Are you currently breastfeeding but are now going to start pumping too? Mothers who are preparing to go back to work, planning for a day out, or just thinking ahead, love to pump a few bottles of breast milk, but how long is storing breast milk safe?
The biggest determinant on how long you can store breast milk comes down to how you are storing it. Here are the answers for your different storage methods. All methods assume the milk has been put in a sealed and sterile container.
Storing breast milk at room temperature is the most limiting method. This only allows storage for 4 to 8 hours. This is for a fresh bottle which has not been sucked upon.
Storing the breast milk in the refrigerator changes this time dramatically. In the refrigerator the milk can be stored for 2 to 3 days and still be safe for your baby to drink.
Using a freezer changes things even more dramatically. You will need to consider what type of freezer you have and how cold it actually keeps the milk. Here are the 3 most common styles.
A single door refrigerator with the freezer compartment inside is the worst variety. It allows you to safely store the breast milk for approximately 2 weeks.
A dual door refrigerator, with a separate freezer door, allows for much colder temperatures. These freezers normally run around 0 degree Fahrenheit allowing the milk to be stored for up to 3 months. Keep in mind, this is with the milk staying frozen the entire time. Thawing the milk and re-freezing is not recommended.
The last type of freezer is the standalone freezer. These run even colder often being below 0 degrees and are normally opened less often. Storing breast milk for up to 6 months is considered safe.
Another consideration when storing breast milk is in the preparation after it has been frozen. It is tempting to throw the milk in the microwave for a quick thaw. Do not try this. You damage the nutrition of the milk rapidly and overheating is a major danger, with potential burns to your baby.
Thaw the milk at room temperature or by using a container of warm water. Once thawed the milk should be used within 24 hours if stored in the refrigerator. If stored at room temperature use withing a couple hours.
In all of these cases, once the bottle of milk has been drank from it is finished. You should not keep it any longer. One the baby had drank bacteria has been introduced and the milk will begin to spoil rapidly.
The great news about storing breast milk is the longevity. Once you mix a bottle of formula it needs to be used shortly. Breast milk is much more resilient, allowing breastfeeding mothers a chance to build up a supply for those days out, or for returning to work. Take advantage of the long storage time in the freezer and prepare yourself a plentiful supply.