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Storing & Using Pumped Breastmilk


From storing to thawing, read on to learn how to handle and use pumped breastmilk.

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How to Store, Thaw, and Use Breastmilk

To Store

  • Store breastmilk in a clean, airtight container. Use hard plastic or glass with tight fitting, solid lids. Disposable feeding bottle liners or breastmilk storage bags are also good options. Leave ¼ of the container empty if you plan to freeze.
  • Store it in the coldest part of the freezer, under the icemaker or in a back corner.
  • Label the milk with the date and your child’s name; this is important when leaving pumped milk with the caregiver.
  • Keep fresh breastmilk at room temperature up to four to six hours.
  • Keep fresh breastmilk in a cooler with frozen gel packs up to 24 hours.
  • Store breastmilk in the refrigerator between three and eight days.*
  • Store breastmilk in a refrigerator freezer for three to six months and in a deep freezer with manual defrost for six to 12 months (a freezer is cold enough to store breastmilk if it keeps ice cream hard.)

Expert opinions vary on how long you can safely store breastmilk.*

To Thaw

  • Refrigerator thawed: Place container of frozen breastmilk in the refrigerator to thaw gradually.
  • Warm-water “quick” thawed: Place container of frozen breastmilk in a bowl of warm tap water. Once the breastmilk is liquid, use it right away or refrigerate.
  • Never microwave! “Hot spots” in the milk may burn your baby and the microwave destroys some of the infection-fighting benefits of your milk.

To Use After Refrigerating or Thawing

  • Warm cold breastmilk by holding container under running warm water or in warm water for a few minutes.
  • Gently mix breast milk before feeding because breastmilk components separate when thawing.
  • Discard leftover milk if the bottle has been in the baby’s mouth.
  • Keep thawed breastmilk in the coldest part of the refrigerator (e.g. the back of the refrigerator is colder than the door). Do not refreeze. Use thawed milk within 24 hours or discard.

To Transport

  • Keep breastmilk as cold as possible. Use insulated carriers and reusable frozen gel packs (not ice cubes).

To Clean Your Pumps

  • Rinse pieces that came in contact with breastmilk with cool water.
  • Wash pieces with warm soapy water, rinse and air dry on a clean towel or wash pieces in the dishwasher.

Did You Know?

  • Hand washing is the best way to help keep you and your baby well. Wash your hands for 15 seconds before breastfeeding and pumping.
  • Your breasts are never empty. Your baby can get milk if you’ve just pumped.
  • Try pumping in the morning. Milk volume is greater. Some people pump on one side while breastfeeding on the other.
  • Three short pumping sessions, about ten minutes each, are more effective than one long one.
  • Gentle massage while pumping may help you pump more milk.
  • Start at the lowest suction setting on your pump and increase to a setting that removes milk and feels comfortable. Pumping shouldn’t hurt.
  • When you and your baby are apart, pump often to maintain your milk supply. Avoid waiting until your breasts feel full.Weekends are a great time to enjoy breastfeeding your baby while building your milk supply. Leave pumping and other feeding methods for workdays.
 

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