Breastmilk Storage Guidelines


A nursing mother should always be educated on how to properly store her pumped breast milk, so this weeks blog is here to help you get it right. If you are planning to pump breast milk you will want to know how long it can be stored at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer.

  • At room temperature (no more than 25 degrees C), for up to six hours.
  • in the fridge for up to five days at 4°C or lower
  • for two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge
  • for up to six months in a freezer at minus 18 degrees C or lower

It is very important that the mother’s hands are washed and dried well, before handling her breast milk. Everything else that comes into contact with the breast and the breast milk needs to be very clean as well.

So what should you store the breast milk in. I recommend the Medela storage bags, the Medela breast pumps come with plastic bags to store the pumped breast milk in. These easy to freeze bags are BPA free and don’t take up too much room to fridge or freezer. The plastic is nice and thick, you can store smaller amounts in them.The stored breast milk should be labeled and dated, to help avoid any confusion as to when it was stored.

You could freeze very small amounts of milk in an ice cube tray, ideally one with a lid, or you could store the tray inside a sealed freezer bag. These smaller quantities defrost quickly and are ideal if you need some breastmilk to mix with your baby’s food when you introduce solids.

Here are some question that I am often asked by my birth doula and postnatal doula clients.

Can you add pumped breast milk to already frozen breast milk? Yes but it is best to cool in the refrigerator first. If you add pumped milk to already frozen milk it can cause the frozen breast milk to thaw and refreeze. The other problem with adding fresh breast milk to frozen breast milk is that you will have to use it by the date on the already frozen milk.

How do I know if my breastmilk is ok? If you are properly storing your milk you should not have a problem with spoiled milk. Breast milk will separate. The fat will rise to the top. This is normal it does not mean your milk is off. You may sometimes have thinner looking or blue colored milk, this is still okay. Another concern comes along when mums or doulas smell breast milk. Sometimes breastmilk that is frozen or stored in the refrigerator will smell soapy or have a strange taste to it. This does not mean it is off. Before you throw out perfectly good breast milk consider how it was stored. If it was refrigerated after pumping and stored properly, it probably doesn’t need to be tossed. However, if you are concerned, if the milk smells rancid or sour then throw it away

How should I store my breast milk ? It is better if you store breast milk in small portions (around 3-4 oz per freezer bag or storage container). Once frozen milk is thawed you can not refreeze it. If you store breast milk in 8-10 oz portions you may end up wasting breast milk if your baby does not drink it within 24 hours.

How should I defrosting frozen breast milk? If you have frozen your milk, defrost it in the fridge before giving it to your baby. Once it has defrosted, use it straight away. Don’t re-freeze milk once it’s thawed. Never use a microwave. It can destroy the beneficial milk properties and antibodies. It will also heat the milk unevenly, leading to hot spots that can scald baby’s mouth.

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