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How to Store Breast Milk

– Posted in: General Pregnancy Topics, Giving Birth
How to store breastmilk

How to pump your breasts to store breast milk for later use?

First make sure to use good hygiene and wash your hands with soap and water prior to pumping. It is not necessary to wash your nipples or breasts.

Do make sure that all the breast pump attachments and storage containers are clean.  Washing with hot soapy water is adequate and sterilization is not necessary when pumping for a healthy baby. It is almost impossible to dry pumping tubing, so do not wash it.  If your tubing has moisture in it you will need to discard the tubing and buy new tubing.

Make sure you are in a comfortable position for pumping your breasts.  Most new mothers prefer to sit while pumping.  If you are using an electric pump make sure to set the suction strength not too high. The suction should not hurt and needs to be adjusted downward if it does.  If your pump style has a cycling speed, you may want to start out with a rapid cycle until your milk begins to flow and then slow the cycling speed down.

It is important to make sure that you use the correct size breast shield. One size does not always fit all.  The correct size is not only for comfort, but also to maximize milk expression.  You will know that the shield fits adequately if your nipples do not rub against the tunnels.

How long can you store breast milk?

The length of time you can store breast milk is dependent on where you are planning to store it.  If you leave a bottle out at room temperature (77 to 79F) it will be fine up to 4 hours. If you place it in the refrigerator it will be useable for up to 3 days and if you place it in the freezer it will keep for up to 3 months. Thawed breast milk should only be stored for 24 hours in a refrigerator, then discarded.  If you have thawed frozen milk, you can safely refreeze it

What type of storage container should I use to store breast milk?

The best storage containers are either glass or rigid plastic bottles that are designed specifically for storing food products.  The plastic bags are fine for healthy babies, but they are not recommended for breast milk storage for hospitalized or sick babies due to the loss of some nutrients.

How much milk should be stored in each container?

Small amounts of breast milk should be placed in each container. This way the milk can be completely consumed to avoid re-freezing. One to four ounces of breast milk should be placed in individual store containers, labeled with a permanent ink pen or waterproof label. Make sure the label includes the time and date of being pumped.  You can combine milk from different pumping sessions, but make sure you cool both in the refrigerator before combining.  Do not add warm or refrigerator breast milk to frozen breast milk and of course use the oldest dated stored breast milk first.

How to prepare stored breast milk for feeding

Thawing and warming breast milk should be done gradually in a warm bath of water to reach 98F or 37C.  It is best if the warming process does not exceed 20 minutes. Do not submerge the bottles to avoid contamination of the milk.  Make sure that you test the milk before given it to your baby.  The milk should feel lukewarm and not hot when touched.  Refrigerated milk may have a layer of cream on the top which should be mixed by gentle swirling.

Do not heat in a microwave or rapidly heat the milk, this will adversely affect the immunologic and nutritional benefits of breast milk.  Fresh breast milk has antibacterial benefits, but milk that is stored for more than a day will lose this benefit.

How to find help if you have a question?

Your physician, certified lactation consultants or baby’s doctor should be able to answer your questions and worries about breastfeeding, pumping and storage. Certified lactation consultants are a valuable source of knowledge for helping you troubleshoot your breastfeeding problems. The following websites can help you find a lactation consultant and breastfeeding support.




1 Comment… add one

September 7, 2013, 2:28 pm James Brann, M.D.

Make sure to ask for breast feeding help here. All moms are welcome to help answer the posted concerns.