Automatic breast pump, mother pumping breast milk

6 Things Your Lactation Consultant Wants You To Know About Milk Storage

Making the decision to breastfeed your baby is an important one. So you definitely don’t want to see all that liquid gold go down the drain because you didn’t know how to properly store your breast milk. So what are some things your lactation consultant wants you to know about milk storage? The correct info can come in handy for those times when a bottle of breast milk is on the menu for your baby.

Having breast milk at the ready is ideal for those times when you might need someone else to feed baby fast, and necessary if you're a working mom. But since pumping isn’t always the most pleasurable experience (except for when you’re engorged, in which case it can be a total relief), you want to make sure that the product of your pumping sessions goes a long way. “The most important thing about milk storage is that there's a very big difference between storage guidelines for breast milk and formula, so it can get confusing if you are doing a mixture of both,” Darcy Sauers, IBCLC, a lactation consultant, tells Romper. “Formula has to be thrown out after it has been made and been at room temperature for one hour. Breast milk, because it contains antibacterial properties, can stay at room temperature for a lot longer.”

Don’t have a personal lactation consultant to help you through the process? No problem. These three IBCLCs told Romper everything you need to know about breast milk storage do’s and don’ts.


Know The Proper Placement For Milk


Although it might be faster to just reach into your fridge and pull out a bottle of breast milk, it’s best if you place it towards the rear. “Milk can safely be stored in the back of the refrigerator, where it will be the coldest,” Jadah Parks Chatterjee, BS, RN, IBCLC, registered nurse and lactation consultant, tells Romper. “It can be stored in the fridge for up to seven days, too.”


Label Your Breast Milk

If you though that all breast milk was created equal, think again. There’s a difference between day milk and night milk, so whip out your Sharpie and get ready to label your storage bags. “Label your milk with both the date and the time,” advises Chatterjee. “You want your newborn baby to have day time milk during the day, and nighttime milk at night, since it has higher volumes of fat.” This high fat nighttime milk supports not just brain and cognitive development, but can also help your baby sleep better, too, Today’s Parent reported.


Learn The 5-5-5 Rule

When you’re sleep deprived (and bleary-eyed), it can be hard to remember your name, much less when you last pumped your breast milk. That’s where the 5-5-5- Rule comes in to play. “The 5-5-5 rule applies to breast milk storage,” explains Sauers. “Breast milk can be out for five hours at room temperature, for five days in fridge, and for five months in a deep freezer.”


Understand Your Storage Options

When it comes to breast milk storage, you’re basically looking at two solutions: bottles or bags. Whichever one you choose is entirely up to you, since there are pros and cons to both methods. “Glass bottles are best, but that gets expensive and takes up a lot of space,” Sauers suggests. “If you are storing lots of milk, bags are the way to go!”


Breast Milk Can Last Longer Than Formula

You might be worried that once you pump your breast milk it needs to be put in the fridge right away. Not so, according to Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC, a registered nurse and certified lactation consultant. “Breast milk is very hearty,” says Tran. “Freshly pumped milk can be kept at room temp for up to six hours. So if you accidentally leave out a bottle of breast milk, you still might be able to use it if it falls within that window of time."


You Can Mix Fresh & Frozen


Breast milk is forgiving in that you can mix and match frozen with fresh and feed it to your baby. “Moms can add fresh milk to frozen milk as long as the amount of the new milk is less than the milk already frozen,” says Tran. “The new milk should be cooled down in the refrigerator for at least an hour before adding it to the frozen milk.” All that’s left is to shake it to combine, and bottle it up for your baby.

Knowing how to properly store your breast milk means that you'll be more prepared with a bottle... and all that liquid gold will go directly to your baby.


Darcy Sauers, IBCLC, a lactation consultant

Jadah Parks Chatterjee, BS, RN, IBCLC, registered nurse and lactation consultant

Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC, a registered nurse and certified lactation consultant