When breastfeeding and working or looking for more flexibility, you will probably consider using a breast pump. And once you start pumping, it’s important to know how to safely store your expressed milk. Storing your breast milk safely allows you to have milk on hand whenever your baby needs it.
You can store breast milk for months at a time by freezing it or for a few days in your fridge. Milk can be stored in glass containers, clear bag containers, bags mainly designed to store your milk.
What’s the best way to store pumped breast milk?
Ensure you label each container with waterproof ink with the date you first pumped the breast milk. If you take pumped milk to your baby’s child care facility, ensure you add your baby’s name to the label.
Place the milk containers in the back of the fridge or freezer, where the temperature is the coolest. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator or freezer, store the milk temporarily in an insulated cooler with ice packs.
Fill individual containers with the milk your baby will need for one feeding. You might start with 60 to 120 milliliters, and then adjust as needed. Also consider storing smaller portions 30 to 60 milliliters, for unexpected situations or delays in regular feedings. Breast milk expands as it freezes, so you don’t need to fill the containers to the brim.
Can I add freshly expressed breast milk to already stored milk?
You can add freshly expressed breast milk to refrigerated or frozen milk. However, make sure you thoroughly cool the freshly expressed breast milk in the refrigerator or a cooler with ice packs before adding it to previously chilled or frozen milk. Don’t add warm breast milk to frozen breast milk because it will cause the frozen milk to partially thaw.
How long does expressed breast milk last?
How long you can safely keep expressed breast milk depends on the storage method. Consider these general guidelines for healthy infants:
- Room temperature. Freshly expressed breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to six hours. However, it’s best to use or properly store the breast milk within four hours, especially if the room is warm.
- Insulated cooler. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to a day.
- Refrigerator. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator for up to four days in clean conditions. However, it’s best to use or freeze the milk within three days.
- Deep freezer. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of a deep freezer for up to 12 months, but using the frozen milk within six months is optimal.
Keep in mind that the longer you store breast milk, whether in the refrigerator or in the freezer, the greater the loss of vitamin C in the stored milk.
It’s also important to note that your breast milk always changes to meet your baby’s needs. Breast milk expressed when a baby is a newborn won’t completely meet the same baby’s needs when he or she is a few months older. Also, storage guidelines might differ for preterm, sick or hospitalized infants.
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