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Breastmilk Storage Guidelines and Tips

Breast Milk Storage Guidelines

Room Temperature 4-6 hours
Cooler with frozen ice packs 24 hours (39 degrees F)
Refrigerator 4-8 days at the back of the fridge
Freezer Up to 3 months
Deep Freezer Up to 12 months (-4 degrees F)


  • Label the bag or container with date and time that the milk was pumped.

  • Store in approximate feeding-size quantities. This is great so you don't defrost more than needed. It can be a bit of a let down (see what we did there, we love puns) to throw out milk that you worked hard to pump, so if you store and freeze milk in small amounts (typically 2-3 ounces) then you can always defrost more as needed and not worry about wasting too much. 

  • Use thawed milk within 24 hours and do not refreeze after milk has been thawed.

  • Freshly pumped milk may be stored in fridge or freezer if not used in 4-6 hours. If you've pumped and given milk to the baby but they baby didn't finish it all, don't worry you don't have to throw it out. Store it back in the fridge or freezer for a later feeding. 

  • Try to match the age of milk and time of the day that the milk was pumped as closely to the baby's age and time of the day in order to optimize benefits of properties of the milk. Your milk changes as the day goes on and as the baby gets older. Your milk at night is higher in fat and less high in water, which would explain why you might feel more engorged or full in the mornings and less full in the evenings. Your baby might require less volume at night because they are getting more fat and nutrients to make it through the evening with less feedings. Think of it like your milk has "wake up" particles in the morning milk and "sleepy" particles in your evening milk. Your milk also changes with baby's age. So when choosing the milk to defrost go for a bag that's closest to baby's current age and that was pumped at the same time of day if possible.  

  • Swirl gently to mix creamy portions with the more watery portions of milk. There is some controversy around shaking your bottle pf breast milk. Some say that shaking denatures the delicate proteins in the milk however there are other actions such as the force of pumping or freezing or toting around your milk storage bags that probably have the same effect and the milk is still just fine. So use your judgement, swirl, gently rock, sing to your milk a lullaby, whatever sets your soul on fire! 

  • Do not microwave your milk. Microwaves create hot spots in the milk because it heats liquids unevenly and this can burn the baby's mouth. And like any other food that is microwaved it can destroy precious nutrients. Breast milk is a living, dynamic fluid, and the microwave can destroy immunological particles decreasing the immune boosting properties for the baby. It can also decrease the protein and fat content. Instead, put your frozen bag of milk into luke-warm water until room temperature. 

  • Milk bath anyone? Do you have extra milk that you won't be able to use at the end of a feeding? Maybe your partner or care-taker started a bottle just before you got home from work and now that you're home you're planing to breastfeed? Maybe there is still an ounce left in the bottle that you won't need. You can pour it in the bath to help keep that baby skin silky smooth. This is also great for eczema or any skin irritation. Or you can freeze it into ice cubes for your teething baby. You can even search the web for ideas on making salves or lotions for yourself. Breast milk is magical! Use it anyway you can! 
  • Don't go crazy! Motherhood already has its own unique set of challenges and it's easy to get stressed out about the need to do it all perfectly. These bullet points above are tips to help optimize your experience, but try to put aside the desire to do it perfectly and reach out for help when you need it. Remember your mental health matters and babies just want happy mothers, ya know, like the whole "put on your own oxygen mask first" kinda thing! And remember, you just made a human! YOU ARE AMAZING! AND YOU'RE DOING A GREAT JOB!

If you're looking to donate your milk or looking to receive donor milk, please join our private Cafe of Life Mama group on Facebook and post about it! There are always mamas looking for donor milk, or looking to donate and clear some milk in their freezers. If you're local to the San Diego area it's a perfect online community for you. If you're not local to San Diego there are milk banks or online communities that can help. 

We love helping families breastfeed better! If you're having difficulty with breastfeeding, a painful latch, low supply, oversupply, let us know! You are not alone. Breastfeeding can be tough! Sometimes all you need is a hug and reinforcement that you're doing a great job. We have an infant scale here if you want to do weighted feedings or just hang out we'd love to see you!  
Call us if you need any help!


1) Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 5th Edition, Wambach and Riordan

2) Lactation Education Resources