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As a first-time mom AND new mom that has been breastfeeding for 9 months now, I know how complicated things can get regarding breast milk storage guidelines and knowing what to do!
I researched left and right, site by site about what is the BEST way to store breast milk.
This included looking up signs to tell if the milk was bad, how long breast milk could stay out, how thawing worked, and more!
Before we go any further, you will need to make sure you have a GOOD quality set of milk storage bags & of course a reliable refrigerator or freezer!
The content in this post is NOT meant to replace medical advice.
First things first, if you don’t have time to read this entire post, make sure you have these 3 essential items when it comes to storing & preparing your milk & then watch this quick video below:
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
Time to break all these tips about storing your breast milk down so YOU can have the best information at hand!
Breastfeeding milk storage guidelines:
Many moms that choose to breastfeed use the method of pumping fresh breast milk or hand expressing their breast milk.
Either method is 100% ok! The key points you’ll want to be sure of when collecting via a pump is:
- Make sure ALL pump parts have been sterilized prior to first use. (as indicated on packing instructions)
- Some of the common brand breast pumps to learn how to sterilize are Spectra, Medela, and Lansinoh.
- Not necessary, but it will make life easier to have a soft, comfortable, and durable nursing/pump bra!
- After use, it’s recommended to wash your pump parts thoroughly (flange/shield, valves, membranes, and bottles).
- If you’re on the go, try using Medela’s Pump Wipes, they’re super handy!
- Make sure hands are ALWAYS clean when handling breast milk.
- A ‘normal’ pump session should last about 15-25mins, at the end, you may choose to hand express the last few drops out (this will encourage that last bit of fatty milk to exit the breast and help with increasing milk flow production).
After pumping or hand expressing your breast milk, you’ll want to store it in an appropriate container.
You can also use Breast Milk Collection Shells / Cups to catch any expressed milk from a ‘letdown’ as you’re nursing.
During the early days, I did this and it helped me save a lot of milk vs leaking all over my shirt and wasting it! Treat this the same as your pump and clean thoroughly after each use.
Breast Milk Storage Ideas:
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control & Protection), you can:
“Use breast milk storage bags or clean food-grade containers with tight-fitting lids made of glass or plastic to store expressed breast milk.
Avoid bottles with the recycle symbol number 7, which indicates that the container may be made of a BPA-containing plastic.
Never store breast milk in disposable bottle liners or plastic bags that are not intended for storing breast milk.“
Expressed Milk Storage & How to store breast milk in bags:
I started storing my milk when it was too late to really build a good stash. This does NOT need to be the case for you!
What I like to do is I keep just enough milk in the fridge (normally 1 full day worth) & then keep about 8 to 10 bags of 3oz to 4oz milk storage bags in the freezer.
As you can see below, I prefer to lay my breast milk bags flat and stack them on top of each other. I’ve found that this way of storing saves the most room in the freezer.
The bags I prefer using most are the Lansinoh Breast milk Storage Bags.
How long can my breast milk be stored?
Before reading further, if you have a preemie baby, please refer to THIS PAGE as breast milk storage guidelines are different for preemie infants.
Freshly pumped/expressed breast milk can be stored:
- At room temperature for up to 4 hours!
- In the fridge for up to 4 days.
- In the freezer for up to 6 months (though 12 months is acceptable).
Previously thawed breast milk can be stored:
- At room temperature for up to 2 hours.
- In the fridge for 24 hours.
- In the freezer – NEVER! It is not recommended to re-freeze thawed breast milk.
How to thaw breast milk from the freezer:
Thawing stored breast milk from the freezer is very easy. You’ll want to use the ‘oldest’ bag first.
The MOST IDEAL way to thaw is to take out the breast milk you need, place the bags in the fridge overnight, and let them thaw that way. This helps them thaw out evenly while staying cool.
Another way (if you’re in a hurry) is to place your frozen breast milk bag in a bowl with warm water. NEVER use hot water. Make sure to keep checking the breast milk frequently to ensure it thaws evenly.
Remember storing in 2-4oz increments will make thawing easier! It’ll ensure you aren’t thawing too much at a time, in turn causing waste. We all know nothing stabs you in the heart harder then wasting that liquid gold breast milk!!!
Can Breast Milk Color Indicate Issues?
A common question I’ve seen and been asked is if it’s normal for your breast milk to be ‘2 colors’. Light at the top and watery on the bottom.
The answer is that IT’S TOTALLY NORMAL!
That white color you see at the top, is actually all the fatty milk separating itself from the watered-down foremilk at the bottom!
There are SOME more common colors you may notice and below we’ll break down what those breast milk colors could mean:
- Yellow – you may find your milk turns more yellow when in the freezer & it’s totally normal! Some foods like carrots & sweet potatoes can also cause a yellowish color change, but still totally normal!
- Green – A common culprit of causing greenish tinged breastmilk is all those leafy green veggies (kale & spinach being high on the culprit list). No worries again, no harm is coming from your fancy new milk color!
- Light Blue to Clear – This colored breastmilk usually just means you have a lot of foremilk. This is the opposite of the thick fatty milk you see. Nothing harmful & totally normal!
Breastfeeding and Pumping can be a time-consuming monster!
One thing to remember, it that breastfeeding, whether you strictly nurse/exclusively pump/or do both, can be very exhausting.
On top of trying to learn and remember all the DO’s & DONT’S of storage, handling, using your pump, etc…you can ONLY do your best.
If this post helped you, I’d LOVE for you to please share with any mamas that could use the tips! Happy Breastfeeding Mamas!!!
What is the BEST way to store breast milk recap:
As you can see after reading this post there really isn’t ONE best way to store your breast milk.
All the ways listed above are perfectly acceptable.
You’ll need to weigh out the pros and cons of how to store your milk based on:
- Are you a working mom – will you need to keep some backup in the freezer?
- Are you a stay at home mom – this is easier to keep your milk in the fridge and rotate through.
- Do you plan to stop nursing/pumping – if so, you might want to consider freezing a big stash away to get your baby through the amount of time you wish so that when you finish nursing/pumping, you’ll have extra milk to feed them.
- Do you have room for it? Some simply don’t have big freezers or areas to keep backup milk, consider keeping enough in the fridge at a time that you can rotate through daily.
- There’s plenty of other reasons I can think of, but that would be the main scenario of considerations I’d really think about!