How To Properly Store and Handle Breast Milk

by How To Mommy on 04.24.11

After a near death experience with ALL my stored breast milk (hubby didn’t get the deep freeze shut all the way for over 24 hours and all the milk thawed…every ounce) and consulting several IBCLC’s (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants), I thought I would share with you the proper way to store and handle breast milk, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.


How To Prepare Breast Milk

  • Be sure to wash your hands before expressing or handling breast milk.
  • When collecting milk, be sure to store it in clean containers, such as screw cap bottles, hard plastic cups with tight caps, or heavy-duty bags .
  • Clearly label the milk with the date it was expressed to facilitate using the oldest milk first.
  • Do not add fresh milk to already frozen milk within a storage container. It is best not to mix the two.
  • Do not save milk from a used bottle for use at another feeding.

How To Store Breast Milk

As for actual storage, I’ve seen many a jammed freezer with bags of every shape and size. After running out of room in my freezer for frozen food, I think I have devised a system for perfect frozen bags that are easy to store.

  • Pour your milk into a breast milk storage bag and remove any air.
  • Lay the bag on a flat surface in your freezer (I always keep a box of the right size free for my bag to rest on) and allow it to freeze completely.

  • Stack frozen bags upright in the door of a deep freeze, or stacked flat in a box or paper bag.

You will be amazed how much more space you’ll have for the rest of your frozen goods!

Here are guidelines for storage:

How To Thaw Breast Milk

  • As time permits, thaw frozen breast milk by transferring it to the refrigerator for thawing or by swirling it in a bowl of warm water. Thawed milk is safe in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  • Avoid using a microwave oven to thaw or heat bottles of breast milk
    • Microwave ovens do not heat liquids evenly. Uneven heating could easily scald a baby or damage the milk
    • Bottles may explode if left in the microwave too long.
    • Excess heat can destroy the nutrient quality of the expressed milk.
  • Do not re-freeze breast milk once it has been thawed. **Both IBCLC’s I consulted with said that while this is the “optimal” way to handle breast milk, it is possible for the milk to be refrozen and used. While it may not have all the great properties fresh and optimally stored breast milk would have, it is still far better than the alternative (formula).
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