Caring For Your Breast Milk

Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

Fresh Milk Frozen, Thawed in refrigerator Frozen, Brought to Room Temperature Thawed, Warmed, Fed
Room Temperature 8 hours(below 72°F, can be left up to 10 hours). 4 hours Finish feeding and discard. Do not refreeze. Finish feeding and discard. Do not refreeze.
Cooler with Frozen Ice Packs(59°F) 24 hours
Refrigerator(39°F) 8 days 24 hours 4 hours Finish feeding and discard. Do not refreeze.
Refrigerator Freezer( 0°F) 4 months Finish feeding and discard. Do not refreeze. Finish feeding and discard. Do not refreeze. Finish feeding and discard. Do not refreeze.
Freeze(0°F) 12 months Finish feeding and discard. Do not refreeze. Finish feeding and discard. Do not refreeze. Finish feeding and discard. Do not refreeze.

These guidelines may not be best for sick or premature babies

  • Make sure to always write the date on the container.
  • It is best to cool fresh breast milk in the refrigerator if you wish to add it to already frozen breast milk.
  • It is rare that your breast milk will ever spoil if it has been stored properly.  Your breastmilk may separate, with the fat rising to the top.  This is perfectly normal, as is a slightly bluish color.  In addition, some breast milk may smell soapy, this too is normal.

Breast Milk Storage Containers

There are various types of containers that can be used to store your breast milk.  Studies have shown that glass or hard plastic is better for the nutrients in the breast milk.

Choose containers that:

  • are glass or hard-sided plastic containers with well-fitting tops and BPA-free
  • plastic bags that have been specifically designed for expressed breast milk.

These special plastic bags are more heavy-duty, have special closures to prevent leakage and some can be attached to pump directly into the bag.

How to store the breast milk:

  • Store your breast milk in small portions (3 to 6 oz.), the amount your baby is likely to eat in a single feeding  to avoid waste.  Remember you cannot refreeze your thawed breast milk.
  • Leave about an inch of space at the top of your container for the breastmilk to expand.
  • Laying the containers down on the side will allow them to freeze thinner and will thaw much easier.
  • Placing all the containers of breastmilk in another larger container will allow for more protection, less leakage and more organization for dates.

Washing your breastmilk storage containers is not very difficult.  You do not need to sterilize, but use hot, soapy water.  Do not re-use disposable bags.  If you find that the bags are too expensive, just use a reusable container.  We are big fans of the Sensible Lines Milk Trays.

Warming Your Breast Milk

If your breast milk is still frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight or under warm running water until it has thawed out completely.  This may even warm your breast milk for your baby.

Your breastmilk may separate, with the fat rising to the top.  This is perfectly normal, as is a slightly bluish color.  In addition, some breast milk may smell soapy, this too is normal.  Once your milk is thawed or warmed just gently shake the bottle which should mix back together.

There are a few way to warm a bottle of breast milk, if it thawed:

  1.  You may just want to run the bottle under hot running water.

You do not want to microwave your breast milk because:

  • the microwave can cause various hot spots in the breast milk, which may lead to burning your baby’s mouth;
  • some of the nutrients in the breast milk may be destroyed as you microwave.
  1. You can use the microwave to heat up water.

Microwave a cup of water.  Once you take the cup of water out of the microwave, place the bottle of breastmilk into the cup of hot water and allow to sit for a few minutes.  Then take the bottle out of the water and gently shake.  This should warm your breast milk enough to be just right for your baby.

Also, make sure to never have your baby around or in your arms while working with hot liquids.

  1. Also, bottle warmers are a great choice to heat up your breast milk bottle.

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