Breast milk offers numerous benefits to your baby, from an enhanced immune system to a higher IQ level. It provides nutrients essential for brain function that enhance cognitive development. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula, which contains cow’s milk proteins that your baby must adjust to. If you pump extra breast milk to be stored, follow storing guidelines so your breast milk is not wasted.
After pumping or expressing your breast milk, date the container before storing. Breast milk can be stored in clean bottles with an airtight top or a heavy-duty freezer sealable bag intended for human milk storage. Avoid containers that could leak or spill such as normal plastic storage bags.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, room temperature breast milk can be stored as long as six to eight hours. Try to keep containers as cool as possible to keep breast milk from spoiling. Breast milk stored in an insulated cooler bag can be kept for 24 hours until it must be thrown out. Keep ice packs in contact with containers and limit opening the cooler bag as much as possible. Ideally, refrigerated breast milk can be stored for five days. Containers should be placed in the back of the main body of the refrigerator.
If freezing breast milk, leave at least 1 inch of space between the milk and top of the container to allow the milk to expand. Breast milk should be stored in the back of the freezer where the temperature is the most constant. In a chest or upright deep freezer, breast milk can be stored for six to 12 months. If your refrigerator has separate doors, breast milk can be stored for three to six months. If you have a refrigerator with the freezer as a compartment inside, breast milk should only be stored for two weeks.
Determining if Breast Milk Is Bad
If breast milk has been stored longer than the guidelines recommend, it should be thrown out. Remember that all breast milk is not going to look the same, as it varies in color. If fat in the breast milk separates during storage, shake the container and the fat will mix with the milk. Breast milk can sometimes taste or smell soapy; fat can also break down during storage, causing this smell. Note that it is still safe to consume when this happens. Spoiled milk will smell sour and should not be consumed.
- WomensHealth.gov: Breastfeeding
- La Leche League International: What Are the LLLI Guidelines for Storing My Pumped Milk?
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Breastfeeding: How to Pump and Store Your Breast Milk
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Proper Handling and Storage of Human Milk
- WomensHealth.gov: Pumping and Milk Storage
- KidsHealth: Breastfeeding FAQs: Safely Storing Breast Milk
- Breastfeed.com: Breastfeeding and IQ