Store and Handle Breastmilk Like a Pro

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Do You Have Questions on How to Store Breastmilk?

New mothers often have questions regarding how to store and handle breastmilk properly. Human milk must be handled carefully to retain its nutrients and anti-infective properties. Specific guidelines should be followed to ensure the milk remains as fresh as possible.

How to Handle Breastmilk

Breastmilk can be expressed with the use of a manual pump, through hand expression, or with the use of an electric breast pump. The milk expression system should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized prior to use. All detachable parts from a breast pump should be washed in hot, soapy water. To handle breastmilk safely, mothers should wash their hands prior to expressing milk.

Bottles that are designed for use with a breast pump should be filled with approximately two to four ounces of breastmilk, depending upon how much the baby eats at one feeding. One inch of space should be left at the top of the bottle to allow for expansion if the milk will be frozen. Breastmilk can also be stored in plastic bags that are designed specifically for freezing human milk. Breastmilk should not be stored in polyethylene bags that are used as bottle liners, as it may diminish the nutrients and immune properties of the milk.

How to Store Breastmilk

Ideally, breastmilk left at room temperature should be used within four hours, however, it can be left at room temperature for up to eight hours. Expressed milk that has not been refrigerated or frozen within eight hours should be discarded. If a baby does not consume all of the pumped milk at one feeding, it may be refrigerated for up to four hours. Breastmilk that has gone bad will have a very distinct sour odor.

Human milk that is kept refrigerated retains more anti-infective properties than milk that is frozen. Expressed breastmilk that has been stored in the refrigerator, at a temperature below 39 degrees Fahrenheit, should be used within eight days.

Breastmilk that has been frozen in a self-contained freezer that is part of a refrigerator/freezer unit can be stored safely for up to six months. Milk that is stored below zero degrees Fahrenheit in a deep freezer will remain safe for a baby to consume for up to 12 months. Expressed milk should never be refrozen, as it may lead to a breakdown of the nutrients and antimicrobial properties of the milk.

How to Warm and Thaw Breastmilk

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