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Storing expressed breastmilk

There are a number of options for storing your expressed breastmilk

milk stash

Anything you store your expressed breastmilk in should be ‘food-grade’ and BPA-free: 

  • plastic bags 

  • baby-feeding bottles 

  • plastic cups with tight-fitting lids 

  • small glass jars. 

If you have a premature or sick baby, ask the hospital staff about containers, as they may supply them. Talk to your doctor or midwife about any extra steps you should take when handling or storing your milk. Breastmilk is best supplied fresh daily for a sick baby. 

Freezing breastmilk

Seal the container of expressed breastmilk (EBM) and clearly label with the date. Place the container in the coldest part of the freezer.  

If you want to add freshly expressed breastmilk to some that is already chilled or frozen, you need to first cool it in the fridge. Add it, then put it straight back into the freezer or fridge.  

The following are guidelines for storage of breastmilk. 

Room temperature

Freshly expressed into a closed container:

6-8 hours (26'C or lower)

If refrigeration is available, store milk there.

 

 

 

 

If previously frozen - stored in refrigerator but not warmed:

4 hours or less (ie, the next feeding)

If thawed outside refrigerator
in warm water:

For completion of a feed only

If baby has begun feeding:

Only until feed is finished, then throw out.

Refrigerator

Freshly expressed into a closed container:

No more than 72 hours
Store in the back where it is coldest

 

 

 

 

If previously frozen - stored in refrigerator but not warmed:

Store in refrigerator 24 hours

If thawed outside refrigerator
in warm water:

Hold for 4 hours or until next feed

If baby has begun feeding:

Throw out

Freezer

Freshly expressed into a closed container:

2 weeks in freezer compartment inside fridge (-15'C)

3 months in freezer section of fridge with separate door (-18'C)

6-12 months in deep freeze (-20'C*)

 

If previously frozen - stored in refrigerator but not warmed:

Do not refreeze

If thawed outside refrigerator
in warm water:

Do not refreeze

If baby has begun feeding:

Throw out

Cool freshly expressed breastmilk in the fridge before adding it to other chilled or frozen expressed breastmilk. 

*Chest / upright manual defrost deep freezer that is opened infrequently and keeps temperature.

Reproduced with permission from National Health and Medical research Council 2012.
Infant feeding Guidelines, NHMRC, Canberra p 59.

Important safety information about storing expressed breastmilk

Breastmilk should not be frozen or heated more than once. Store, defrost and offer small amounts of EBM at a time to your baby to avoid wastage. Any EBM that your baby doesn't take at that time will need to be thrown away. If your baby needs more, prepare another small amount.  

Transporting breastmilk 

You may need to carry your EBM – between home and hospital, home and work, home and your baby's carer.  The climate and the length of your travel will influence what you may need to do with your EBM.

If your breastmilk is freshly expressed (that is, it hasn't been frozen), it is safe for use for 6 to 8 hours when kept below room temperature (<26 degrees C) or for 72 hours when stored in the refrigerator.

In the cooler months or if you only live a short distance from your workplace, you may not need to do anything special with transporting it. Just remove your expressed breastmilk from one fridge and place in the next fridge or freezer when you arrive.  

If it's a warm day or if you have a longer drive, you will need to keep your milk cool during travel. You can carry your breastmilk safely in an insulated container with a freezer pack inside. A small bottle will even fit inside a wide-mouthed vacuum flask, with ice added to keep it cool.  

If the milk is frozen, don't let it defrost while being carried. If it does thaw, use it within 24 hours. It is not safe to refreeze the milk.

 

© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022

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Breastfeeding: expressing and storing

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