Breastmilk Storage: A Helpful Guide For New Moms

breastmilk storage

When I was a brand new mom, all I thought about was breastfeeding.

Am I ever going to get this down? Will baby ever get this down? Why does it still hurt? Should I be pumping? When do I pump? How do I pump? How much should baby be eating?…and, of course: How long can freshly expressed milk stay out–and can I reuse it?

Along with the challenges that came with nursing, I obsessed over pumping into bottles, and bacteria growth. Needless to say, a lot of precious breastmilk was dumped and wasted due to paranoia and misinformation. I discovered a handy magnet I had received with my Medela breast pump (duh!) which contained a milk storage chart; so I stuck it on the fridge for reference, and referred to it daily.

Don’t have a handy magnet? No problem! Below is a useful chart for proper breastmilk handling and storage (for healthy, full-term infants) courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Print it, or save it to your phone for future reference:

Storage Duration of Fresh Human Milk
Location Temperature Duration Comments
Countertop, table Room temperature (up to 77°F or 25°C) 6–8 hours Containers should be covered and kept as cool as possible; covering the container with a cool towel may keep milk cooler.
Insulated cooler bag 5-39°F or -15-4°C 24 hours Keep ice packs in contact with milk containers at all times, limit opening cooler bag.
Refrigerator 39°F or 4°C 5 days Store milk in the back of the main body of the refrigerator.
Freezer Store milk toward the back of the freezer, where temperature is most constant. Milk stored for longer durations in the ranges listed is safe, but some of the lipids in the milk undergo degradation resulting in lower quality.
Freezer compartment of a refrigerator 5°F or -15°C 2 weeks
Freezer compartment of refrigerator with separate doors 0°F or -18°C 3–6 months
Chest or upright deep freezer -4°F or -20°C 6–12 months

In addition to storage information, you may want to know about safe handling when it comes to thawing and reusing milk. Popular Mom Blog and forum,, provides helpful storage and handling info, as well as thawing instructions. CLICK HERE to download KellyMom’s milk storage PDF to print for personal use.

As co-moderator of a private “new mom” group on Facebook, I scroll through pumped-milk questions and threads almost daily. The rules are confusing, and sometimes conflict from resource to resource. It’s scary caring for a delicate new baby, and it’s hard to trust you are doing the right thing. The good news is, nobody is supposed to know what exactly to do the first time around, and guess what? Babies are smart, resilient, and typically give clues to let you know if they are experiencing discomfort or do not like something all together. So hang in there, Momma! Before you know it, you will be retiring the breast, the pump, and the bottles, and this will all be a distant memory…until you have baby #2!


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