Storage Guidelines for Breastmilk

There are so many different recommendations around breast milk storage guidelines, and it's hard to know which is right.  There are reasons behind the recommendations.  Once you understand them it's easy to decide what is best for you.  

Once milk has been sitting awhile it starts to lose vitamins, antioxidants, and other components.  It’s always best to use milk sooner than later.  The temperature of where the milk is being stored or your room temperature also matters.  Milk can sit out longer in a cooler room.  Also where the milk is stored in the freezer/fridge can matter.  The door isn’t as cold as the back.  Hygienic practices like hand-washing and sanitizing the bottles can matter too.  The less bacteria you start with the fresher the milk stays.  If your baby is premature or has medical issues, the storage guidelines may vary in order to keep baby safe.  All these recommendations are for healthy, full-term babies and freshly expressed breastmilk.

The easiest way to remember the ideal time to use milk is the rule of 4s:  

  • 4 hours at room temperature 
  • 4 days in the fridge 
  • 4 months in the freezer
  • 24 hours in a cooler with ice packs
  • 24 hours after thawing

But ideal isn’t always possible, so below is a more detail guide.  

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