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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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anya April 25, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Great post! I am new to all of this so this info is awesome. I am inducing lactation for our adopted baby and already learning through trial and error!

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2 How To Mommy April 25, 2011 at 4:19 PM

Anya, that is amazing! Good for you!

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3 Crunchy Frugalista April 25, 2011 at 3:45 PM

This is a great article. It is so important to know how to store milk so you all your hard work doesn’t go to waste! I am your newest follower from the Mommy Blog Hop! I hope to see you soon at crunchyfrugalista.blogspot.com!

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4 How To Mommy April 25, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Thanks so much! I’ll definitely check it out.

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5 Sandy April 26, 2011 at 2:01 PM

I love reading all your posts and articles :-) I have to disagree with some content. Per the CDC you shouldn’t save BM for the next feeding? I think that’s just a waste and anywhere I have ever read says you can keep it for 4 hours and then dump.

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6 How To Mommy April 26, 2011 at 5:14 PM

I think you’re right. I know I’ve kept some. My info was from the CDC’s site.

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7 Amber October 9, 2012 at 1:27 AM

Once baby starts drink from the bottle any milk in that bottle is only good for about an hour or the length of that feeding. If not in the bottle, still in bag say it is good for about 5 hours room temp, and 24 when put in fridge after being frozen. This is because there is some backwash with the bottle that causes the milk to start breaking down.

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8 Little Miss Kate April 26, 2011 at 7:05 PM

Hello, New follower, looking forward to seeing you over at http://littlemisskatedesigns.blogspot.com

LOVE this post – you milk is WAY more organized then my freezer stash!

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9 How To Mommy April 26, 2011 at 8:15 PM

Let me know if you try it my way. It makes a huge difference! I didn’t do it that way with my first and we had milk EVERYWHERE. :)

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10 E. Lane April 26, 2011 at 8:39 PM

I never knew (till recently) that you should twirl breast milk rather than shake it, but then again I haven’t had a pregnancy last past the first trimester so I have never had to breastfeed or really needed to know that.
I’m newly following you from the hop.
ttcandcookin.blogspot.com

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11 How To Mommy April 26, 2011 at 8:50 PM

Thanks so much! And good luck to you in this pregnancy!!

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12 Angie May 6, 2011 at 7:53 PM

If I didn’t remove the extract air from the bag before I froze it, is that bad for the milk. Or do you just need to do it to make more room?

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13 How To Mommy May 6, 2011 at 8:16 PM

That’s a great question…I’d assume it’s a space thing an that the milk is fine.

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14 Jessica May 23, 2011 at 10:38 PM

Hi so I am new to this and just wondering how long is BM good for if you store it in the top compartment(freezer) of my refrigerator? Also per BM storage bags should I use one bag per every pumping session or can I use one per every two sessions. I pump every 3 hours. So say I pump at 1pm pour BM into storage bag leave in refrigerator and then pump at 3pm and add the milk to the bag that was pumped at 1pm then freeze? I’m asking this because I would like to fill a whole Storage bag( the first years bag). Please help :)

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15 How To Mommy May 24, 2011 at 8:50 AM

Jessica, thanks for reading! Technically I think you’re not supposed to mix warm and cold milk (though I have and both kids are alive and well) so I’d put the bottles you pumpe in the fridge for a bit to get them cold and then combine them into the first storage bag. Or, leave the first bag out (freshly pumped is good at room temp for 4 hrs), mix in the new and then freeze. Also, I believe the milk is good 3-6 months in the top compartment of your freezer as long as it’s not stored in the door. Hope this helps!

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16 lorie September 8, 2012 at 9:12 AM

Hi!!!i urgently like to ask if i can refreeze the BM that has been thawed because my father in law accidentally took off the refrigerators plug,the BM was inside the freezer with some ice until they notice to plug it on again but still the BM meltdownn.should i refreeze it again??i was badly devastated for what happen cause it will be donated to a premature baby.

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17 How To Mommy September 8, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Lorie, if there were still ice crystals in the milk then you can refreeze and it will be fine. You can refreeze regardless and even though it’s not optimal breastmilk handling, the milk should still be ok as long as the milk never spoiled.

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18 Kate September 19, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Another thing is you are very much NOT supposed to store frozen breastmilk in the freezer door :)

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19 Kendra October 5, 2012 at 12:23 PM

This is great, except for one thing. NEVER store your milk in the door of any refrigerator or freezer. Always near the back. Storing it in the door lets it change temperature every time that appliance is opened, which can lead to thawing and quicker degradation of the frozen milk, along with potential for growth of ickies.

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20 How To Mommy October 5, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Thanks Kendra! They photographed really well that day in our deep freeze, but you are correct…it shouldn’t be stored in the door.

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21 Sarah February 5, 2013 at 3:58 PM

I am the mommy of 3 babies under three. I am pumping for my youngest (2 1/2 months), and even though I stay at home, it is very difficult to get a pump in every 3 hours, but I do my best, and sometimes I can go every three hours, and sometimes it stretches to 6 or even 8 before I can pump. I am really interested in pumping as much as I can in a big surge, producing enough for my baby for the rest of her first year, and then being done with pumping. Do you think this is even possible? Do you have any tips or suggestions??
Thanks

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22 Vian June 2, 2013 at 10:56 PM

I was wondering if its bad to store frozen milk in the door of the freezer? In one of your photos it looks like the door but not sure? some places that Ive read say not too but how bad is it really?

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23 traci July 14, 2013 at 12:01 AM

Thank you for these tips- I do have one question. Once u thaw the breastmilk in the fridge- then heat it up for baby- how long is that milk good for ??

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