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How Should Breastmilk Be Stored?

Updated: Feb 1

Pumped Breastmilk Storage
Pumped Breastmilk Storage

Breastfeeding and pumping go hand in hand for many moms. There are many benefits to pumping. Pumping can help you to increase or maintain your milk production. Pumping also allows you to feed your baby breastmilk even when you are apart. With all the benefits of pumping, you may still have some concerns. How can you care for all your pumping supplies, especially when you have returned to work? How can you be sure that your breastmilk is stored safely? How should pumped milk be prepared for use? These are important questions. Improper care of pumping supplies and expressed milk could have serious consequences for your baby’s health. In this article we will discuss the CDC’s recommended guidelines for the storage and preparation of breastmilk so you can maintain the safety and quality of your milk.

Caring for Pumping Supplies and Bottles

It is vital to maintain sanitary conditions. Whether at home or at work, ensure that your pumping equipment is stored in a clean environment. Inspect your equipment before each use and thoroughly clean each part after pumping. If you notice mold beginning to grow in the tubing, discard and replace it immediately. Allowing parts to dry completely before storing will help to discourage mold and germ growth. Wash your hands before handling pumping equipment. You should wash your hands before pumping, and before putting away cleaned equipment. After pumping, rinse, wash, and dry your equipment as soon as possible. Avoid using a towel to dry your pump parts as a towel may transfer germs.

If your pump parts and bottles are dishwasher safe, use hot water and a heated drying cycle or sanitize setting. Place small parts in a mesh bag to ensure they don’t get caught in the dishwasher filter.

If you need to hand wash your equipment, use a dedicated wash basin and brushes. Clean

with hot water and soap, then allow to air dry. Use only an unused dish towel or paper towel to restparts while they dry. Any cleaning equipment you use for your pump and bottles should be used only for that purpose to prevent the transfer of germs.

After cleaning, you may want to sanitize your equipment. If you have used a dishwasher with a sanitize setting, you don’t need to sanitize again. But, if you hand wash, or your dishwasher doesn’t have a sanitize or heat dry cycle, you can sanitize by steaming or boiling depending on the manufacturer’s directions.

Proper Storage of Breastmilk

There are many factors that can affect how long pumped milk can be stored. These include the temperature of the room while pumping, volume of milk being stored, and the temperature of your refrigerator or freezer. Always store milk in plastic or glass containers with tight fitting lids. Don’t use containers not intended for storing breastmilk and avoid plastics which contain BPA. Label the milk with the date and time it was pumped.

Freshly expressed milk can be stored at room temperatures of 77°F or colder for up to four hours. Thawed milk can be stored for one to two hours at room temperature. If the baby does not finish their bottle, milk should be used within two hours or discarded. Your refrigerator should be 40°F for storing breastmilk. Fresh milk can be stored for four days, thawed milk can be stored for 24 hours. Your freezer should be 0°F or colder to store your milk. You can store fresh milk for up to a year, though it is best to use within 6 months. Store milk with the oldest to the front for easy access. Never refreeze thawed milk. Never store milk in the door of the fridge or freezer as the temperature will fluctuate. When freezing milk, store in small amounts. Freeze the amount of milk that will be used in one feeding to reduce waste. Leave space in the container as the milk will expand as it freezes.

If you are pumping at work or are traveling and do not have access to a refrigerator, you can store milk in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours. However, you want to use, refrigerate, or freeze the breastmilk as soon as possible. If you send your baby to a daycare, be sure to label your milk with your child’s name.

How to Prepare Stored Breastmilk for Use

Breastmilk can be fed cold or at room temperature. If you choose to warm milk, you can either hold it under warm running water or place it in a bowl of warm water. Do not heat milk on the stove or in a microwave. Microwaving breastmilk can destroy valuable nutrients and potentially become so hot in places it may burn your baby’s mouth. You can thaw breastmilk overnight in the refrigerator, or with warm water. Once completely thawed, breastmilk should be used within 24 hours. If you have brought the milk to room temperature or warmed it, it should be used within two hours.

Need Help?

If your breastfeeding journey has you feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help. Whether feeding at the breast or pumping, a lactation consultant can help you navigate the challenges. Our team of postpartum doulas are also ready to provide support and advice. We have years of experience working with new moms and can recommend products we have found to be helpful for breastfeeding moms. One of our favorite products is Silverette Nursing Cups, which can help to ease nipple discomfort. A postpartum doula can also help clean and sanitize your pumping equipment, organize milk storage, and prepare bottles. We are ready and trained to ensure your baby receives the highest quality nutrition. Contact us today! And download a free breastmilk storage guide here.

Breastmilk storage and preparation guidelines
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