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 sterilized 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 sterilized 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…