Following these guidelines protects the nutrients in your breast milk and keeps it safe for your baby’s consumption.
Though there are a lot of inventive breast milk storage solutions, hacks, and even tips for freezing breast milk that have been shared online by moms just like you, the most important detail to remember when getting creative is to always follow CDC guidelines for storing, freezing, and feeding your breast milk. Following these guidelines protects the nutrients in your breast milk and keeps it safe for your baby’s consumption. For healthy-term babies, this means that freshly pumped breast milk can be safely stored:
At room temperature (60 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to 4 hours
In the refrigerator (at 39 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler) for up to 3 days
Or in your freezer (at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder) for up to 6 months
When preparing frozen breast milk, it should be thawed at room temperature for up to 2 hours or in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. To avoid contamination and damaging all the great proteins, nutrients, and other ingredients in your breast milk, thawed milk should also never be refrozen. Be sure to measure your frozen breast milk precisely so none of that nourishing liquid gold is wasted!
Tips for Freezing Breast Milk and Other Breast Milk Storage Solutions
Pumping and storing your breast milk can often require more space in your refrigerator and freezer than you may expect, particularly if you are a first-time parent – using bottles for both storing and feeding means having a ton of bottles on hand and a lot of room for cold storage available. That’s why we recommend using Breast Milk Storage Bags or Pump & Save™ breast milk bags for a more affordable and space-saving solution when storing your stash (when compared to storing using bottles). Additionally, having an organized system in place that tells you what milk was pumped when, and how soon it needs to be used, is essential for making the most of your pumping sessions while helping to make feedings more efficient. Here are just a few clever breast milk storage solutions that have proven successful for other pumping and breast milk feeding mamas:
Use an Empty Soda Box or Diaper Box
Pump directly into your breast milk storage bags, or pour your pumped milk into breast milk storage bags. After carefully sealing your bags, use a marker to label each bag with the date (and time, if desired) and the volume of pumped breast milk.
If freezing: Place the filled breast milk storage bags flat in your freezer. Once frozen, stand your breast milk storage bags vertically in an empty 12-can soda box with the top removed. You can arrange based on date or amount of milk, so you can easily grab and go as needed for feeding (bonus tip: this also makes feeding easier for others too – like a partner, grandparent, nanny, or caregiver!)
If refrigerating: Stand your breast milk storage bags vertically in an empty 12-can soda box with the top removed and arrange as desired, whether based on date, volume of milk, or any other important category.
Instead of an empty 12-can soda box, you can also repurpose an empty diaper box (you’ll have plenty of those!) with the top removed or utilize plastic bins, boxes, or storage racks. Target, Staples, The Container Store, and similar places often carry compact storage containers that can fit nicely in a refrigerator or freezer.
Claim a Dedicated Cold Storage Drawer
Having a specific drawer in your fridge or freezer for your breast milk makes it easy to grab and go as needed. You can divide the drawer into areas categorized by date or volume, or use a storage rack or empty box to neatly organize breast milk storage bags standing up or side by side.
Categorize Using Large, Zippered Freezer Bags or Reuse Gift Bags
Pump directly into your breast milk storage bags, or pour your pumped milk into breast milk storage bags. After sealing your bags, don’t forget to label each one with the date and amount of pumped breast milk.
If freezing: Place your breast milk storage bags flat in the freezer. After your milk is frozen, stand your breast milk storage bags upright in large, gallon-sized freezer bags that zip. You can then label or organize each large freezer bag as desired, whether by date or total amount of breast milk. You may also want to jot down how many breast milk storage bags are inside and by what date all bags must be used, so you know exactly where to pull from first.
If refrigerating: Stand your breast milk storage bags upright in large freezer bags that zip and group, label, or organize as desired.
Instead of using gallon-sized, zippered freezer bags, some moms use fun and colorful gift bags by cutting out a small section of the side panel at the bottom of the bag for easy grabbing from the fridge or freezer when needed. Breast milk that should be used sooner can be placed on its side at the bottom of the gift bag to ensure it’s grabbed first, while freshly pumped milk can go at the top of the stack and eventually make its way down.
Use the Breast Milk Storage Solutions that Work and Keep Your Milk Safe for Your Baby
These creative breast milk storage solutions can enhance your overall pumping and feeding experience by maximizing available space while keeping your liquid gold organized and ready to use. However, the most important storing, freezing, and feeding system is the one that works best for you and keeps your little one happy, healthy, and full. Whether you have just begun pumping and storing breast milk or you’re practically a pro, you’ll continue to get the hang of it and may even discover your own tricks and hacks for efficient storing and freezing! Share your tips with other Medela moms in our Facebook or Instagram communities, or replenish your breast milk feeding accessories and supplies here. No matter how long or short your breastfeeding journey may be, know that you are doing a wonderful job and every little bit goes a long way.
See our easy infographic below for a quick refresher or download a copy in English or Spanish to print and keep on hand whenever needed: