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Storing and Preparing Expressed Breast Milk

Follow these safe storage and preparation tips to keep your expressed milk healthy for your baby:

  • Wash your hands before expressing or handling your milk.
  • Be sure to use only clean containers to store expressed milk. Try to use screw-cap bottles, hard plastic cups with tight caps, or special heavy nursing bags that can be used to feed your baby. Do not use ordinary plastic storage bags or formula bottle bags, since these can easily split and leak. Do not store breast milk in ice cube trays.
  • For a normal, healthy infant at home, use sealed and chilled milk within twenty-four hours if possible. Discard all milk that has been refrigerated for more than ninety-six hours. For infants who are hospitalized, follow hospital guidelines for human milk storage.
  • Freeze milk if you do not plan to use it within twenty-four hours. Frozen milk is good for at least one month in a freezer attached to a refrigerator or for three to six months if kept in a deep freezer at 0°F or below. Store it in the back of the freezer, where the temperature is coldest, not in the door. Also, keep the freezer full to maintain lowest temperatures. Be sure to label the milk with the date and time that you expressed it. Use the oldest milk first. Keep in mind that the fats in human milk begin to break down with storage, so using frozen breast milk within three months is desirable.
  • Freeze about 2 to 4 ounces of milk per container, to avoid wasting milk after you thaw it. You can always thaw an extra bag if needed.
  • Do not add fresh milk to already frozen milk in a storage container.
  • You may thaw milk in the refrigerator or by placing it in a bowl of warm water.
  • Do not use microwave ovens to heat bottles, because they do not heat them evenly. Uneven heating can scald your baby or damage the milk. Bottles can also explode if left in the microwave too long. Excessive heat can destroy important proteins and vitamins in the milk.
  • Previously frozen milk that has been thawed in the refrigerator must be used within twenty-four hours or discarded.
  • Do not refreeze your milk.
  • Do not save unfinished milk from a partially consumed bottle to use at another feeding.
Last Updated
New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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