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How do I store my breast milk?

You can freeze and/or refrigerate your pumped (or expressed) breast milk. You should store it in clean bottles with screw caps, hard plastic cups that have tight caps, or nursing bags (pre-sterilized bags meant for breast milk). It's helpful to put a label on each with your baby's name and the date indicating when the milk was pumped. You can add fresh cooled milk to milk that is already frozen, but add no more than is already in the container. For example, if you have 2 ounces of frozen milk, then you can add up to 2 more ounces of cooled milk.

How long, exactly, can I store my breast milk?

For healthy full-term infants:

  • You can store it at room temperature:

    • for 4 to 10 hours (at no warmer than 77°F, or 25°C)
  • You can store it in the refrigerator:

    • for up to 8 days at 32°-39°F (0°-3.9°C)
  • You can store it in the freezer (be sure to leave about an inch of space at the top of the container or bottle to allow for expansion of the milk when it freezes):

    • for up to 2 weeks in a freezer compartment located inside the refrigerator
    • for 6 to 12 months in a freezer that's self-contained and connected on top of or on the side of the refrigerator and is kept at 0°F (-18°C). Store the milk in the back of the freezer, not in the door) or in a deep freezer that's always 4°F (-20°C)

To thaw frozen milk, you can move it to the refrigerator (it takes 24 hours to thaw), then warm by running warm water over the bag or bottle of milk and use it within the next 24 hours. If you need it immediately, then remove it from the freezer and run warm water over it until it's at room temperature. Do not refreeze it.

Once your baby has started to drink from the bottle, you should use it within 1 hour. If the baby doesn't finish the bottle, you can put it back in the refrigerator, then warm it and use it at the next feeding.

You may find that different resources provide different variations on the amount of time you can store breast milk at room temperature, in the refrigerator, and in the freezer. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns or questions.

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