Breast milk storage:how to keep it sweet and safe for your baby

Much has been said about the obvious benefits and advantages of breast milk being fed to new borns especially in the first 6 months of life. Knowing about proper storage methods is important to ensure constant and safe provision of breast milk to infants.

While Keeping in mind that nutrients in breast milk diminish with time, especially vitamin C, that is very essential in the growth of tissue, teeth and bone of the infant, mothers should also keep in mind that the milk produced at different stages after child birth is different and serve different specific nutritional purposes; the milk produced in the first week of life may not meet the nutritional needs of the baby when he/she is 2 months old.

Storage of breast milk should be done with utmost care and with attention paid to the smallest detail, the milk should be stored in a clean, sealed and airtight bottle, a properly kept breast milk bottle can be stored for up to 12 months in deep freezers.

Time frames for breast milk storage
Duration of preservation varies with the method of storage as given below:

  • Storage for 3-4 hours-breast milk can be kept in room temperature for up to six hours, in warm places, it is better to use the milk within four hours of expression.
  • Storage for a day- breast milk that would be kept for a day to be used the next should be kept in a cool environment like a dry insulated cooler filled with ice packs.Storage over 1-5 Days – storage lasting more than 1 day should be in a refrigerator, at day 3, the breast milk is still at optimal condition, this cannot be guaranteed at the 4th and 5th day of storage.
  • Storage over weeks and months –storage for a very long period of time must be done at subzero temperatures i.e. the breast milk must be frozen to maintain and preserve it. The deep freezer is the most ideal for this, however, it is better to use frozen milk within six months of storage.

Frozen milk, can I heat it?

It’s not advisable to heat up frozen breast milk because heat will negatively affect some nutritional components of the milk and denature some antibodies present in it.

Techniques that can be used to thaw frozen milk are as follows:

  • Remove the breast milk from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator the night before you intend to use.
  • Melt gently by placing it under running warm water.
  • Avoid placing the bottle in microwave.
  • Place bottle in a very warm water and monitor.

Avoid refreezing thawed breast milk, those not used after thawing within a day should be disposed.
While breast milk storage is the convenient choice for some parents, it’s a total no-no for others because of occasional variation in smell and color. However, properly stored breast milk in a cool and hygienic environment and container can be used to feed the baby. Research has shown that properly stored milk still retains most of the important properties that are important for babies’ nutritional needs.

Author: Faisol Oladosu

Faisol - founder of

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