Tommee Tipps

By knowing how to store it safely, you can reduce the risk of any of your precious expressed breastmilk going to waste.

A Guide to Safe Breast Milk Storage

Any parent who has expressed breast milk knows how precious it is. Even spilling the smallest drop can be heart breaking – whoever said "don’t cry over split milk" obviously never expressed breast milk!

But, by knowing how to store it properly for future use, you can reduce the risk of any going to waste and keep your baby safe.

Don't worry if you're unsure on how to store your expressed milk – that’s why we’re here to help!

How to store breast milk

Breastmilk is very resilient and stores well due to its antibacterial properties. Once it’s been expressed, breast milk should be stored in a sterilised container, pouch, or bottle with a well-fitting storage lid. Avoid bags that're not designed for freezing – they might burst or tear. Our storage bags and pouches are ideal, and they're already sterilised and ready for use right away!

It's handy to note that it’s fine to put breastmilk that's been pumped at different times on the same day into the same pot or pouch, and don’t worry if it's separated into layers after being stored – this is normal (it's just the hindmilk and foremilk). All you need to do is give it a swirl to re-mix before you feed your little one. 

To protect breast milk from temperature changes as the door opens and closes, don’t store breast milk in the fridge or freezer door.

When freezing breast milk, it's a good idea to leave a 2.5cm gap at the top of the container for expansion.

It's easiest to freeze milk in individual feed quantities of 60 – 125ml or 2 to 4 oz. (until you know how much your baby has per feed), then it's ready to be defrosted when needed. You can also store smaller quantities of around 30ml for days when your baby is feeling extra hungry!

How to label breast milk

You should always label the milk's container with the date and time the milk was expressed, so you can use the oldest batch first. It can help to add a 'use by' date too, and if your baby is going to have the milk at a childminder’s or nursery, clearly add their name and ask your care provider if they have any other requirements for how it should be labelled or stored.  

If you're going to freeze the milk, it’s also handy to write the amount on because milk can expand once frozen and it can be tricky to see just how much you've got.

How long can you store breast milk in the fridge or freezer?

Just like any other food stuff, breast milk will expire over time. The amount of time breast milk lasts will depend on whether it’s stored in the fridge or freezer, and at what temperature. You can buy special fridge and freezer thermometers to help you monitor this.

Breast milk can either be frozen or refrigerated depending on when you are planning to use it. If you want to store your breast milk for longer than five days, pop it in the freezer as soon as you can after expressing to protect the quality and nutrients.

The longer you store your milk, the more you need to think about…

  • Cleanliness while expressing, storing, and handling milk.
  • Storing milk at appropriate temperatures (use fridge and freezer thermometers).
  • Checking for bad tastes and smells, which will show if your milk has gone off. Always pour away any milk that smells sour and don’t give it to your baby.

Breast milk can be stored using the following guidelines…

 Method of Storing Breast Milk Use Within  Remember...
Room temperature <25°C  6 Hours
  • Never defrost or heat breast milk in a microwave. 
  • Never re-freeze breast milk.
  • Milk stored in the fridge but intended for freezing should be frozen within 24 hours. 
  • Once defrosted, the breast milk should be kept in the fridge and used within 12 hours. 
  • Do not boil breast milk. 
  • Throw away any leftover breast milk after freezing. 
Refrigerated at 5-10°C  3 Days 
Refrigerated at 0-4°C 6 Days 
Frozen  6 Months

Please note, this is a guide shows how long you can store breastmilk for a full term baby with no additional health concerns.

If your baby has been ill or was born prematurely, it's best to discuss this with your health professional to check that the same storage times apply, and if you're taking colostrum or milk into hospital, follow their advised storage and transport times.

How to safely thaw frozen breast milk

Remember to use the oldest breastmilk in your freezer stash first. It’s always helpful to store your newly pumped milk at back and clearly label it with the date it was expressed, that way, when you’re reaching for some frozen milk to give your baby, you’ll always start with the oldest milk first.

The best way to defrost breast milk that's been frozen is to leave it in the fridge to thaw out completely. Once it’s defrosted, you can store it in the fridge for up to 24 hours before it’s used, if you haven’t already warmed it up.

However, if you need it to be defrosted right away, you can pop the bag or container in warm water, or hold it under warm running water until it's defrosted.

To make your life a little easier, our 3-in-1 Advanced Bottle and Pouch Warmer is equipped with a special setting to defrost frozen breastmilk!

Whichever way you defrost frozen breast milk, it must be used right away once it's thawed. You should never re-freeze it, and don’t be tempted to microwave or heat breast milk on a stove, even if you’re in a hurry. Not only will this destroy the nutrients, but it can also cause dangerous ‘hot spots’ which can burn your baby’s delicate mouth.

How to store breast milk when you're out and about

If you want to take some expressed breast milk with you when you go out, make sure it's in a securely sealed container to avoid spills, and that it stays cold until needed. Our insulated bottle bags are perfect for protecting your milk on the move.

For longer journeys, it's handy to know that breast milk that's been chilled in the fridge can be stored in a cool bag with ice packs for up to 24 hours. If no ice packs are available when transporting milk, make sure it's used within four hours.