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Storing expressed breast milk

There are many reasons why you might want to express breast milk.

Whether it's so you and your partner can enjoy a night out or you are separated from your baby, you need to know how to store it safely.

Where should I store expressed breast milk?

Basically, the lower the temperature the longer you will be able to store breast milk.

Depending on the temperature, breast milk can be safely kept at room temperature for a maximum of six hours.

However, a fridge increases longevity enormously. In a fridge running between freezing and 4C, your expressed milk will keep for up to eight days.

On the move and don't have access to a fridge? Try using a cool bag or a box containing some deep frozen ice packs.

You may wish to store your breast milk for longer periods, in which case it can be put in a freezer. Freeze as soon as possible after expressing and use within six months. If you are using the ice compartment of your fridge, then the milk will only keep for up to two weeks.

Store the milk in small quantities, labelling each container with the date so that you can use the oldest first.
However you choose to store expressed milk, remember that the container must be sterilised first. This can be done using a cold water sterilising solution, a steam steriliser or by boiling.

Is frozen breast milk as beneficial for my baby as chilled breast milk?

Breast milk is the only natural food designed for your baby and helps protect him or her from infections and diseases. Some, but not all of the special properties of breast milk are affected by the freezing process.

Breast milk that has been frozen is still good for your baby and better than formula milk.

How do I defrost frozen breast milk?

Breast milk can be defrosted in a number of ways. The best way is to take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge until it thaws out. It can also be defrosted at room temperature, but once it has reached room temperature it should be used or thrown away.

If you need it in a hurry, try defrosting under cool, then warm running water.

You should never attempt to thaw it using a microwave as it is easy to overheat the milk or create 'hot spots' that could scald your baby.

Don't refreeze milk after you have thawed it.

Once the milk is defrosted, give the bottle a gentle shake in case the fats have separated.

Can I feed my baby milk straight from the fridge?

Nutritionally it makes no difference.

The question of whether to feed with expressed milk straight out of the fridge or by warming it first is likely to be one of personal preference.

If you decide to warm the milk, stand the bottle in a bowl of lukewarm water. Aim just to take the chill off and test the temperature by shaking a few drops onto the inside of your wrist. The milk should feel warm, not hot.

What if my baby is in hospital?

If you're expressing and storing breast milk because your baby is premature or ill, ask the hospital staff caring for your baby for advice on how to store it.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 30, 2014

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