Kate Tuttle, BS, IBCLC

Whether you are an exclusive pumping mom/parent, returning back to work or school or simply taking a night out for dinner with friends, safely storing breast milk is essential. Here are some pointers on storing your freshly expressed breast milk that will make the stress of leaving the baby feel more manageable. 

Freshly Expressed Breast Milk at Room Temperature

If you are only planning to leave the baby for a short amount of time or even have your partner give the baby a bottle so you can nap, you may not need to refrigerate your expressed milk. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that freshly expressed breast milk can be stored at room temperature for 4 hours so long as the room is 77 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler. This is super convenient for times when you are just taking a quick nap or running to the grocery store. Pumping and leaving out for the caregiver to give a bottle is so simple and takes away one less step of the feeding process. 

Using Breast Milk That Has Touched Baby’s Mouth

Some moms find it much easier to pump and give the baby the expressed milk immediately rather than leaving it out. It is important to remember that the CDC says milk that has touched a baby’s lips needs to be consumed within two hours of exposure. This will help decrease the chances of bacteria from their mouth colonizing in the milk. 

Storing Milk You Pumped in The Fridge

The most common pump and store method is refrigeration after pumping. This is usually done while the lactating mother is away for long stretches of time like work or school. Freshly expressed milk can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. This allows parents who only pump while away from their babies minimal steps when it comes to reusing. It is also easy for caregivers to prepare bottles for breastfed babies. The same guidelines are considered safe when taking frozen milk and putting it into the fridge. 

Freezing Your Breast Milk

Sometimes moms pump milk to be used at a different time that may be more than a few days away. For example, you may want to pump for an overnight trip that is not for a few months. You can pump your milk and store it in a freezer (fridge with a freezer size) for up to 6 months. The CDC also advises that breast milk stored in a deep freeze can be stored up to one year. 

What About Milk I Pump During the Same Day?

The CDC recently made an amendment to their storage guidelines. Milk collected in the same 24 hours can now be stored together, so long as the freshly expressed milk is cooled first. This will prevent previously cooled milk from being reheated.  It is helpful to split that collection up into smaller portions; about 2-3 oz increments. This will help decrease the waste of milk that is not consumed. 

An Important Note About Frozen Milk

It is never recommended to refreeze thawed milk. For instances of power outages or  freezer doors left open, any milk that still has ice crystals is still considered safe to use. To thaw breastmilk, leave it in the fridge or sit in a cup of lukewarm water. You can also run the bag under lukewarm water. 

For an updated list of milk storage guidelines, visit this link provided by the Centers For Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm 

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