As long as you have a healthy, full-term baby, simply handle your milk the same way you care for other foods:
- Use a container made for food.
- Label the container with the date and time.
- Place a single serving in each container.
- Store in a cool place.
- Refrigerate as soon as possible.
- Freeze for later use.
Storage recommendations vary with time and temperature—the higher the temperature, the shorter the recommended storage time. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) recommends the following guidelines for breast milk storage:
- Room: Up to 4 hours at 77°F (25°C)
- Refrigerator: Up to 4 days at 40°F (4°C)
- Freezer Section: Up to 6 months at 0°F (–18°C)
- Upright or chest freezer: Up to 1 year at -4°F (-20°C)
- Use oldest milk first.
- Thaw the unopened container in the refrigerator or in a pan of warm water. Avoid using a microwave for thawing or warming breast milk or any foods given to your baby. Microwaves heat food unevenly, causing some portions to be hot while others are cold. Milk or other foods heated in a microwave can burn your baby’s mouth.
- Use milk thawed in the refrigerator within 24 hours.
- Serve milk cold or warm.
- Discard any milk left in the feeding container. It’s important to remember that storage tips are just that—tips rather than hard and fast rules. Because every drop of breast milk is precious, many mothers opt to refrigerate milk left in the feeding container (bottle or cup) to complete the feeding when the baby wakes up or refreeze milk thawed in the refrigerator but not used. Although there is no evidence at this time to support either practice, common sense would suggest that both practices are likely safe.
- Store milk in the coldest part of the fridge or freezer--not on the door, which is subject to more temperature variations.
For more information, see our educational handout, Breast Milk Storage & Thawing Guidelines for Healthy, Full-term Babies.