If you’re using a breast pump you might be wondering about breastmilk storage. Here’s everything you need to know about storing freshly expressed breastmilk.
Breastmilk storage guidelines
You can save freshly expressed breastmilk for use at a later date. We’ve gathered current recommendations from the CDC – if your care provider has given alternative advice, you should always adhere to that. See the image below for the ideal storage duration of each location.
Store breastmilk in the refrigerator up to 8 days
You can store freshly expressed breastmilk in the refrigerator for up to 8 days – ideally, no more than 5 days. If you’re only expressing breastmilk at work, it’s fine to transport it home and keep it in the refrigerator for a couple days over the weekend. The enzymes in your breastmilk may start working during this time so you might notice a difference in taste or smell after a few days. This is generally fine, although your baby might not like the taste (does your breastmilk smell or taste soapy?). If you don’t use your breastmilk within a couple days, you should freeze it.
You can freeze breastmilk for up to 6 months – or longer!
In a regular freezer (-18-20°C / 0-4°F) you can store breastmilk for up to 6 months. If you’re working on building a freezer stash, we recommend freezing your milk storage bags flat, so you can store them more efficiently. If you haven’t used your milk in a few months, you should consider moving it to a deep freezer, if you have one, or donating it.
Keep breastmilk in a deep freezer for up to 1 year
A deep freezer (-20°C / -4°F or lower) can safely keep breastmilk for up to a year. For safe long term storage, you should plan on checking your freezer on a regular basis to make sure it’s in working order and power hasn’t been interrupted. This is especially important if your deep freezer is in a low-traffic area, such as a garage or basement. We’ve seen terrible stories of freezers accidentally getting unplugged and nobody noticing for over a week, ruining 100’s of ounces of milk!
Breastmilk is for more than just drinking. If you haven’t used your breastmilk in over a year, there are still great uses for breastmilk including breastmilk baths or wound care.
How to thaw breastmilk from the freezer
You should never thaw breast milk at room temperature. To safely thaw breastmilk, remove it from the freezer 24 hours ahead of time and place it in a clean, food safe container to thaw in the refrigerator (the container is important in case there are any leaks). You can also thaw by holding the container under a stream of warm water, or placing it in a bowl of warm water (refreshing the water as needed).
Never thaw breastmilk in the microwave as you risk melting the container, burning the milk, or worse – creating dangerous hot spots in the milk that can burn your baby!
You should used thawed breastmilk right away. Thawed breastmilk should not be refrozen, or stored in the refrigerator for more than 24 hours.
Store breastmilk in a cooler with ice up to 24 hours
You may wish to use a cooler with ice if you’re transporting breastmilk home from the office or travelling a short duration. You should plan on transferring the breastmilk from the cooler to a refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible.
Store breastmilk at room temperature up to 8 hours
You can keep breastmilk at room temperature (up to 77°F or 25°C) for up to 8 hours. If you’re expressing milk that you plan on using within the next couple of hours, pumping while travelling, or if you’re power pumping or cluster pumping, you can store it at room temperature for a few hours without worry. We recommend getting it into the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible. Of course if you live in a warmer climate you’ll want to refrigerate it sooner. If you haven’t used it within 8 hours, you should put it in the refrigerator or freeze it.