When you make the decision to breastfeed your baby, it’s important to know how breast milk can and should be stored. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, work-from-home mom, or a mom who works out of the home, chances are you’ll need to pump and store breast milk to use at some point. Breast milk storage is pretty straightforward. But there are definitely some rules and tips to make it as easy and safe as possible for your little one.

What kind of container should you use for breast milk storage?

Breast milk can be stored in hard BPA-free plastic or glass capped containers, or in special  plastic bags. I always chose to use the capped containers, because I could pump directly into them. But the baggies are great for saving space in your fridge or freezer. Also keep in mind, the baggies can tear or leak. For extra protection, store baggies in hard plastic food containers.

How should expressed breast milk be stored?

Always make sure to wash your hands before expressing and preparing milk for storage. Once you’ve pumped, fill containers in one-feeding increments (2-4 ounces to start), and try to store a few smaller amounts as well. Having a stash of 1-2 ounce feedings for emergencies or cluster feeds can be a lifesaver. Make sure you don’t overfill, as breast milk expands when it freezes! Label each container clearly with the date the milk was expressed, and your baby’s name if they’ll be at daycare or with a nanny. Breast milk should be stored in the back of the freezer or fridge, where it’s coldest. You can also add freshly expressed milk to refrigerated or frozen milk you pumped the same day. Before adding, make sure the fresh milk is completely cooled down.

How long will breast milk keep?

After going through all the trouble of pumping, you’ll want to make sure you are familiar with safety guidelines for when to use it. Crying over wasted milk is a real thing, believe me. This handy graphic breaks down freshly expressed breast milk storage guidelines:

breast milk storage

Image: Medela

If you decide to breastfeed your baby, these tips can help make the journey a bit easier! Proper breast milk storage can help make the transition back to work or into daycare a lot easier for a nursing mom. And it can also be a godsend when you need a break and someone else can feed the baby! You shouldn’t be the only one enjoying 3 a.m. feedings, after all.

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(Image: iStockPhoto / MonthiraYodtiwong)