It’s called liquid gold with good reason – breastmilk is precious stuff and needs to be stored properly to make sure it keeps all of its milky goodness.
Whether you’re hand expressing or using a breast pump the rules for storing, thawing and heating breastmilk are all about keeping breastmilk safe for bub to drink. Breastmilk can be stored at room temperature, in the fridge or freezer, but timing is key. And what about leftover breastmilk – can it be reused if bub hasn’t finished the bottle?
Here’s everything you need to know about breast milk storage, thawing and warming.
How to store breast milk
You’ve pumped and now you need to store, so what’s the best way to keep breast milk safely stowed until you want to give it to bub?
Breast milk can be kept in glass or plastic containers, or in resealable plastic bags. You can directly pump into some of these storage containers, and then simply seal and store at room temperature, in the fridge or the freezer.
Breast milk storage bags
Breast milk storage bags are perfect if you’re planning on freezing breast as they can be stored flat, taking up very little room.
Pre-sterilised with an easy-pour spout, Pigeon breast milk storage bags also have a double zip seal to stop leaks.
Self-standing and with an easy pour spout at the bottom of the bag, these also feature an easy-tear design.
Pre-sterilised with a double zipper seal to stop leaks, this pack also comes with breast pump adapters so you can pump directly into the bags.
Self-standing bags that are sterilised and freezer safe.
Breast Milk Storage Bottles
Pretty much a one-stop-shop for breastmilk storage – pump directly into the bottles then pop on the lid to either freeze or store breastmilk until it’s ready for use.
These can be tossed into the dishwasher for washing and are made from BPA free plastic.
Handy for storing breast milk in the fridge or freezer and holds 150ml.
Breast milk storage cups
Stackable and sturdy, breastmilk storage cups can be used in the fridge or freezer.
They come pre-sterilised and can be re-sterilised up to four times before they need to be thrown out or recycled. Use the adapter to express directly into the cups then seal with the lid. These nifty containers can also be used to store baby food.
How long can breast milk be stored for?
It all depends on whether the freshly expressed milk is being kept at room temperature, in the fridge or frozen.
At room temperature: Freshly expressed milk can be kept at room temperature that’s no more than 26ºC for six to eight hours. But if you can pop it in the fridge, do so.
In the fridge: for no more than 72 hours at 5°C or lower. Pop it in the back of the fridge where it’s the coldest.
In the freezer:
- For two weeks in the ice or freezer compartment inside a fridge. (-15°C)
- For 3 months in the freezer section of a refrigerator with a separate door. (–18°C)
- For 6 to 12 months in a deep freezer that’s opened infrequently. (–20°C)
How do you defrost frozen breast milk?
Breastmilk should be defrosted in the fridge – just pop it straight into the fridge after taking it from the freezer and leave it until it’s completely thawed. Make sure you use it straight away once it’s defrosted. If bub is ok taking cold milk, it can be given cold.
Just remember once it’s been thawed it can’t be refrozen. If it’s been thawed, but not warmed, it can be kept for four hours or less in the fridge. You can use leftover breast milk to make a lush breastmilk bum balm for baby.
How do you warm breast milk?
You can’t use a microwave to heat up or defrost breast milk because it can create hotspots that burn bub’s mouth, and it kills some of the goodies in the milk. The easiest and safest way is just to place the storage bag or bottle with breast milk into a container with some warm water and let it gently heat up to body temperature.
Once the milk is warm, swirl it so it’s mixed and just test it to make sure it’s not too hot.
Can I keep breast milk that’s been thawed?
Breast milk that was frozen and thawed in the fridge, but not warmed:
- Can keep at room temperature for up to four hours (so the next feed).
- Can be stored in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Can’t be refrozen.
Breast milk that’s been thawed outside the fridge in warm water:
- Can only be kept at room temperature until the end of the feed.
- Can be kept in the fridge for up to four hours (the next feed).
- Can’t be refrozen.
Bub has begun the feed:
- Can only be kept until the end of that feed, then must be thrown out.
- Can’t be put back in the fridge.
- Can’t be refrozen.
Can I add freshly expressed breast milk to milk expressed earlier?
Yes, just make sure you cool the freshly expressed milk in the fridge before you add it to previously expressed chilled or frozen breast milk.
How should I transport expressed breast milk?
Just keep in mind the temperature of the breast milk while it’s being transported. Pop the expressed milk into an insulated container like a cooler bag or esky, and put a freezer brick with it. This works for freshly expressed, out of the fridge or frozen.
If it’s thawed, just make sure it’s used within four hours, and don’t refreeze. As soon as you get to where you’re going, put the milk into a fridge.
Read next …
Now you know how to use your expressed breast milk, here’s some other helpful info about this liquid gold:
- The reason some babies won’t drink expressed breast milk
- Why is there blood in my expressed breast milk?
- Is it safe to use a second-hand breast pump?
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