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Storing Breast Milk

Breast milk is chock-full of nutrients and antibodies that babies need to survive and thrive, but storing that milk improperly can degrade those important properties. Here’s what you need to know to keep your liquid gold, well, golden.

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Hi, I'm Kimberly Durdin. I'm a board certified lactation consultant, and I've been helping moms breastfeed for over 20 years. You might be surprised to know that you can actually store breast milk for later use. There's 3 ways you can store breast milk so that it can be given to your baby at a later time. The first way is storing it at room temperature. Breast milk actually remains perfectly safe at room temperature after expressing or after pumping for up to about 4 or 5 hours. The temperature of the room should probably not exceed about 72 degrees. So if you pump some breast milk and it's a very hot day in your home and maybe it's 80 or 90 degrees, you have less amount of time that you can keep that milk at room temperature. So at about 72 degrees Fahrenheit, perfectly safe to leave breast milk out for several hours, and it's totally fine to feed your baby. If you need to store your milk longer than that, you might wanna try using the refrigerator. In the refrigerator, breast milk stays fine and safe for your baby for up to about 5 days. Different studies have come up with different hours and days of time that breast milk can stay refrigerated or frozen. So, I'm gonna give you the general number of hours. So, in the refrigerator, about 5 days, your breast milk is fine. We encourage you to put that breast milk towards the back of the refrigerator so that your breast milk doesn't change temperature if it's, let's say, on the door of the refrigerator where the door is gona be opened a lot and that breast milk can have a chance to lower in temperature. So try to store your breast milk towards the back of your refrigerator to counteract the refrigerator door opening and closing several times throughout the day. The third way you can store breast milk is in the freezer, and if you need to store your milk long-term, that will be the best place to put it. If you have a freezer with a separate door than the refrigerator, the breast milk can stay in a freezer longer, up to about 6 months. If you have a freezer that opens every time you open your refrigerator, you can store it for about 3 months. If you have access to a deep freeze where the temperature of the freezer goes to zero degrees Fahrenheit, you can store breast milk for up to 12 months. For thawing breast milk, you can remove the breast milk from the freezer and place it in a cup of warm water until the breast milk is thawed. You can also run the container of breast milk under warm running water, gently swirling the container until the breast milk is thawed. You never wanna put breast milk in a microwave or cook it on a stove in a pot of water. Those techniques are unnecessary and can pose risks to your baby. Microwave milk can create hot spots that would burn your baby, and actually heating up the milk destroys some of the beneficial living properties of the breast milk. So, we simply wanna use just warm water to thaw the milk. When you take the milk from the refrigerator as well, some babies actually like breast milk cold, but if your baby does not want of those, then you would also just warm the breast milk in a cup of warm water or under warm running water from your faucet. It only takes a few minutes and it will get your breast milk to the right temperature for your baby. So, this is some ways that you can store breast milk for future use. I hope this helps. Thanks for watching.