If you’re pumping or expressing milk to use it later, you need to take great care when you store it.
After it’s been expressed, then breast milk can easily become contaminated. Not just how long you can store it, either — even the containers you use matter. Here are some easy guidelines to follow when you store your breast milk.
How long does breast milk last?
As a rule, you can store breast milk at room temperature for three hours. After this period, it must be thrown out (you can’t put it in the refrigerator or freezer and store it longer).
If you put freshly pumped milk in the refrigerator right away in a covered container, you can safely store it up to three days.
Finally, if you freeze freshly pumped milk in a home freezer (-16 degrees C or 4 degrees F) then it will keep up to three months.
What kind of container should I use?
Now that you know the answer to how long does breast milk last, you need to look into how to actually store it.
For expressing milk by hand, use a plastic container with a wide mouth. Guiding your flow of milk is very hard. Electric or mechanical pumps can make this job much easier — just read the instructions before you use the pump for the first time. Using it correctly is key, the last thing you want is damage to your nipples.
* Note Worthy* Common sense but worth mentioning – If you express by hand, wash your hands beforehand so you don’t contaminate your milk. Similarly, when you use a pump be sure that all the parts coming into contact with your breast have been properly cleaned.
Overall, store breast milk in a plastic container.
This way there’s less risk of altering the composition than if the milk has been stored in glass. The last thing you want is to destroy essential nutrients, vitamins, and antibodies. If the milk is going to be used that same day, it’s also possible to store it directly in the plastic feeding bottle your baby use.
Like with pumps, be sure the container has been not just washed but sterilized before you use it.
What do I need to do when freezing milk?
For freezing milk, put it in a plastic container that’s been labeled with the date.
Never fill a container more than three-quarters full — the milk is going to expand as it freezes, and the container might burst otherwise. Make sure the container has been properly sealed, then cool it down in the refrigerator before you put it in the freezer.
In general, you want to avoid storing breast milk for long periods of time at any temperature, if you can.
The reason is that it’s still possible for bacteria to start growing and contaminate your milk, which in turn might produce illness and infection if fed to your baby.
Similarly, thaw milk fast to avoid the possibility of bacteria contaminating it. The best way to thaw milk is to place the plastic container in a bowl of warm water. Never Use A Microwave. Microwaving changes the composition of the milk, and robs your baby of vitamins, antibodies, and other ‘goodies’.
Give the milk a proper shake before you feed it to your baby.
….and there you go – we have covered how long does breast milk last, looked at how to store it, what to store it in and how to defrost it ready to use.