Whether you’re heading back to work or just looking to have bottles on hand, pumping is a great way to stock up on breast milk. But how should you go about storing breast milk? What container you use, where you place it, what temperature you keep it at and how long you store it can all impact how safe and nutritious your milk is for baby. Being smart about breast milk storage is no doubt a science—but don’t worry, we’ve made it easy. Read on to learn how best to preserve the fruits of your labor.
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines at a Glance
When storing breast milk, keeping it fresh is key. After all, your breast milk is like liquid gold. To properly store breast milk and protect it from spoiling, check out The Bump chart of breast milk storage guidelines, below, which explains the details of how to store breast milk, including how long and at what temperature.
Keep in mind that this guide, based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), should be used only for healthy, full-term infants. Talk to your pediatrician about storing breast milk for premature infants, since these babies have much more sensitive immune systems.
• On the counter: Do store breast milk in the coolest place you can find, away from direct sunlight. Don’t store breast milk for any amount of time at temps higher than 77º F due to the risk of bacteria growth.
• In a cooler bag: Do keep ice packs on the milk container at all times. Don’t open the cooler bag until you absolutely have to.
• In the fridge: Do store breast milk in the center of the fridge, as far back as possible. Don’t store it in the fridge door, where temperatures vary widely.
• In the freezer: Do store breast milk in the back of the freezer, where temperatures are more consistent. Do place it in sealed containers or breast milk storage bags, and always use the oldest milk first.
How to Store Breast Milk: The Details
When it comes to storing breast milk, remember this simple rule: Use the fridge for short-term breast milk storage and the freezer for long-term storage. Breast milk will stay fresh for many months in the freezer, as long as it’s stored properly, but it won’t be as nutritious for baby as fresh milk, since freezing kills off some of the milk’s natural vitamins, including important antioxidants. Refrigerated breast milk retains its nutritional quality better than frozen (though it will spoil more quickly), and the only thing better is freshly pumped milk. Still, there are merits to storing breast milk in the freezer or the fridge. Read on for the 411 on freezing breast milk vs. storing breast milk in the fridge.
How to store breast milk in the fridge
If you’re planning to use your expressed milk pretty soon, keep it in the refrigerator so you don’t have to worry about thawing it. But how long can breast milk be stored in the fridge? The refrigerator should be thought of as a short-term breast milk storage solution: It’s best to use refrigerated breast milk within 24 hours, though properly stored milk can last as long as five days. Here’s the scoop on how to store breast milk in the fridge:
• Start with the right container. When storing breast milk, use a clean container, such as screw-cap bottles, hard plastic cups with tight caps or heavy-duty breast milk storage bags. “Ensure that the bags are not filled past the measurement indicator line, seal the bag tightly and place in a food storage container to keep it away from meats [and other uncooked foods to avoid contamination],” says Tamara Hawkins, FNP, RN, IBCLC, director of Stork & Cradle, a lactation consultancy in New York…