The best ways to store expressed breastmilk, according to the experts

The best ways to store expressed breastmilk, according to the experts

You're pumping breastmilk with your Jellie Collect - great! So what do you do with it? Thanks to the easy-pour groove in the Jellie Collect, you can transfer your milk into any suitable container for storage.

It's important to store your expressed breastmilk (EBM) safely so your liquid gold doesn't get spoiled, and so your baby doesn't get sick. Healthy milk means healthy babies!

We've based our storage information on the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) Protocol and the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) guidelines, with input from some other reputable sources (see below). We just want you to know you're getting evidence-based information about the best ways to store breastmilk.

This information is for healthy term babies. If your baby is premature or has health issues, please talk to your hospital staff, midwife or doctor about how to safely store, handle and feed breastmilk.

Use a clean and suitable container

It's important to use the right kind of container. You do not have to buy special or expensive milk storage containers - you can use certain types of household container as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and made from a safe material.

Any plastic containers must be BPA-free food grade plastic.

Best containers for storing breastmilk

Plastic bags

You can buy special sterile breastmilk bags from your local pharmacy. They're designed for freezing, and milk stored in bags defrosts very quickly - handy when you're caught without fresh milk in the middle of the night!

Be careful using standard ziplocks or other plastic bags. They must seal completely, be perfectly clean, and not get damaged when they freeze. Milk fat can also stick to the inside of bags that aren't designed for storing milk.

Baby-feeding bottles

Yep, you can just refrigerate or freeze the same bottles you use to feed your baby. When it's time to feed, just defrost and warm the milk, pop on a teat and you're ready to go.

This is a good option because the bottles are designed for breastmilk, and they can be cleaned, sterilised and used again. Be sure to freeze them with a proper sealed lid on top, not a teat. If you're using glass bottles, be careful because they can get brittle when frozen, and they can shatter if reheated too quickly.

Plastic containers

You can use any food-grade plastic container to store breastmilk as long as it has a tight-fitting lid. Go for smaller vessels like cups or very small tupperware-style containers, since you'll usually want to defrost just one feed at a time.

Don't use containers that have previously been used for fatty, oily, or strong-tasting foods like cream, garlic, or curry - they are hard to clean properly.

Ice cube trays

This is a very popular option, especially for newborns. They're super convenient and it's easy to defrost as little or as much as you want at a time. Just make sure the tray has a lid that seals tightly.

Glass jars

Easy to clean and sterilise, cheap, and effective. Look for small jars so you can freeze single feeds. And be careful with frozen glass - it can easily break if dropped, and you should ideally let it defrost before warming it in hot water.

Refrigerate or freeze your breastmilk

There's a pretty easy formula for deciding whether you should refrigerate or freeze:

  1. If you're going to use the milk within a few hours, you can keep it in a room less than 26 °C.
  2. If you're going to use it within three days, you can keep it in the fridge.
  3. Any longer than that, pop it in the freezer for safekeeping.

To make it easy save the image below so you can quickly pull it up when you need it:

Breast milk Storage

How long does breastmilk last at room temperature?

As long as the weather isn't crazy hot and the room is less than 26 °C, you can safely keep breastmilk in a sealed container for six to eight hours, thanks to natural inbuilt breastmilk preservatives. Pretty handy if you're expressing at night and don't want to get out of bed, or if you're on the road or somewhere away from a fridge. In hotter temperatures of 27 °C to 32 °C, it's best to refrigerate or freeze EBM within four hours. 

Just do your best to keep it cool and, honestly, if there's a fridge handy then it doesn't hurt to use it.

How long does breastmilk last in the fridge?

Freshly expressed breastmilk will last up to 72 hours in the fridge.

Previously frozen milk that you've let defrost in the fridge can stay there for 24 hours before you've got to use it or toss it.

Milk that you've defrosted and warmed up can go back in the fridge, but only for four hours. Don't warm it up more than twice.

How long does breastmilk last in the freezer?

You can keep breastmilk for three months in a regular freezer, or up to 12 months in a deep freeze.

