As a new mother, you probably have a lot of questions about how to feed and care for your newborn, including how to store breast milk. Safely storing breast milk helps make sure your baby gets the nutrients they need and prevents harmful bacteria from forming.
When you’re lactating, the temperature of your breast milk is about the same as your body, around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or 37 degrees Celsius (C). It’s safe for your baby to drink freshly expressed breast milk at this temperature, directly from your breast.
If you have excess breast milk, you can store it at room temperature for up to four hours. Room temperature is around 77 degrees F (25 degrees C) or colder.
Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before handling breast milk, and use a clean container that you can close or seal.
In a sealed container, breast milk will keep longer in the fridge than at room temperature. You can safely store breast milk in the refrigerator for up to four days.
If you store breast milk in the fridge, it can be useful to label each container with the date and time the milk was expressed. You can use waterproof labels and store the containers sequentially. This makes it easy to know how fresh the milk in each container is. Pro tip: the back of your fridge typically maintains the most stable temperature.
To warm up stored breast milk, put the sealed container in a bowl of lukewarm water. Warmed milk is safe to drink within two hours of being reheated.
If you want to store your breast milk for longer than a few days, it’s important to know how to store breast milk in the freezer and how long breast milk lasts in the freezer.
Can you freeze breast milk?
Freezers are usually set around 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C) or colder, which is why they’re perfect at keeping food from spoiling, and that includes your breast milk! Breast milk will last longer in the freezer than in the fridge because the environment is too cold for harmful bacteria to survive.
How to freeze breast milk
Here are some helpful tips for how to store breast milk in the freezer:
- Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling breast milk. If you’re using a breast pump, clean the containers, tubes, and mechanisms in between each use.
- Store breast milk in freezer-safe containers that you can securely seal or close.
- Fill each container with one serving of breast milk (two to four ounces) to avoid wasting unused milk. Be sure to leave some space at the top of the container, because breast milk expands when it freezes.
- Write the date that the milk was expressed on your containers using waterproof labels. It can also be helpful to write your child’s name on the container if you’ll be bringing the milk somewhere with other kids.
How long can breast milk stay in the freezer?
Now that you know how to store breast milk safely, you may be asking yourself how long breast milk lasts in the freezer. Frozen breast milk should be used within six months for maximum quality and freshness, but it’s safe for your baby for up to 12 months.
To thaw frozen breast milk, move the frozen container into the refrigerator the night before you intend to use it. If you need the breast milk sooner, you can put the container into a bowl of warm water or under warm running water. It’s best not to use boiling water or the microwave because this can destroy nutrients or potentially burn your baby’s mouth. Once it’s been thawed, breast milk shouldn’t be refrozen.
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Assuming that your breast milk isn’t contaminated in other ways, the safest and freshest milk is when it’s straight from the breast. But as long as you follow the hygiene and storage guidelines listed above, your breast milk can be stored at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer.
There’s a lot of information that new mothers should be aware of when breastfeeding their babies. Storing breast milk can give new moms more flexibility, and babies can drink breast milk even if mom isn’t around. To keep it fresh and safe from harmful bacteria, it’s important to store breast milk safely.