Breastfeeding – and especially pumping – can be overwhelming at times. If you’re looking for the best way to store your milk safely, you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading to find out all of the CDC’s official guidelines regarding freshly expressed milk storage simplified to be more digestible for new moms.
Guidelines for Storing Your Breast Milk
Breast milk is a pretty amazing substance – and it is pretty resilient. I actually saw an Instagram post recently where a mom found breast milk in her diaper bag from eight years ago…and it looked like it did the day she pumped it.
However, that doesn’t mean you should just be willy nilly with your handling and storage! It’s important to take certain precautions to ensure your breast milk stays sterile and safe for your baby.
Here are three steps that do just that – along with a few tips for storage.
Be sure to signup for our “Demystifying Pumping and Milk Supply” class where we talk about all things related to pumping. It’s a must-take class that is available 24/7! It is also included in “The Complete Online Breastfeeding Class” which is great for anyone who is getting started with breastfeeding.
Step One: Sanitize
Before you begin the expression of milk it’s imperative that you take some precautionary efforts. But don’t worry, it’s not like you have to hop in the shower before you begin expressing your milk- washing your hands well with soap and water should do the trick 🙂 If you don’t have a sink handy, hand-sanitizer also works.
If you choose to express your milk with an electric pump rather than manually, make sure that the pump kit and tubing are clean. If you ever notice the tubes are moldy, replace them immediately.
Step Two: Storage Containers for the Expressed Milk
One of the most important parts of storing milk is having proper storage containers. Breast milk storage bags or food-grade containers are appropriate for the storage of freshly expressed milk. The CDC recommends that you avoid using bottles that have the recycle number 7 on them because that symbol means the plastic may contain BPA. It’s also important that you avoid storing breast milk in containers (including bottle liners) that are not made with the intent of storing milk. We want to make sure your beautiful baby is getting safely stored breast milk that you worked so hard on!
Step Three: Recommended Storage Time According to Temperatures
Now that you have your breast milk all bottled up safely in containers, you want to be sure to use it within a proper amount of time so it’s safe for your baby to consume! Room temperature breast milk will keep it’s quality for up to 4 hours and should not be consumed after that time. If you choose to refrigerate your breast milk it will keep for up to 4 days. Finally, if you choose to freeze your breast milk it is best to use within 6 months. However, frozen breast milk is still consumable for up to 12 months if need be.
It’s important to note that while freezing your breast milk will help it to last almost indefinitely, following these guidelines will help ensure your baby is getting the best quality milk possible!
Here are a few final tips to guarantee your breast milk storage goes smoothly!
- Label each individual container of stored milk with the date it was expressed to make sure it’s being consumed within the suggested time frame.
- Your breast milk expands when frozen! Try to leave about an inch of space at the top of the container so that you don’t have to deal with any of your containers popping open and being exposed in the freezer.
- Try storing your milk in 2-4 oz amounts so that when you need to thaw it you aren’t having any additional precious breast milk going to waste!
- Be aware of things such as high lipase breast milk if your baby is not interested in your stored milk. Try reading this article, about the topic if you’re having trouble!
- Avoid storing your milk in the door of the fridge or freezer because it’s temperature will fluctuate more as the door is frequently opened.
Here are some more helpful articles regarding breastfeeding and pumping, check them out!
- 27 Common Breastfeeding Questions – and Answers!
- High Lipase Breast Milk: Why Your Breast Milk Tastes Gross (and What You Can Do)
- The Five Best Hands-Free Pumping Bras (For All Budgets!)
Katie Clark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.