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How to Store Breast Milk for a Healthy Term Infant?

If you are a nursing mother, at some point you may consider pumping your breast milk and storing it for future use.  This will allow you to leave your baby in the care of others with a supply of breast milk for bottle-feeding.  

Whether you are manually expressing, or using a battery or electric pump, the following are some breast milk storage considerations. 

Note that these guidelines are for use only for a healthy full term infant and for storage of breast milk at home.  There are different guidelines for preterm infants and for hospital use.  

What is an appropriate breast milk storage container?

  • Use breast milk storage bags, OR
  • Clean food-grade containers with tight fitting lids, made of glass or plastic
  • Do not use plastic with recycle symbol number 7 printed on it
    • Contains BPA, which is a hormone disrupter
  • Do not store in disposable liners or plastic bags not intended for breast milk

Where can I store breast milk and for how long?

  • Room temperature (16-29°C): up to 4 hours
  • Refrigerator (4°C or colder): up to 4 days
  • Freezer (-18°C or colder): up to 6 months is optimal, up to 12 months is acceptable
  • Do not store breast milk in the door of the refrigerator or freezer due to temperature fluctuations with opening and closing
  • If you do not think you will use the pumped breast milk within 4 days, then freeze it right away
  • For traveling, use an insulated cooler bag with frozen ice packs for transport up to 24 hours
    • Then use right away or put in fridge or freezer upon arrival

Other tips

  • Always label the container with the date the milk was expressed or pumped
  • Use the oldest milk first
  • Freeze in small quantities (30-120mL) to avoid waste
  • Leave room at the top of container for expansion during freezing

This post was co-authored by Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP and Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc.

References: 15 July 2019)

Eglash, A, Simon L, The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.  ABM Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants, Revised 2017.  Breastfeeding Medicine 2017; 12(7): 390-5. 

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