How Often to Express Before you begin collecting and storing breast milk for a future feeding, make sure that breastfeeding is going well (around 3 weeks after birth). Most people need several pumping sessions, which may have to happen over several days, to collect enough breast milk for a full feeding. Breastfeed your infant as usual, then follow with a 5 to 10 minute pumping session no more than 1 to 2 times a day, preferably in the morning. If you have just breastfed your baby, you should not expect to pump enough breast milk for a full feeding. Storing Breast Milk Milk expression for storage can be done by hand or pump. Before collecting your milk, wash your hands and breast pump with soap and hot water, then rinse. Make sure the containers you choose are clean and can be closed with airtight seals. You may find conflicting information on whether glass or plastic is the type of container to use. You can also get special storage bags for breast milk. Tips for storing breast milk: • Label and date the stored milk container with waterproof label and
ink (also write name if going to day care). • Store in small amounts (2 to 4 ounces). • Keep milk collected from one day separate from others. • Several expressions from a single day can be combined to get the amount you need in a container (refrigerate newly collected milk one hour before adding to already collected milk). • Use oldest milk first. • Thaw milk by putting container under warm running water or in a bowl of warm water. • Do not microwave or boil breast milk to thaw. • Swirl milk in the container to mix it.
Human Milk Storage Guidelines
Storage Locations and Temperatures
Freezer 0°F or colder (-18°C)
Countertop 77°F or colder (25°C) (room temperature)
Refrigerator 40°F (4°C)
Type of Breast Milk
Within 6 months is best Up to 12 months is acceptable Never refreeze human milk after it has been thawed
Up to 4 hours
Up to 4 days
Freshly Expressed or Pumped
Up to 1 day (24 hours)
Thawed, Previously Frozen
Left Over from a Feeding (baby did not finish the bottle)
Use within 2 hours after the baby is finished feeding
Adapted from “ABM Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants,” Revised 2017.
Depending on what study or book you read, these storage tips may vary. Please ask your lactation consultant or healthcare provider for the best storage guidelines and recommendations. If pumping and storing for a premature baby, please talk to your healthcare team about proper storage.
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