“How Long Does Breast Milk Last?”: Storage Guidelines & Recommendations for Breastfeeding Mothers

The proper way to store breastmilk

The early days of motherhood are overwhelming.

You’re always exhausted and sometimes you need a break to be able to just relax or catch up on some much needed sleep.

For breastfeeding mothers, getting the rest you need means you’ll have to turn the job of feeding your newborn over to somebody else. This means you’ll need to pump and store some extra breastmilk.

Knowing how to store your breastmilk correctly is important so your baby doesn’t get sick.

How To Properly Store Breast Milk

Before pumping breast milk, wash your hands and make sure all of the equipment you are using is properly sterilized (pump pieces, bottles, nipples, etc.). The easiest way to sterilize your equipment is to use hot soapy water. This should kill all the bacteria that could make your baby sick.

What Should I Store My Breastmilk In?

Breastmilk can be stored in hard-sided plastic or glass containers with tight-fitting tops, or plastic bags that are made for storing breastmilk.

Other Tips for Storing Breastmilk

  • When storing breast milk in bags, make sure you are extra careful because sometime bags can tear or puncture.
  • If freezing breastmilk, be sure you leave room at the top of the container or bag you’re using because breast milk will expand in the freezer.
  • Label the container you’re using with the date and also your baby’s name, especially if you will be sending the breast milk into daycare with him/her.

How Long Does Breastmilk Last?

  • Room Temperature. Under ideal conditions, breastmilk can be left in room temperature for 6 hours but it’s best to refrigerate/freeze it within 4 hours, especially if the room is warm.
  • Insulated Cooler. You can store breastmilk in an insulated cooler with ice for up to 1 day.
  • Refrigerator. Breastmilk is best if used within 3 days if stored in the refrigerator, but can be used for up to 5 days. Make sure to store your breastmilk at the back of the refrigerator where it’s coldest.
  • Freezer. Frozen breastmilk can be used for up to 12 months, but it’s best to use within 6 months. Store your breastmilk at the back of your freezer.

How Do I Thaw Breastmilk?

The easiest way to thaw breastmilk is to place it in the refrigerator overnight. You can also place it under warm running water or in a bowl with warm water.

Can Breast Milk Go Bad?

Yes, breastmilk can go bad. Bad breastmilk will smell bad, just like regular milk does. If in doubt, it’s best to throw it out.

For more detailed information on storing and handling breastmilk, see Le Leche League’s Guidelines for Storing Pumped Milk.

For more questions about breastfeeding, contact All About Women to talk to a medical professional – or visit our Knowledge Center to read articles like:

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