Ask the Expert : How to Properly Store Breast Milk - MumsVillage

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Pregnancy & Parenting

How to Properly Store Breast Milk

There are a number of ways you can store breast milk to keep it fresh for your baby. However, breast milk can spoil. Here are some expert pointers to ensure your baby receives the freshest possible milk when you are not around.

TemperatureStorage Time
Freshly expressed milk
Warm room80-90°F / 27-32°C3-4 hours
Room temperature61-79°F / 16-26°C4-8 hours (ideal: 3-4 hours)
Insulated cooler / ice packs59°F / 15°C24 hours
Refrigerated Milk (Store at back, away from door)
Refrigerator (fresh milk)32-39°F / 0-4°C3-8 days (ideal: 72 hrs)
Refrigerator (thawed milk)32-39°F / 0-4°C24 hours
Frozen Milk (Do not refreeze! Store at back, away from door/sides)
Freezer compartment inside refrigerator (older-style)Varies2 weeks
Self-contained freezer unit of a refrigerator/freezer<39°F / <4°C6 months
Separate deep freeze0°F / -18°C12 months (ideal: 6 months)
These guidelines are for milk expressed for a full-term healthy baby. If baby is seriously ill and/or hospitalized, discuss storage guidelines with baby’s doctor.
To avoid waste and for easier thawing & warming, store milk in 1-4 ounce portions. Date milk before storing. Milk from different pumping sessions/days may be combined in one container – use the date of the first milk expressed. Avoid adding warm milk to a container of previously refrigerated or frozen milk – cool the new milk before combining. Breast milk is not spoiled unless it smells really bad or tastes sour.To thaw milk

  • Thaw slowly in the refrigerator (this takes about 12 hours – try putting it in the fridge the night before you need it). Avoid letting milk sit out at room temperature to thaw.
  • For quicker thawing, hold container under running water – start cool and gradually increase temperature.

Previously frozen milk may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours after it has finished thawing. Do not refreeze.


To warm milk

  • Heat water in a cup or other small container, then place frozen milk in the water to warm; or
  • Use a bottle warmer.
  • NEVER microwave human milk or heat it directly on the stove.

The cream will rise to the top of the milk during storage. Gently swirl milk (do not shake) to mix before checking temperature and offering to baby. If baby does not finish milk at one feeding, it is safe to refrigerate and offer within 1-2 hours before it is discarded.

For more information contact Lindsay. Visit the Breast Advice for breastfeeding tips and information on how to ensure proper nutrition for your baby.

Pregnancy & Parenting


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What Mums Think.

  1. iobure says:

    Quite informative. I once pumped milk so we could drive out with the baby and I put the bottle in can holder (between the car seats). the weather was a bit warm that day. when I was ready to give the baby the milk it had curdled. I think its because of the warm weather..
    Since then i’ve been careful about the temperature in the car and how I carry the milk whenever I am up and about.

  2. tamulamu says:

    So helpful! I need to print and put on my fridge as I left defrosted pumped milk in my fridge for 8 days — luckily I smelled it before giving my baby and it was completely sour!

  3. hannah says:

    These are really interesting facts and ideas. Thanks Lindsay

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