Breast Milk Storage Guide: How to Safely Pump, Store, and Feed

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Your breast milk — liquid gold — is likely more precious to you than many things in life right now. (Well, except your baby. They’re next-level special.)

With so many feedings in the first year and beyond, you may decide to pump and store your milk for feeding when you’re at work, enjoying a night out, or just want another option.

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Overwhelmed with storage options? You’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know about keeping milk fresh and safe for your baby when it’s not coming directly from the source.

Storage guidelines

How you store breast milk has to do with the temperature of storage and whether the milk is freshly pumped or previously frozen.

Following these guidelines, which we’ve compiled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Mayo Clinic, and the Office on Women’s Health, will ensure that your milk does not harbor bacteria that could make your baby sick. It also ensures that you retain the quality of nutrients that your milk contains.

Fresh milk can actually stay out at room temperature for a while after pumping if you plan to use it or store it soon afterward. After that, you’ll need to pop in in your refrigerator or freezer for long-term storage.

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What about thawed milk that was previously frozen? Different rules apply:

Safely handling breast milk

Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before handling pumping supplies and breast milk. If you can’t find soap, be sure to use a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60 percent alcohol.

Storage options

There are many choices when it comes to storing breast milk in your refrigerator and freezer. What you choose is up to your preferences and your budget.

Storage baggies

Single-use storage bags are handy because they can freeze flat and stack to take up less room in your freezer. Good bags are made from food-grade, BPA- and BPS- free material that are pre-sterilized and leak resistant. You can also write any dates or other information directly onto the bag.

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Many options on the market allow you to pump directly into the bag to eliminate opportunities for contamination. One potential downside to storage bags is that they are more likely to get punctured than storage bottles.

Options for storage bags include:

  • Lansinoh Milk Storage Bags allow you to pump directly into the bag. They have a double-layer zipper seal and reinforced side seams to prevent leaks.
  • Medela Milk Storage Bags have a self-standing design or can lay flat to take up less space. They’re also made from a double-layer material that resists leaks.
  • Kiinde Milk Storage Pouches have a screw-top design much like food pouches. You may even feed directly from the baggie using a special nipple and bottle system that can be purchased separately. Bonus: These baggies are recyclable.

You may even want to invest in a freezer storage organizer, like the Milkies Freeze. This small unit sits on a freezer shelf and allows you to place your most recently pumped milk on top (to freeze flat). When it’s time to feed your baby, simply grab the baggie at the bottom, which helps you use the oldest milk first.

Storage bottles and cups

If you have a bit more space, storing in bottles may be a solid choice for you. Bottles are reusable, if you’re looking to produce less waste.

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You can even pump into the bottle, store in the fridge or freezer, and then warm your milk and feed directly from one container. Bottles can also go in your dishwasher for easy cleaning.

Options include:

  • Medela Milk Storage Bottles are compatible with Medela breast pumps and nipples for feeding. They include volume marks to show the number of ounces you have in each bottle. And they’re also BPA-free and dishwasher safe.
  • Lansinoh Milk Storage Bottles connect to any Lansinoh breast pump and nipple for feeding. They also have volume marks and hold up to 5 ounces of milk. Like the Medela, they’re BPA- and BPS-free and dishwasher safe.
  • Matyz Milk Storage Bottles are made from borosilicate (freezer- and boiling-safe) glass. Bottles made from glass may stain less and hold fewer odors than plastic bottles.Philips Avent Storage Cups can be used alone or in conjunction with an adapter that lets you pump, store, and feed from the cups. Their screw-on lid resists leaks and they are also BPA- free and dishwasher safe.

If you go with bottles, consider getting some reusable labels to clearly write the date of when your milk was expressed on your bottles.

Storage trays

You may also want to use a tray that’s similar to an ice cube tray to store smaller amounts of breast milk. Simply pour your milk into the tray and freeze. Pop out cubes as needed.

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Look for trays made from silicone or other BPA- and BPS-free, food-grade material. Trays should also have lids to protect milk from freezer burn.

Options include:

  • Milkies Milk Trays are made from food-grade plastic that’s also BPA-free. They allow you to freeze your milk in 1-ounce sticks. The frozen cubes fit into most bottles for thawing and reheating. You can then re-use the tray over and over again.
  • Sprout Cups also hold 1-ounce portions of breast milk or baby food. Instead of stick form, they’re in cubes. These trays stack for compact storage and the silicone material makes popping the cubes out super easy.

The downside with this option is that it may be tricky to keep track of when you pumped your milk. You may consider popping out the cubes and storing them in a sealed food-safe storage baggie and labeling that way.

Takeaway

With enough practice, you’ll become a pro at this milk storage thing — and your baby will be able to enjoy your breast milk whether you’re in the next room or out for the evening with friends.

Still a bit overwhelmed with options? You may want to try a few different storage containers before you stock up. Take some time to see what works for your budget, your pumping collection process, and your baby’s feeding routine. You may find that a variety of options gives you the best flexibility.

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