Some moms will start pumping right from the beginning, others are returning to work and need to pump and store their milk until they can be home again. Many breastfeeding moms will have occasions that they are away from their baby for a period of time and need to manually express. So what do you do with this “liquid gold” to ensure it doesn’t go to waste? Here are a few very helpful tips.

All milk should be dated before storing. Storing milk in 2-4 ounce amounts may reduce waste. Preferably, breast milk should be refrigerated right after it is expressed and stored in glass or hard-sided BPA-free plastic containers which have been washed in hot, soapy, water, rinsed and let air dry. Breast milk freezer milk bags may be used as well.  

Storing Milk

  • Room temperature (66-78°F, 19-26°C) for 4 hours (ideal), up to 6 hours (acceptable) 
  • Refrigerated (<39°F, <4°C) for 72 hours (ideal), up to 6 days (acceptable)
  • Frozen (-0.4 to -4°F, -18 to -20°C) for 6 months (ideal) up to 12 months (acceptable)

Warming Milk

  • Do not use a microwave oven to heat breast milk.
  • Frozen Milk: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight or under cool running water. Gradually increase the temperature of the water to heat the milk to feeding temperature.
  • Refrigerated Milk: Warm the milk under warm running water for several minutes. Or immerse the container in a pan of water that has been heated on the stove. Do not heat the milk directly on the stove. 

Breastmilk may separate into a milk layer and a cream layer when it is stored. This is normal. Swirl it gently to redistribute the cream before giving it to baby.

Thawed Milk

  • Previously frozen thawed milk can be kept in the refrigerator and used within 24 hours. 

….Adapted from La Leche League International website. For more breastfeeding information please go to or if you need urgent support call 1-800-525-3243 (US)  |  1-800-665-4324 (Canada)

Image courtesy of papaija2008 /