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How to Store Breast Milk

The Basics for Properly Storing Breast Milk

Try to plan ahead when you are starting to think about storing breast milk. If you know you are going to have to go back to work or if you need to be gone, start expressing your milk once or twice a day to begin with and store the milk in the freezer.
 
Expressing milk in the morning is often a good time for many busy moms, as this is when milk quantity is usually at its peak. Also, expressing after each nursing session to completely drain your breasts can help to stimulate milk supply and also provide a few extra ounces of milk to store for use at a later date.
 
If you don't plan to use the milk right away, it is recommended that it be refrigerated or chilled right after it is expressed. Some general guidelines for storing breast milk include the following:
 
  • At room temperature (66-72°F, 19-22°C) for up to 10 hours
  • In a refrigerator (32-39°F, 0-4°C) for up to eight days
  • In a freezer compartment inside a refrigerator (variable temperature due to the door opening frequently) for up to two weeks
  • In a freezer compartment with a separate door (variable temperature due to the door opening frequently) for up to three to four months
  • In a separate deep freezer (0°F, -19°C) for up to six months or longer.
 
When trying to decide how to store your milk, remember that the fresher your milk is, the better it is. Also, refrigerated milk will have more benefits than frozen milk.
 
While it may be hectic trying to clean (and possibly even sterilize) bottles, express milk, and get it stored properly, don't just throw the milk in the refrigerator or freezer without labeling it. Although moms have the best intentions that they will remember how old the milk is, "mommy brain" may set in, and it is easy to forget what day you stored it. Try to label each container of milk with the date you expressed it. If your child is going to be using the milk in daycare, also make sure his or her name is on each container.
 
Because infants usually eat between two and four ounces at each feeding, try not to store more than this in each container to avoid wasting it, and also because smaller amounts thaw more quickly.
 
When storing milk in a container, make sure to leave at least an inch of space at the top to allow the milk to expand as it freezes.
 
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