If you plan to use a breast pump and store breast milk, follow these simple, safe steps:

  • Keep things sanitized and clean. Make sure to wash your hands and keep containers, storage bags and pump clean.
  • Use BPA-free containers. Or use plastic bags that are specially designated for milk collection and storage.
  • You might want also to include storing those bags in hard plastic food containers – to reduce the chance of a bag leaking or tearing.
  • Fill each container with what your baby will need for one feeding. Start with two to four ounces and then make changes as necessary.
  • You might also want to store some smaller portions of milk.
  • Remember that liquids expand as they freeze, so do not fill to the top.
  • Buy waterproof labels and ink and label each container with the date that you expressed the breast milk. If the stored milk is going to a babysitter or nursery, then include your baby’s name as well.
  • Once that is done, place the containers of milk in the back of the refrigerator or the freezer – where it is usually the coolest.
  • If you do not have immediate access to a refrigerator, then store in an insulated cooler for a short time.
  • Freshly expressed breast milk can be added to refrigerated or frozen milk from earlier in the same day. But to do that, make sure that you cool the freshly expressed breast milk before adding it to the previously chilled or frozen milk. Do not add warm breast milk.

For how long can I keep expressed breast milk?

  • Freshly expressed milk can be kept at room temperature for four to six hours, but four hours is the optimal time length.
  • Freshly expressed milk can be stored in an iced insulated cooler for 24 hours.
  • Freshly expressed milk can be stored in the back of a freezer for up to 12 months – though it is suggested to use it within six months.

What else do I need to know?

  • The longer you store breast milk, the greater the vitamin C loss.
  • Newborn breast milk will not meet your baby’s needs when your baby is a few months old.
  • Always thaw the oldest milk first – put it in the refrigerator overnight. Or run it under warm water.
  • Do not heat in a microwave.
  • Play it safe and discard any thawed breast milk after 24 hours.
  • Breast milk color may vary.

Contact your neighborhood Texas Health Care Obstetrics & Gynecology clinic in DFW for more information on storing breast milk.