Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

DSCN1910Your milk is a living thing! It is rich in antibodies that are constantly killing off nasty bacteria. For that reason, it is very stable and remains nutritious and safe even after it’s been expressed.

You may find a wide spectrum of guidelines written about the safety of breast milk at various temperatures. It can be confusing to try to figure out which source is correct. Why is there so much variability? The simple answer is that research is conducted in controlled situations and different populations have different needs. For example, pumped milk will last longer in a refrigerator that is never opened. A hospital environment with fragile, premature babies requires that milk be handled much more carefully than a home environment with a healthy baby.

What follows is a middle-of-the-road approach that considers the research as well as the less than perfect conditions that are found in our homes. The guidelines below assume that your baby full term and healthy.

Room temperature: 4 hours or until the next feeding. (No need to warm it up!)

Refrigerator: 5 days

Freezer: 3 months

Deep Freeze: 6 months

Whenever possible use fresh, refrigerated milk. Just as a freshly picked apple is more nutritious than an apple that’s been in cold storage for 3 months; your milk is most nutritious immediately after it’s been expressed. In addition, freezing destroys some of the live cells in your milk. So, if possible, store your precious milk in the fridge, leaving the frozen stash for emergencies.

See also: “Using Stored Breast Milk”

Are you having a hard time creating a system for storing your milk for your return to work?  I can help! Call or email for a personalized phone consultation.

3 thoughts on “Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

  1. Thank you so much for this valuable information. Could you also clarify how long the milk is good…

    1) after it’s been moved from freezer to fridge?
    2) after it’s been moved from fridge to room temp?
    2) after baby has drank from the bottle but not finished the milk?

    Thank you!

    • Laurie, these are very good questions. I did not specifically address them because there is no research on those particular issues. But I can say that fresh milk in the fridge is fresh milk! But It has lost some of it’s live cells so probably not as stable as freshly expressed. Once frozen the milk has lost most antibacterial properties. Most sources say to use it w/in 24 hours once thawed.

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