How to Store and Prepare Expressed Breast Milk

  • Always wash your hands before expressing or handling your milk.

  • Be sure to use only clean containers to store expressed milk. Try to use screw-cap bottles, hard plastic cups with tight caps or special heavy nursing bags that can be used to feed your baby. Do not use ordinary plastic bags or formula-bottle bags.

  • Use chilled milk within 24 hours if possible. Discard all milk that has been refrigerated more than 72 hours.

  • Freeze milk if you will not be using it within 24 hours. Frozen milk is good for at least one month (three to six months if kept in a 0 degree freezer). Store it at the back of the freezer and never in the door section. Make sure to label the milk with the date that you freeze it. Use the oldest milk first.

  • Freeze two to four ounces of milk at a time, because that is the average amount of a single feeding. You may want some smaller amounts for some occasions.

  • Do not add fresh milk to already frozen milk in a storage container.

  • Thaw milk in the refrigerator or by swirling it in a bowl of warm water.

  • Do not use microwave ovens to heat bottles because they do not heat them evenly. Uneven heating can easily scald your baby or damage the milk. Bottles can also explode if left in the microwave too long. Excess heat can destroy important proteins and vitamins in the milk.

  • Milk thawed in the refrigerator must be used within 24 hours.

  • Do not refreeze your milk.

  • Do not save milk from a used bottle for use at another feeding.

Excerpted with permission from the American Academy of Pediatrics' booklet, "A Woman's Guide to Breastfeeding," 1998, page 28.

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