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When I returned to work after having my third baby, one of my biggest worries was how to pump, transfer and store breastmilk. Where would I find the comfort and privacy to pump and how would I get my breastmilk safely home were just a couple of the questions floating around in my mind. But with a little bit of creativity and practice, I was able to figure out a system that worked for me. What was critical to my plan was to learn how to safely pump and store breastmilk at work.

Whether you’re a nursing Mom returning to work like I was, seeking a little bit of freedom to go out without baby in tow, or just want the option of feeding your baby a bottle instead of nursing, you might be wondering how to safely store your breastmilk, so that you maximize its nutrition and minimize waste. After all, it is liquid GOLD! If you’re like me and depend on your stored breastmilk to nourish your baby, read on to learn how to handle and store your breastmilk safely, according to the most up-to-date guidelines:

Prepare Yourself and Your Pumping Equipment for Collecting Breastmilk:

  • Always wash your hands prior to expressing or handling breastmilk
  • When expressing/pumping milk, make sure to collect it in clean or sanitized bottles with tight screw caps, nursing bottles, or freezer-safe milk storage bags. Avoid using formula bottle bags or regular storage bags, as they tend to leak easily and don’t always seal properly.
  • Always label your bottles/bags with the date that it was expressed (so that you can use oldest milk first) and add your child’s name if you are giving the milk to a caregiver
  • Avoid adding freshly expressed milk to previously frozen milk (it’s best not to mix), and discard milk from a bottle that was fed but not finished (don’t put back in the fridge to use later).
  • Clean your pump supplies thoroughly after each use

Using Milk That Has Been Frozen:

  • Thaw frozen breastmilk by transferring it to the refrigerator, or by running the bottle or bag under warm water (or placing it in a bowl of warm water).
  • Do not use the microwave to thaw or heat breastmilk. Microwave ovens don’t heat every (this could lead to scalding the baby), and they can also damage the breastmilk and its nutrients.
  • Do not re-freeze breastmilk one it’s thawed.

Guidelines for Safely Storing Breastmilk:

 Room temperature (counter/table):

  • Container should be kept covered and as cool as possible
  • Temperature: up to 77 °F or 25°C
  • Time: up to 6-8 hours

Insulated cooler bag:

  • Make sure that ice packs are in direct contact with milk the entire time and minimize opening the bag
  • Temperature: 5-39°F or -15 to 4°C
  • Time: up to 24 hours

Refrigerator:

  • Store at the back of the main compartment in fridge, where the temperature is the most constant.
  • Temperature: 39°F or 4°C
  • Time: up to 5 days

Freezer:

  • Store towards the back of the freezer where the temperature is more constant. Note that milk stored for longer periods of time (within these ranges) will be safe, however some of the fat within the milk may degrade, resulting in a lower quality.
  • Freezer compartment in fridge (older models)
  • Temperature: 5°F or -15°C
  • Time: up to 2 weeks

Freezer compartment of fridge (with separate door)

  • Temperature: 0°F or -18°C
  • Time: up to 3-6 months

Chest or upright deep freeze:

  • Temperature: -4°F or -20°C
  • Time: 6-12 months

Written by Sarah Remmer, Original Version on sarahremmer.com

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