How Should I Store and Warm My Breast Milk?

I'm ready to start pumping. What are the breast milk storage and prep guidelines?
profile picture of Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA
ByNancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA
Lactation Specialist
Updated
Mar 2017
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The right way to store your breast milk depends on what works best for your schedule. If you have to return to the workplace and plan on having a large supply you’ll want to keep for a long time, you may want to freeze some. But if you work from home and only need a little bit at a time, you could store it in the fridge. According to lactation consultant Nancy Mohrbacher, the longest you can store breast milk, using different methods, is:

• Freezer: 3 to 4 months
• Refrigerator: 8 days
• Cooler with ice packs: 24 hours
• Room temperature: 4 to 10 hours

Once the milk is thawed, there’s a limited time frame for feeding it to baby. If thawed in the fridge, it can be stored there for 24 hours, or at room temperature for four hours. If it’s been thawed and warmed, it can be stored in the fridge for four hours.

It’s also important to warm baby’s milk correctly! As easy as it may be, don’t use the stove top or microwave to heat breast milk, since both can change the milk’s antibody and nutritional makeup. The recommended way to warm it is to run warm water over the sides of the bottle — keeping the water away from the nipple or lid so it doesn’t mix with the milk. The best way to do this is to put the bottle in a bowl with sides lower than the bottle’s top, and run the warm water directly into the bowl. Breast milk is ready for baby when it’s between room and body temperature.

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