Storing Breast Milk

"liquid gold"

Storing breast milk or, "liquid gold", is an integral part of providing your baby with your pumped milk. Mothers use the term, gold, which acknowledges the superior gold standard for babies and the commitment to breastfeeding their babies. You should not be storing breast milk at refrigerator temperatures for longer than 8 days. Storing of breast milk for longer periods or at unregulated temperatures could lead to adverse results.

Whether you are pumping milk by hand or using a breast pump , giving a baby the freshest pumped milk will retain its high quality. There are anti-bacterial properties in breastmilk that help it to stay fresh. Proper storage of breast milk is essential to maximize its nutritional and anti-infective qualities.

According to the results of a study published the Archives of Diseases in Childhood, Fetal and Neonatal Edition, storing breast milk for periods longer than 2 days or at colder temperatures causes the milk to lose antioxidant activity.

Fresh human milk has the highest antioxidant capacity, which decreases with storage over time. To preserve antioxidant capacity, storing breast milk should only be for a short time at refrigerator temperature and not frozen.

If your baby is getting a lot of his nourishment directly at the breast, you don't need to be as concerned about nutrient loss through freezing and contact with storage containers as you do if your baby is getting only expressed milk and not nursing directly at the breast.

Before you start please note that these guidelines are intended for normal home use for healthy, full-term babies. Mothers who are pumping milk for a special needs baby or a hospitalized baby will need to be more careful about milk handling and sterilization procedures.

Always take care to wash your hands thoroughly with soap before handling your breast pump or containers and use clean containers that have been washed in hot, soapy water, rinsed and dried. You do not need to worry about sterilizing storage containers or pump parts. Stored milk should always have a date recorded on it for future reference.

Containers For Storing Refrigerated or Frozen Milk

Plastic bags specially designed for freezing expressed breast milk (NOT disposable bottle liners)

Lansinoh Breastfeeding Collection, Breastmilk Storage Bags

Glass or hard-sided plastic containers with secure, one-piece tops.

Guidelines for freezing breast milk

Storage Guidelines

Storing breast milk in small, 2-4 ounces in each container reduces waste of your precious "liquid gold".

Cool milk in refrigerator before adding to frozen milk. Breastfed babies consume smaller amounts of milk at each feeding than formula fed babies. Some mothers use leftover milk from a feeding for the next feeding but it's unknown if this is a completely safe practice.

Avoid breaking bags and containers by remembering that frozen milk expands - so leave about an inch of space at the top of the container to allow for expansion when storing breast milk.

Storage Temperatures and Durations

Room temperature (66-72°F, 19-22°C) up to 10 hours
Refrigerator (32-39°F, 0-4°C) up to 8 days
Freezer compartment inside a refrigerator up to 2 weeks
Freezer compartment with a separate door up to 3 to 4 months
Deep freeze (0°F, -19°C) up to 6 months or longer

Freezing and storing breast milk

You can insure that your baby gets the maximum amount of nutrients and immunities by providing your baby with fresh, not frozen, milk most of the time. Since human milk can be kept in the refrigerator for up to eight days, it may be possible to do this. Always have the baby's care giver use the oldest milk first and keep the supply rotating.

Milk that has been frozen and thawed can be kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours after thawing. You or the baby's care giver can thaw milk all at one time, or in the refrigerator overnight. It should not be refrozen.

Heating and Thawing Frozen Milk

High temperatures can destroy your milk's immune properties, and other valuable components, so take careful note of the following guidelines:

Thaw milk by holding it under warm running water. Containers of frozen milk can alternatively be placed in a bowl of warm water. As the water cools, replace it with more warm water until the milk is defrosted and warmed to body temperature.

Never boil or heat milk over a flame or in the microwave to avoid uneven or over heating.

Remember that breastmilk is NOT similar in color to homogenized cow's milk or artificial baby formula. Human milk is thinner with a bluish tint to it.

Unprocessed milk tends to separate with the rich cream rising to the top so gently swirl the milk before testing its temperature to mix the cream into the milk.