It’s hard to know what all the guidelines are when it comes to breast milk storage! But good news we have the top 11 breast milk storage questions answered!
Breast Milk Storage Guidelines
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Is there anything worse than being sleep deprived and having to do things that require any thought? Ha. I don’t think so! The first few weeks with a newborn are so challenging! Ain’t nobody got time to try and remember things like:
How long breast milk stays fresh?
How long does breast milk last in the fridge?
How soon can you freeze pumped breast milk?
We’ve got your back, ladies with all your tough breastmilk questions answered!
Here are answers to 11 of the most frequently asked questions about breast milk storage!
How long can I store breast milk in the freezer?
Many moms wonder, “how long is frozen breast milk good for?” Thank heavens, breast milk can last a long time in the freezer! Breast milk is fresher when used within 6 months of being frozen. However, if you have a deep freezer (that is very cold and rarely opened), then breast milk can last up to a year and still be perfectly safe for your little one. How amazing is that?!
Breastmilk Storage System
Be sure to label each container of breast milk with the date to ensure that you know when it is time to throw the “expired” breast milk out! Plus, when you label each one you know to use the oldest milk first!
What can I store breast milk in to freeze?
Guess what? There are actually breast milk storage bags that are made for this purpose. And they won’t break the bank! Any brand will get the job done, but make sure not to overfill the bags (breast milk will expand as it freezes). There are even small containers that are perfect for freezing breast milk if you’d prefer something with more structure than a bag. When it comes to storing milk just be sure to not reuse the bags because you want to make sure that they are sterile. (that’s why you have to rip off that little tab before putting breast milk into the bag!)
Can I put freshly pumped milk in the freezer?
As a new mom, we know that all the breastmilk you pump is like liquid gold to you! So the last thing you want to do is ruin it (or spill it) after pumping! So, a lot of moms ask, “Can I put freshly pumped milk in the freezer??
The answer is YES! I remember pumping lots of milk and pouring it straight into a freezer bag to put into the freezer. This was my lifesaver during the first few weeks with my baby.
It’s not recommended that you add freshly pumped milk to frozen milk, but you can if you need to. So, if you are adding freshly pumped milk to breast milk that is already frozen, it must be cooled down before you add it to the frozen breast milk. Otherwise, it will slightly thaw the frozen breast milk, and we don’t want that!
Can you freeze refrigerated breastmilk?
Yes, you can freeze breast milk that has been in the fridge! But, you want to make sure that the milk is still fairly fresh. My personal opinion is to freeze it within 24 hours of putting in the fridge. That way it is as fresh as possible!
However, some people say that it is fine to freeze breast milk that has been in the fridge 2-3 days. As long as the breast milk smells fine, it should be ok to put it in the freezer.
How do you use frozen breast milk?
First, you have to thaw breast milk and bring it to room temperature. Since I am terrible at planning ahead, I usually just take a bag of frozen breast milk out of the freezer and run it under warm water until it is completely liquid and warm to the touch. Then, I place it in a bottle and use it right away!
If you plan ahead, you can take the frozen breast milk and put it in the fridge to thaw overnight. Once thawed, warm it up by running it under hot water- never use a microwave! Then, put it in a bottle and you’re set!
So, what to do with thawed breast milk after 24 hours?
Use thawed breast milk within 24 hours, otherwise, it needs to go down the drain! So be sure you only get out a bit at a time. It doesn’t take a long time to thaw more breastmilk with warm water. You can also your breastmilk to mix with baby cereal or other things for baby.
How long does it take to thaw breast milk?
Depending on the method you use to thaw the breast milk, it can take anywhere from about 10 minutes to 24 hours. If you pull it straight from the freezer to run under warm water, you can have it thawed and ready to serve in 10-20 minutes, depending on how much breastmilk is in the bag. Bags definitely defrost faster than containers so keep that in mind when choosing bags or containers. If you take it from the freezer and put it into the fridge, it will take about 24 hours for it to thaw completely.
How to Warm Breastmilk
Yes, you can heat breast milk, and you should aim to have it be lukewarm, or room temperature. The major issue with heating breast milk is that people assume that the microwave is the perfect way to heat it. Don’t put your breast milk in the microwave! Microwaves heat unevenly, and it could burn your baby’s mouth if the milk is too hot.
To check the temperature of breast milk you can turn your wrist over and dab a few drops on the backside of your wrist. If it is hot you know that the breast milk is too hot. If it is warm, then it is safe to say that the breast milk temperature is fine.
Use hot, running water to heat breast milk, or, if you are fancy and have one, you can use a breast milk warmer.
How long does breast milk last in the fridge?
If you make sure to keep the milk in the back of the fridge (where it is the coldest), the milk can keep for up to 5 days. If you open the fridge a lot or have kiddos who do, it is best to use breast milk within 2-3 days. Don’t store the breast milk in the door of the fridge, it’ll get too warm there.
Can I mix frozen breast milk from different days?
You definitely can mix frozen breast milk from different days. If you plan on doing this, just make sure to use the date of the oldest milk as your guideline for knowing how long the milk will be good.
If you are adding freshly pumped breast milk to frozen milk, cool the pumped milk down before adding it in, this will prevent the already frozen milk from thawing at all.
Can you reheat breast milk?
Even though it would be SO convenient to save breastmilk and reheat it, it isn’t recommended to reheat breast milk. Once your baby has eaten as much milk from the bottle as they want, throw it out. It is likely that the baby’s saliva will contaminate what is left in the bottle, so you are better off starting fresh for the next feeding.
How long can you store breastmilk at room temperature?
Once you take the breast milk out of the fridge, you have about 4 hours to use it before you need to toss it. I used to take advantage of this by grabbing a bottle of milk out of the fridge and bringing it with me on playdates, to the grocery store, or to church. As long as it hasn’t been longer than 4 hours, you can take milk on the go and feed baby while you’re out!
Do you have any more questions about breast milk storage? Ask in the comments!
LOOKING FOR MORE TIPS ON BREASTFEEDING?
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Michele is a Family Life Educator with her degree in marriage and family studies. She is a mom to 5 kids and loves helping others strengthen their families! When she is not blogging she is spending time with her family and running around drinking Diet Coke trying to get everything done!