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.

Storing Breast Milk

    WHAT TO PUT THE MILK IN The first step in ensuring your expressed milk keeps is finding the best container. "If you are storing in a deep freezer, I'd go with the hard plastic bottles. For a regular freezer, I prefer breast milk storage bags," says Kelly A. Hightower, R.N., a certified lactation counselor. Be sure to date the bag or bottle, and vary the amount of milk in each container. "Most breast milk storage containers allow up to five ounces, but it's a good idea to have some that contain less. Sometimes your baby will need only two ounces, so there's no need to defrost a larger amount," Hightower says.

    WHERE TO STORE THE MILK Depending on when you plan on using your milk, you can stow it in a cooler, refrigerator, or freezer—or even at room temperature on the counter. Never keep breast milk on the fridge or freezer door, however. "It's better to keep it in the back, so it's less exposed to the changing temperature of the door opening and closing," Hightower says.

    HOW LONG DOES IT LAST? "I've got a five-five-five rule," Hightower says. "Your freshly pumped milk can last roughly five hours at room temperature, five days in the refrigerator and five months in the freezer." If you're pumping at work or on the go, you should check the cold packs in your cooler about every five hours. But if you have defrosted milk in your refrigerator, Hightower recommends using it within 24 to 48 hours. And if you've got a deep freezer, your breast milk can likely last up to a year. "It's not that your milk will go bad and make your baby ill if it's in the freezer longer. But its nutritional qualities will be diminished," Hightower says.

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