Quick Tips for Safe Storage of Breast Milk

Pumping and Storing Breast Milk

A breast pump is a great tool for a nursing mother and her baby, especially a mother that is returning to work while breastfeeding. A breast pump allows you to express milk and store it for your baby to be fed by his or her caregiver while you are away. For you and your baby’s health, it is very important to understand how to use your breast pump correctly and how to safely store your breast milk.

For more information on using a breast pump and storing breast milk, attend a breastfeeding class at Missouri Baptist, or schedule a private, individualized lactation evaluation and consultation with a lactation consultant. These private consultations are available for a nominal fee. For more information, please call our Lactation Services at (314) 996-5747.

Using a Breast Pump

Breast milk is not sterile and its anti-infective properties hinder the growth of bacteria. Still, you do not want to introduce outside bacteria unnecessarily when getting ready to pump, during the actual pumping session or when storing or transporting your breast milk. To minimize the risk of infection, consider the following:

Storing Your Breast Milk

Glass or hard plastic containers are the best storage containers for breast milk, especially if it is to be frozen and stored for weeks or months. Special storage bags designed for storage of breast milk are available from some breast pump manufacturers. Freezing may cause the seams of disposable bags created for bottle feeding to split, but double-bagging may prevent this problem. If using bags, squeeze the air from the top before sealing tightly with a twist-tie or other clamp. Fasten the clamp at least one inch beyond milk level to allow for expansion with freezing. Place storage bags upright in another container or the milk will leak.

If you pumped both breasts at once and the amount of milk obtained will fill one bottle or bag no more than two-thirds full, you may combine the contents in a single container by carefully pouring the milk from one container into the other. Store only two to four ounces per container. It is easier to thaw a second container of milk than to watch your valuable milk be poured down the drain. Label each collection container with the date and any medications you have taken.

Health Considerations When Storing Breast Milk

The following guidelines are for healthy, term infants. Storage guidelines may be different for premature or high-risk infants. Consult your baby's doctor or a lactation consultant for specific instructions.

Fresh breast milk contains the most active anti-infective properties, followed by refrigerated and then frozen breast milk.

It is best to refrigerate fresh milk when it is not going to be used within 60 minutes. The refrigerator should be at a temperature of 32 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 4 degrees Celsius). Do not freeze breast milk for a high-risk baby when that milk has been refrigerated for more than 24 to 48 hours.

If refrigerated breast milk will not be given within one week, freeze it for later use. Breast milk can be frozen for:

  • Up to two weeks if the freezer compartment is within the refrigerator. (You must open the refrigerator door to reach the freezer with this model.)
  • Three to six months in a freezer that is part of a refrigerator unit but has a separate door.
  • Six to 12 months in a separate, -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius) "deep" freezer.

To keep milk cool when a refrigerator is not immediately available, or to transport refrigerated or frozen milk, place it in an insulated bag or cooler with a frozen cold pack.

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