Quick tip: Don't overfill containers. Milk expands when you freeze it and can make a lot of mess!

Refreezing breastmilk

Freeze one time only. Once breastmilk is defrosted, don't freeze it again. To avoid unnecessarily wastage of your precious milk try storing in small amounts such as 15, 30, or 60 mL.

Storing milk baby hasn't finished

If you start feeding your baby EBM from a bottle or cup, and they don't finish it, some germs from the baby's mouth will have entered the vessel and contaminated the milk. Don't store this milk again - use it within one to two hours or unfortunately you will have to throw it out.1

Label those containers!

Whatever container you use, make sure to label it with the date and time you expressed so you know which container to use first.

You can buy labels, or write directly on the container with a marker pen - clean it off later with a bit of methylated spirits or solvent-based cleaner. A roll of masking tape is great for making labels - it's cheap, easy to write on with any pen or pencil, peels off easily, and the roll lasts for ages!

    Transporting your liquid gold

    Nomatter how much care you take, you can never control the temperature as well as you could in a fridge or freezer. Breastmilk doesn't like to change temperature too many times - that's how bugs start to grow in it! Ideally if you've got to take your EBM with you, make sure it stays cold in a cooler bag with some ice packs.

    Transporting milk is similar to the storage guidelines above. If you've freshly expressed milk while out and about it can stay below room temp (< 26 °C) for six to eight hours. If it's a warmer environment (27 °C - 32 °C), you can only keep it out for four hours. If you have access to a fridge or cooler bag and ice packs, it's always best to put it in there sooner rather than later.

    If you're somewhere with a fridge, like at work or visiting friends or family, then refrigerate the milk to keep it cool and stable - we don't want it to change temperature too much. When you're ready to go home, transport it in a cooler bag with ice packs. The amount of time milk can stay in a cooler bag with ice packs varies, so take it home as quickly as you can. Throw the breastmilk out if it gets warm.

    Frozen milk will thaw in a cooler bag, even with ice packs. If it does thaw, use it within a 24 hours of defrosting and don't refreeze it.1

    We don't recommend transporting breastmilk that has been previously frozen and thawed for 24 hours, because it's not safe to leave it at room temperature for more than two hours.1

    Once you arrive at your destination make sure to pop the breastmilk in the fridge or freezer (if still frozen) as soon as possible.

    Regularly clean breastmilk containers

    Great news for mothers using EBM: you don't need to fanatically sterilise containers like you would with formula.

    You should give breastmilk containers a rinse in between uses if you're filling and feeding from them multiple times a day, and give them a good clean once per day. If storing milk for more than a day at a time, or freezing, clean the container after each use.

    Steps for washing breastmilk containers, according to the ABA

    1. Wash your hands well with soap and water. Dry them on something clean - a new paper towel or a clean, unused cloth towel.
    2. Take apart all containers. Rinse in cold water to remove milk from all the parts.
    3. Take care to remove all traces of grease, milk and dirt with a small amount of dishwashing liquid and hot water. Use a brush kept just for this purpose.
    4. Rinse at least twice in hot water.
    5. Drain bottles and containers upside down on clean paper towel or a clean cloth towel. Using a dish drainer lined with new paper towel or a clean towel will allow you to prop the bottles at an angle to help to dry the insides. Cover while they air dry. Before putting away, ensure no water droplets remain in the containers or on any parts. If any water remains, dry carefully with new paper towel or a clean cloth towel.
    6. Store the dry kit in a new plastic bag, plastic wrap, more paper towel or clean, covered container until next use.

    Expressed breastmilk storage resources

    1. Eglash A, Simon L, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM clinical protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants, Revised 2017. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2017 Sep 1;12(7):390-5. 
    2. Australian Breastfeeding Association: Storing expressed breastmilk
    3. raisingchildren.net.au: Expressing and storing breastmilk
    4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Proper storage and preparation of breast milk
    5. National Health Service (NHS): Expressing and storing breast milk
    6. Kellymom: Breastfeeding Storage and Handling

     

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