Breast Pumping

The milk storage guidelines listed here are for healthy babies who are at home. If your baby is in the hospital (preterm or sick), check with your baby’s health care provider to find out what milk storage guidelines they recommend.

  • Keep in mind that fresh milk is best. If you have stored milk at room temperature and are going to miss a breastfeeding session with your baby, give the milk stored at room temperature first.
  • If you plan to use your milk within 8 days, you can keep it in the fridge. Otherwise, plan to freeze it in the coldest part of the freezer. Avoid storing your milk in the door.
  • If you follow the times on the chart below, you can keep your milk at room temperature, then refrigerate it, and then freeze it.
  • Before freezing large amounts of milk. Freeze a batch or two, then thaw and smell it. Some mothers make milk high in lipase, an enzyme that digests fat. When thawed, the frozen milk of these moms has a strong, soapy smell. If this happens and the baby refuses this milk, deactivate the lipase before freezing it by scalding the milk first. (To scald your milk, heat it in a pot on the range until bubbles form at the edges, then cool and freeze.)

Storage Time for Human Milk*



Storage Temperature

Fresh
Breast Milk
Thawed Fresh Breast
Milk in Refrigerator,
Not Warmed

Deep Freeze
(0°F) (-18°C)
12 Months
Do Not Refreeze

 


Refrigerator Freezer
(variable 0°F) (variable -18°C)
3-4 Months
Do Not Refreeze

Refrigerator
(39°F)  (4°C)
8 Days
24 Hours

Room Temperature
(66°F-72°F) (19°C-22°C)
6-10 Hours
4 Hours

Room Temperature
(72°F-79°F) (22°C-26°C)
4 Hours
4 Hours


*Storage times may vary for preterm or sick babies. Sources: Jones, F. , Best Practice for Expressing, Storing and Handling Human Milk in Hospitals, Homes and Child Care Settings. Raleigh, NC: Human Milk Banking Association of North America, 2011; Mohrbacher, N. Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple: A Guide for Helping Mothers. Amarillo, TX: Hale Publishing, 2010.

 

Why can’t the experts agree? First, research confirms that your milk will not spoil before the times listed in this table. But the longer your milk is stored, the more vitamins and antioxidants are lost. That’s why some breastfeeding books list shorter storage times. Those experts prefer you to use your milk sooner rather than later. But this doesn’t mean that your milk will spoil if you wait longer.


It’s never a bad idea to give your milk as soon as you can after pumping. But what should you do if you find some stored milk in the back of the fridge that has been there for up to eight days? When in doubt about the freshness of your milk, smell or taste it. Spoiled milk will usually smell spoiled.


This is general information and does not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away. Every baby is different. If in doubt, contact your physician or healthcare provider.