk Storage
A guideline on breast milk storage and how to prepare your stored breast milk.
If your babies are spending some time in the NICU or you’re having problems with breastfeeding, expressing your breast milk is an option. Most hospitals will have a place for you to refrigerate or freeze your milk until you need it while you are there. Talk this over with your hospital for their procedures.
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
- Wash your hands before pumping and handling your breast milk.
- Have your containers with seal-able tops ready, which have been sterilized. One option is to use special bags which made for storing breast milk.
- You can freeze or refrigerate your milk, you will need to label it with the date and time so you know which supply should be used first and which has expired.
Breast Milk Storage Tip: Try not to waste your breast milk. In each bag or container store enough for one feed, have some smaller amounts ready as well in case your baby starts feeding more, like they do during growth spurts.
How Long can you Store Breast Milk for?
This is a guide only as it really depends on each individual fridge and freezer and how well it works. A deep freezer for instances, would be more effective as it’s opened less often.
- In the Fridge: Keep the milk at the back of the fridge and most agree refrigerated breast milk can be stored for 4 – 8 days.
- In the Freezer: Only freeze milk you don’t plan on using in the next 4 – 8 days, also keeping it at the back. Breast milk can be stored for up to 4 months in the freezer. Something to note, freezing breast milk destroys some of the antibodies but in comparison to formula it’s still much healthier.
- Thawed Breast Milk: Milk which has been frozen then thawed in the fridge can be used within 24 hours. If you have thawed using a warm water bath then this milk must be used straight away or back to the fridge for a maximum of 4 hours.
- Partially Fed Milk: Discard milk that’s been partially eaten. If you have warmed a bottle up which has not been fed on at all, you can keep this in the fridge for up to 4 hours.
Breast Milk Storage Tip: Milk which has been frozen then thawed out cannot be refrozen.
How to Heat up Stored Breast Milk
You can thaw it in the refrigerator overnight or by swirling it in a warm water bath, be sure not to use hot water as it can destroy some of the benefits that breast milk provides. Using a microwave is a No-No, this can also be damaging to breast milk as well as the possibility of hot spots, which can scald a baby’s mouth.
Breast or bottle feeding for twins – whichever decision you take, read our indepth guide on Breastfeeding twins