What Every Parent Should Know About Storing Their Breast Milk

Learn the best practices for thawing and reusing frozen breast milk, as well as what every parent should know about storing their breast milk properly for future use.

Optimally, you should be able to generate a surplus of breast milk for your infant’s needs. As a physician, I often encounter breastfeeding new parents who express concerns about inadequate milk production, particularly when using a breast pump. Consequently, you’ve likely been advised to preserve your breast milk in the freezer and avoid discarding it.

The CDC reports that the optimal temperature for storing freshly released breast milk is 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) for no more than four days. Fresh breast milk, however, can be safely frozen at 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C) or colder for 6 to 12 months.

Figure out the best ways to properly freeze and thaw breast milk.

Freezing Breast Milk

Breast milk should be stored in breast milk bags or clean, food-grade containers with secure closures as soon as possible after pumping. Because milk expands when frozen, you should leave some room at the top of the container. As an added convenience, breast milk can be frozen and thawed quickly if it is stored in smaller quantities (around 2 to 4 ounces per bottle/bag).

Put the date when the breast milk was collected on the label of each container. Label the breast milk container with the child’s name if you plan to bring it to daycare. If you have any questions regarding your daycare center’s specific guidelines for labeling and storing breast milk, be sure to ask.

Put the containers/bags in the fridge/freezer immediately. Don’t take the milk out of the freezer until you’re ready to thaw and feed it to your baby; the coldest part of the freezer is in the back, not the door.

If you aren’t going to use the oldest milk soon, you should probably just throw it away. Don’t feel awful about throwing out the oldest milk in your freezer if you have plenty already and can still pump and store more. Whatever the case may be, if it’s too old, it should be discarded.

In addition, breast milk can be kept cold for up to 24 hours in an insulated cooler bag with frozen ice packs. Upon arrival, milk should be consumed immediately, refrigerated, or frozen for later use.

Methods for Thawing Frozen Breast Milk

Breast milk can be thawed in a number of different ways from being frozen. It will take the milk 24 hours to defrost in the fridge if you don’t use it right away. In order to utilize the milk within the following 24 hours, reheat it by pouring warm water over the bag or bottle.

To quickly defrost something from the freezer, simply rinse it in warm water.

Don’t return breast milk to the freezer once it’s been thawed. Neither should you defrost it nor reheat it in the microwave. Risking injury to your infant and the loss of the milk’s protective enzymes and immunological qualities if you heat it above a certain temperature is not worth the risk.

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