Breastmilk Storage Guide

bottles of breastmilk in fridge with written note saying breast milk don't drink

Quick summary

Proper breastmilk storage involves clean hands, labeled containers, and following temperature guidelines. Fresh milk lasts up to 4 days in the fridge and 6-12 months in the freezer. Thawing should be gradual, never in a microwave. Feed oldest milk first and discard unconsumed portions within 1-2 hours.

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Breastmilk storage instructions

Breastmilk storage is easy once you get the hang of it.

  • Wash your hands before expressing or handling breastmilk.
  • Store breastmilk in clean containers, such as screw cap bottles or bags designed to store breastmilk that fit directly onto breast pumps. Avoid using ordinary plastic storage bags that could easily leak or spill.
  • Clearly label and date expressed milk.
  • Store in refrigerator or freezer (depending on when you will use it).
  • Do not add fresh milk to already frozen or chilled refrigerated milk.
  • Never refreeze breastmilk after it has been thawed.
Breastmilk Storage guidelines
  Storage Location & Temperatures
Type of Breastmilk Countertop/Room Temperature
77°F (25°C) or colder
40°F (4°C)
0°F (-18°C) or colder
Freshly Expressed or Pumped Up to 4 hours Up to 4 days Within 6 months is best; Up to 12 months is acceptable
Thawed, Previously Frozen 1–2 hours Up to 1 day (24 hours) Never refreeze human milk after it has been thawed
Frozen milk thawed in the refrigerator 40°F Store milk in the back of the refrigerator for a more stable temperature Up to 24 hours
Leftover from a Feeding
(Unfinished bottle)
Use within 2 hours after baby is finished feeding

Source: CDC, Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk open_in_new

Thawing breastmilk

Simple tips to help make sure your thawed breastmilk will be safe for your baby.

  • Night before. Frozen milk is best thawed in the refrigerator the night before it will be used.
  • Warm water. Frozen and refrigerated milk can be thawed under running warm (not hot) water or placed in a container of warm water for 20 to 30 minutes before a feeding.
  • Mix it up. Gently rock the thawed milk to help mix the fat layer back into the rest of the milk.
  • Temperature test. Shake a few drops of breastmilk onto your wrist; liquid is a safe temperature if it feels barely warm on the skin.
  • Never combine. Never add fresh breastmilk for storage to refrigerated or frozen breastmilk.
  • 24 hours. Defrosted breastmilk is good for up to 24 hours if kept in the refrigerator under appropriate conditions.

Never thaw or heat breastmilk in a microwave. In addition to creating hot spots in the liquid that may burn your baby, the microwave may destroy some of the breastmilk's nutrients.

Feeding breastmilk

  • First in, first out. Feed the oldest stored milk first.
  • One to two hours. Once milk is offered and exposed to baby’s saliva, any unconsumed milk should be discarded within one to two hours after a feeding begins.
woman bottle feeding a baby laying on its back

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