How should I store breast milk and how long is it good for? Breastfeeding

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Breast milk inside fridge.
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Before you start pumping and storing your breast milk, it's important to know the basics. There are also some tricks moms have found to make storage easier and less space-consuming.

Refrigerate for Days or Freeze for Months

"Many families find that storing milk in disposable bags takes up less space [than some other containers]. Much depends on how much milk needs to be stored. Typically milk is good in the refrigerator for six to eight days and in the freezer for six or more months. If a mom is pumping for a workday, she can pump at work, store it in a refrigerator or insulated bag, and then bring it home in an insulated bag, store it in the fridge, and let baby have it the next day.” -- Leigh Anne O'Connor, IBCLC, lactation consultant in private practice, New York, NY

Laying Bags Flat Saves Space

"If you're going to store the milk for more than a day or two, breast milk storage bags are great. Lay them flat and [you] can mark number of ounces and dates on them. If you have fresh milk and store it in the refrigerator, ideally use it within 72 hours. In a freezer, you have up to six months, as long as it's in the deep part of the freezer. Don't store it in the door. Once you thaw milk, you then have to use it in 24 hours. If you're unsure whether the milk is still good, you could smell...

"If you're going to store the milk for more than a day or two, breast milk storage bags are great. Lay them flat and [you] can mark number of ounces and dates on them. If you have fresh milk and store it in the refrigerator, ideally use it within 72 hours. In a freezer, you have up to six months, as long as it's in the deep part of the freezer. Don't store it in the door. Once you thaw milk, you then have to use it in 24 hours. If you're unsure whether the milk is still good, you could smell it. But some women just happen to have [an] enzyme in their breast milk that makes it smell bad but it isn't actually bad. Those women tend to know. If you put it in the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, then it should be totally fine.” -- Lauren Levine, MD, pediatrician at ColumbiaDoctors and assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY

Freeze Drop-In Bags Inside a Sealed Bag

"I just recently invested in a storage kit for drop-in bottles. The kit comes with two pump adapters, so you can pump directly into the drop-in liner bags and some lids. I pumped, and placed the lid on. Then I set it in a bottle and froze. Once frozen, I placed the liner in a gallon ziplock bag, so it wasn't exposed to the air. This does take up freezer room but we have an extra freezer anyways. I love this method because the liner then just goes straight to the bottle and no pouring is needed!"

Store Right in Bottles

"I used the bottles with the lid insert that replaces the nipple while storing. I didn't freeze often though. I mostly used what I pumped the following day. I never pumped extra from what I needed."

Always Mark the Date

"I used breast milk bags and froze it. Be sure to write the date on the bag, so you can remember which one to use first."

Try Storing Bags in a Shoe Box

"I freeze breast milk in 2- to 3-ounce sections, squeeze most of the air out, then lay flat to freeze, then store in shoe boxes on its side. This takes up a lot less space and the shoe box prevents freezer burn too. With my last baby, I used bottles with the caps in them and it took up a ton of space!"

DIY a Gift Bag Dispenser

"I usually only pump at work for the next workday so those usually stay in the glass bottles I pump into. Any extra goes into freezer either 3 ounces or 1 ounce per bag. They're labeled, frozen flat, and put into a gift bag with a slot cut out the side so I can pull each one from the bottom."

It Depends on the Cooling Method

"The breast pump I bought came with a sheet that says this: At room temp: 2-3 hours. Fridge: 6-7 days. Small freezer (the one on top of your fridge): 3-4 months. Large fridge size freezer: a year."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.