How Do You Store Breast Milk?

Breast milk is the best food of all for newborns and young babies. The Ministry of Health (MOH) Malaysia, World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have strongly recommended that babies should be exclusively breast fed for the first six months of life. Complimentary foods should be introduced at the age of six months, while continuing breast-feeding until two years of age. 

Expressing breast milk for storage

  • For most mothers and babies, direct breast-feeding is the easiest and most efficient way. Expressing and storing breast milk provides the flexibility and convenience for parents, especially when mothers are out of house, away, or mothers’ breasts are too full and uncomfortable.
  • Mothers who are returning to work can try to get into the routine of expressing and storing breast milk too. This will keep their breast milk supply up and their baby can continue to get the benefits of breast milk.
  • Mother can express breast milk by hand or with a breast milk pump. Different pumps suit different women, so ask for the professional advice before you buy it. Parents must always make sure that the container or pump has been sterilized before using it.

Container for breast milk storage:

  • Parents should choose a safe, clean, sterilized and suitable container to store breast milk. It can be made of glass or plastic that can be kept covered or sealed. If a bag is used, avoid using ordinary bags, use only bag specially designed for breast milk storage. Each container should be labeled with the date and time.  
  • Some babies have sensitive tummy, thus avoid combining breast milk in the same container from different pumping sessions. Wash your hands before expressing and handling breast milk for storage. Keeping everything as clean as possible will make it less likely that bacteria will grow in your stored milk.

Method & duration of breast milk storage:

  • Room temperature (25 - 37 degree Celsius) - 4 hours
  • Air condition room (15 - 25 degree Celsius) - 8 hours
  • Cooler box with ice packs (< 15 degree Celsius) - 24 hours
  • Refrigerator (2 – 4 degree Celsius) - 5 days
  • Freezer compartment inside the 1 door fridge - 2 weeks
  • Freezer part of a 2 doors fridge - 3 months
  • Separate deep freezer - 6 months
  • Frozen breast milk that is thawed in refrigerator - 24 hours (don’t refreeze)
  • Breast milk should not be stored above 37 degree Celsius

If you are not sure of the temperature of your refrigerator, it is best to use the breast milk within 3 days. Otherwise it should be stored in the freezer. Avoid freezing breast milk that has been kept in the refrigerator for more than a day. If parents want to freeze the breast milk, do it as soon after expressing as possible.

Container of breast milk should be placed in the coldest part of the refrigerator or freezer, best at the back of the refrigerator or freezer, away from the fridge door. Most refrigerators do not keep a constant temperature, especially when the fridge doors are opened frequently. Items stored towards the front closer to the fridge door are more susceptible to changing temperature when the fridge door is opened.

Thawing or warming of breast milk:

  • Nutritionally, it makes no difference and there is no evidence that babies need their milk heated, but most babies may prefer milk at body temperature. This can be tested by shaking out a few drops of milk onto your wrist to test the temperature before feeding the baby.
  • Frozen breast milk can be safely defrosted and warmed by placing the sealed bottle or bag in a bowl of lukewarm water, and used within 1 hour. It may be thawed slowly in the refrigerator; however, it must be used within 24 hours and do not refreeze. Breast milk should not be heated on the stove or in a microwave oven. This will destroy the antibodies and nutrients, and it can burn the baby’s mouth.
  • Breast milk can’t be stored or refrozen once it has been warmed, so parents should only warm the amount of breast milk for one feeding according to baby’s needs and appetite. The fat component of breast milk may separate out in small globules. Parents can shake it gently to mix the fat layer with the rest of the breast milk.

Cup feeding with breast milk:

  • To avoid nipple confusion, breast milk can be fed to the baby with a feeding cup rather than a milk bottle. Once your baby has drunk the breast milk, anything left over an hour should be thrown away. Have fun feeding your baby. Discuss with your doctor and get their professional advice for any further information.

Freezer compartment inside the one door fridge can keep frozen breast milk up to 2 weeks

Freezer part of the two doors fridge can keep frozen breast milk up to 3 months

 

 

Deep freezer can keep frozen breast milk up to 6 months