How to store and use breast milk correctly

If you’re breastfeeding and perhaps thinking about doing some expressing, you’ll want to know all about how to store and use the milk you have expressed.

So, you’ve expressed the milk – I’d recommend an electric pump; manual is hard work and totally boring – and now you need to store it. Here’s how to store and use breast milk correctly;

Use a sterilised container, preferably one that is sort of proportionate to the amount of milk your baby will have in a single feed, which can be kept in the fridge or frozen. Milk lasts for:

  • 10 hours at room temperature
  • 5-8 days in the fridge
  • 2 weeks in the ‘freezer container’ (usually used for fruit and veg) in the fridge
  • 6 months in the freezer
  • 6-12 months in a chest freezer

It’s a good idea to label the containers so that you know exactly when the milk was expressed. And here are some quick tips re storing:

  • Milk lasts longer if the fridge/freezer door is opened less, so tore the milk toward the back of the fridge/freezer so it is less affected by the elements when the door is opened.
  • Refrigerate/freeze milk asap after expressing; it will last longer.
  • Freezing kills some of the live cells and antibodies in human milk and so if you know that you will use the expressed milk within 5-8 days, refrigerate it rather than freezing it (it’s more nutritious this way).
  • When refrigerated or frozen, the milk does separate into different layers – foremilk and hindmilk; don’t freak out and ditch the milk, this is normal! Just give it a good shake and it’ll mix.

Refrigerated milk can be drunk cold but if your baby is not a fan, the best way to warm it is by placing the bottled milk in lukewarm water. The reason a microwave is not ideal is because it creates hot spots which can burn a baby’s mouth.

If the milk is frozen, you need to use a little foresight because the milk should be thawed in the fridge. According to the experts at Breastfeeding basics.com, new research suggests that:

  • Frozen milk that has been heated and offered to the baby can be refrigerated within 30 minutes and offered again for the next feeding, but discarded after that.
  • Milk that has been heated, it can sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours, but then should be discarded.
  • Milk that has been offered to a baby but has not been heated can be kept at room temperature for up to 4 hours, or 24 hours if you put it in the fridge right away.

This information has been obtained from nhs.co.uk and breastfeedingbasics.com in an article entitled “Pumping and Storing Breastmilk” – click on the link if there is anything else you need to know; the site is brilliant and offers detailed info on storing and using breast milk.

Any useful tips for storing and using breast milk that you’d care to share?