Breastmilk Storage and Handling

If you are using a breast pump, and planning to store and use breast milk for your baby, it is important to follow proper storage guidelines. The expressed breast milk should be of good quality and should provide the right nutrients to your baby. We are discussing how to store and handle breast milk.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020 11:29 GMT

Breastmilk Storage and Handling
Breastmilk Storage and Handling

Breastmilk Storage and Handling

Not all mothers can breastfeed their children all the time. Some may wish to pursue work, and plan to use a breast pump and provide the expressed breast milk to their family members or caregivers to feed their baby. It is very important how you handle the milk and store for later use. Follow the below guidelines to know further.

Storage Guidelines

The expressed breast milk can be stored in room temperature, refrigerators or freezers. Wherever you plan to store, it is important to remember that factors like temperature fluctuations and cleanliness of the environment determines the quality of the milk. The table below shows how long the milk can be stored under different setups.

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Storage Location and Temperature

Type of Breast Milk

77°F (25°C) or colder
(room temperature)

40°F (4°C)

0°F (-18°C) or colder

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Freshly expressed or pumped

Up to 4 Hours

Up to 4 Days

Within 6 months is best
Up to 12 months is acceptable

Thawed, previously frozen

1 to 2 hours

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Up to 1 Day
(24 hours)

Never refreeze human milk after it has been thawed

Leftover from a feeding (Baby did not finish the bottle)

Use within 2 hours after the baby is finished feeding


(Adapted from, accessed on 20.02.2020). The storage guidelines may differ for preterm infants, sick and hospitalized infants.

Handling Breast Milk

·         Always wash your hand with soap and water before extracting milk. You can also use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

·         You can express milk by hands or use a manual or electric breast pump.

·         When using a breast pump, make sure that all parts of the breast pump are clean.

Storing breast milk

·         Always store the milk in the containers that are intended for. It is ideal to use bottles that are free from BPA. It is advisable to express milk in a clean, capped glass or hard plastic container.

·         Never store the expressed milk in disposable bottles or plastic bags.

·         Always follow the recommended storage guidelines and notice for any temperature fluctuations and other factors that may affect the quality of the milk.

·         Freshly expressed milk can be at room temperature for up to 4 hours.

·         If the freezer is a chest or deep freezer, the milk can be stored for 12 months. The longer you store, vitamin C may be lost in the milk, so use it as early as possible.

Storage Tips

·         Always label the breast milk to know when it was collected. It is also important to mention your baby’s name in case you hand over the responsibility to your childcare provider. When labelling, use waterproof labels and ink.

·         To maintain the quality of breast milk and avoid temperature fluctuations, do not store the breast milk in the door of the refrigerator or freezer.

·         It is a good practice to store the milk in small amounts of 2 to 4 ounces to avoid wastage.

·         Since breast milk tends to expand while freezing, always leave an inch of space at the top of the storage container.

·         During a travel, the expressed breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler bag with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours. Once you reach home, use the milk or store appropriately (refrigerator or freezer).

Thawing of Breast Milk

·         Thaw the old breast milk first and use it.

·         The stored milk can be thawed in the refrigerator overnight, under lukewarm running water or you can place it in a container of warm or lukewarm water.

·         Never and ever thaw or heat the milk in a microwave. This can create hot spots and can burn your baby’s mouth. Also rapid heating can affect the antibodies in the milk.

·         Do not refreeze the milk once after thawing.

·         The stored milk once brought to room temperature should be used within two hours..

Feeding Expressed Breast Milk

     The expressed and stored breast milk need not be warmed. After thawing, it is ready to use. If you wish to warm the milk, place the stored milk (do not open the seal) in a container containing warm water for a few minutes. Before giving to your baby, make sure that it is not too hot. Always swirl the milk to mix the fat that might have separated. Any leftover breast milk should be used within two hours. After two hours, the leftovers should be discarded.






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