Research varies about the proper storage time for expressed milk. For the health and safety of your baby, shorter storage times for expressed milk were chosen. The following guidelines may be used when you plan to store, freeze, thaw or warm your milk. Expressed milk may be used when you are away from your baby.
- Refrigerate your milk as soon as possible after expression if it will not be used right away. Store in the main part of the refrigerator – not in the door
- If it is not put in the fridge, your milk needs to be used within 4 hours or it must be thrown out
- Expressed milk can be stored for up to 3 days (72 hours) in the fridge
- If your baby does not finish the bottle, do not store this milk for later use, throw out the remaining milk. After your baby drinks from the bottle, there is an increased chance of bacteria growing in the milk
- Keep human milk cool or frozen while travelling (for example, from home to your baby’s daycare). When using an insulated cooler bag with an ice pack, your milk can be stored for up to 24 hours
- Frozen human milk may smell or taste different, but it’s still good for your baby
Sterilize all equipment used in the preparation and storage of milk for babies less than four months of age before each use. Place equipment in a pot of boiling water for two minutes, or according to manufacturer’s instructions. This is a recommendation made by Health Canada and Alberta Health. The sanitizing cycle of the dishwasher that is NSF-184 approved is also acceptable. After babies are four months of age, wash equipment in hot soapy water and rinse in hot water.
Check artificial nipples before each use to make sure that they have no signs of damage (such as tears, cracks, swelling, tackiness or stickiness). This could result in a choking hazard for babies. If the nipple becomes cracked, torn, or shows signs of breakdown, replace the product right away.
Freezing human milk
Storage of frozen human milk
- Freeze milk for up to 2 weeks in the freezer section of a 1-door refrigerator (one in which you have to open the main door of the fridge to reach the freezer section)
- Freeze milk for up to 4 months in the freezer section of a 2-door refrigerator (one in which you can open the freezer section without opening the rest of the fridge)
- Freeze milk for up to 12 months in a chest or deep freezer. Freezer temperature should be -18 C or 0 F
Tips for freezing human milk
- Freeze milk in small amounts (60 to 120 ml or 2 to 4 oz) in a sterilized container e.g. a glass bottle, Bisphenol-A free (BPA-free) plastic containers (bottles or lidded ice cube trays) or storage bags
- Label the container with the date of milk collection. Use those with the oldest dates first
- Chill newly expressed milk in the fridge before adding it to previously frozen milk
Using expressed milk
Thawing frozen human milk
- Frozen milk thaws quickly under cool or warm running water, in a container of warm water or in the refrigerator
- The fat in expressed milk may separate during thawing. Gently shake the milk to mix
- Refrigerate thawed milk and use within 24 hours
- Do not refreeze expressed milk
Warming thawed human milk
- If milk has been frozen in glass or BPA-free plastic containers, place the container in a container of warm water until the milk is lukewarm. Put the container of milk in a pan of warm water for no more than 15 minutes
- Thawing and warming milk in a microwave is not advised. Microwaves heat milk unevenly, form hot spots that can burn your baby, and may destroy the immune components in human milk
Feeding expressed milk to your baby
- You can feed the expressed milk to your baby using a spoon, cup or bottle
- Always test the milk temperature on your wrist. It should be cool to the touch. If it is warm to the touch, it may be too hot to feed your baby
- If your baby does not finish the bottle, throw out the remaining milk. After your baby drinks from the bottle, there is an increased chance of bacteria growing in the milk.