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Anyone who works hard to pump breast milk will tell you—spilling even a drop is a tragedy. This spilled milk is worth crying over. Storing breast milk incorrectly is just as devastating, but it’s also a safety issue for your little one. If you find yourself wondering, “How long can breast milk be frozen?” or “How long can milk stay in the fridge?” don’t worry. Prince Lionheart is here to tell you how to store your breast milk the right way without wasting a single drop.
You might pump or express breast milk for a variety of reasons. Whether you need to pump because you’ll be away from Baby, because you’d like someone to help with feedings, or simply to have a bottle available when you need it, there are several ways to express breast milk.
Once you’ve decided the best way to express milk for you, figure out how to store breast milk. There are plenty of breast milk storage options. Consider:
When considering containers, think about whether you’ll be storing your milk for short periods, or whether you’ll need to be prepared for longer-term breast milk storage.
For shorter storage periods, storage bags made specifically for storing breast milk are great. However, they may be too delicate for longer periods in your freezer.
Glass and harder plastic bottles are heartier and better for longer breast milk storage. Look for containers designed especially for storing and freezing breast milk. Make sure they have tight fitting lids that seal completely; plastic containers should be BPA-free.
Pro Tip: If you’ll be pumping frequently, talk to your insurance company to see if your breast milk storage supplies are covered, too.
If other people will be feeding your baby, including partners, relatives, babysitters, nannies, or childcare workers, talk to them about which storage containers are easiest for them. Once you’ve chosen your containers, get in the habit of labeling your milk clearly with a full date, so you know how long it’s usable and when you’ll need to discard it.
Pro Tip: Ask childcare workers if they have any labeling requirements, too.
There are several ways to store breast milk, each keeping the milk fresh a little longer. Let’s look at each breast milk storage method, how long breast milk can safely be stored that way, and why you might choose it. We recommend following the breast milk storage guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to ensure the milk your baby gets is safe and retains its vital nutrients.
Don’t spoil your milk! Before handling pumping supplies, pumping, or expressing milk, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to a sink, use hand sanitizer made with at least 60% alcohol. Next:
Once you’ve expressed your milk, don’t overfill your containers. Allow for the milk to expand about 1 inch in case you need to freeze it. Clearly mark each container of milk right away. This way, you can tell how long it’s been unrefrigerated, or in the fridge, or freezer. Store milk in a cooler bag, fridge, or freezer as soon as possible. If the milk is unlabeled, you can’t remember when you put it in the fridge, or when in doubt, throw it out. (Yes, it’s painful, so ALWAYS label clearly!)
Pro Tip: Freeze milk in 2-4 oz servings so that you don’t thaw more than you need and waste it.
Wash everything thoroughly after expressing and storing. Make sure everything dries properly to avoid mold. Prince Lionheart Drying Stations and Dishwasher Baskets make it easy.
Pro Tip: Keep a list of how much milk is stored in the fridge and freezer. You’ll know at a glance if your supply is running low.
You don’t want to find yourself standing in front of the fridge at 3am thinking, “How long can breast milk stay in the fridge?” We recommend keeping this cheat sheet on your fridge to help you, and anyone else feeding Baby, remember the breast milk storage guidelines.