If you are breastfeeding directly, the storage time for breast milk at room temperature, refrigeration, and freezing is not important, as you’re giving milk straight to your baby. However, there are times when you need to feed your baby breast milk that has been stored in various ways. Today, we will look at how long you can store breast milk according to the situation!
Tip: Do I need to store breast milk differently if I’m feeding a premature baby?
What if the baby was born prematurely and is receiving medical attention? Or even if the child was carried to full term, what if they are currently sick and in the hospital? More stringent breastfeeding storage guidelines are needed.
For premature infants, breast milk can be stored at room temperature (25°C) for up to 1 hour, refrigerated for up to 48 hours, and frozen at -40°C for up to 3 months. We recommend that you feed your baby with expressed breast milk as soon as possible.
How to Store Breast Milk for Full-term Babies
1. Storage of expressed breast milk at room temperature.
Up to 3 hours if freshly expressed breast milk is left at room temperature (near 25 degrees Celsius) for up to 3 hours (for full-term infants). However, premature infants should be fed breastmilk within an hour of storage at room temperature, or it should be refrigerated within 1 hour. Breast milk that has already been refrigerated or frozen, once thawed should be fed to the baby within 1 to 2 hours at room temperature.
2. Refrigerated storage of expressed breast milk.
If freshly expressed breast milk is stored in the refrigerator (4 degrees Celsius), it can be stored for up to 72 hours (3 days). This is when stored firmly inside the refrigerator. If you store it near the refrigerator door, the temperature changes every time you open or close the door, so breast milk can easily spoil faster.
Frozen milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. In terms of the preservation of immunological components in breast milk, refrigeration is better than freezing. When storing breast milk, if you think you will be using it after 3 days, store it in the freezer from the beginning. If you move breast milk that has been stored in the refrigerator to the freezer after some time, the quality of breast milk may deteriorate.
3. Frozen storage of expressed breast milk.
Breast milk can be stored up to 3 months in a -18°C freezer and up to 6 months in a -40°C freezer (for full-term infants). It is important to keep your breast milk inside the freezer. If you store breast milk near the door of the freezer, the temperature may change, and the milk may spoil. Breast milk that has thawed after freezing should never be re-frozen. If you have leftovers from frozen breastfeeding, it is safest for your baby to discard them.
Breast milk expands when it freezes, so the containers should not be overfilled. Fill them only about 3/4 of the way and seal them carefully. It is recommended to select a container that does not release environmental hormones; the best option is to sterilize the container or store it in a breast milk storage bag as sold at most baby shops. When thawing frozen breast milk, it is good to either move it to the refrigerator the day before feeding and thaw it naturally or boil it in 55-degree warm water. Using a microwave is not recommended as it destroys nutrients.
Author: Kwon Hyang-hwa
- Newborn Childcare Coach
- IBCLC International Breastfeeding Specialist
- Worked as the director of a postpartum care center for 10 years.