Breastfeeding can be a wonderful way to bond with your baby and has tons of proven health benefits, but it’s not without its challenges. While you’re figuring out your latch and getting your supply up, you might also be struggling with how to store all this liquid gold you’re making. And breast milk storage — whether it’s in bottles, bags, or freezer trays — can be stressful to figure out when you’re just getting started.
Whether you need breast milk storage ideas for the fridge to keep you sane and organized in the short-term, or breast milk freezer storage ideas to help you use up milk in the long-term, there are hacks that can help you through. All milk should be labeled with the date and time it was expressed so you can use the oldest milk first, ensuring you use up what you have while the quality is still high. You should also only store your breast milk in bags or bottles meant for the job, just to make sure no suspicious chemicals leach into your baby’s breakfast or alter the milk’s taste.
Once you’ve pumped and labeled, where should this batch of breast milk go? Consider when you plan to use it and how much you already have on hand, and go from there.
Breast milk storage ideas for the fridge
Pumping can fill up the fridge with bags and bottles fast. Here are some breast milk storage ideas for the refrigerator to keep you organized amid all the other baby chaos.
How long can you store breast milk in the refrigerator?
Breast milk can live in the fridge for up to five days. You may find yourself rifling through the storage bags or bottles often trying to check dates or reorganize them, so having a few organizational hacks in place can streamline the process.
Breast milk fridge-storage hack: Find plastic organizers that fit your fridge.
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The quickest, easiest way to store breast milk in the fridge is to round up all those storage bags into clear plastic containers. These long, narrow, stackable plastic storage bins from BINO let you see exactly how much milk you have inside, and they’re easy to pull out and place new milk in the back while pulling the oldest from the front to feed your baby.
Breast milk fridge-storage hack: Use a turntable for quick access to bottles.
Reaching through a few bottles to find the one you should serve can lead to bumps and spills, but using a little turntable, like this Lazy Susan from Home Intuition can help avoid any mishaps. Choose one that’s clear so you can see each bottle and its label, and one with high sides so your risk of tip-overs is basically zero.
Breast milk fridge-storage hack: Choose reusable bags for a more spill-proof, sustainable option.
Storing breast milk in the fridge means you’ll be going through it quickly, and using up plastic storage baggies this way means you may have to repurchase them often. Haakaa’s reusable silicone milk storage bags holds up to nine ounces of fluid, are leak-proof and dishwasher-safe, and can be stored standing up or laying down, whichever you prefer. The sturdy silicone makes these harder to knock over — which, when you have a row of flimsy plastic bags, can create a huge mess of spilled milk if you’re not careful.
Breast milk fridge-storage hack: Use peel-and-stick labels on reusable bags and bottles.
These Yoget removable freezer labels have enough space for you to jot down the date and amount inside, and should stick onto just about any surface. They’re a great tool to have on hand if you use reusable breast milk storage bags or bottles and don’t want to write directly on them. And they’re designed to peel away with no residue, which is good news for moms who really don’t need to spend any more time doing dishes.
Breast milk storage ideas for the freezer
Looking to stash some extra milk for the future? Here’s how you can make the most of your limited freezer space, and just how long you can keep milk on ice.
How long can you store breast milk in the freezer?
Use frozen breast milk within five months to ensure it’s still high quality. La Leche League International specifies that if you’re keeping breast milk in a deep freezer, it will last up to 12 months. While milk fed after this time is still safe, some of its fat content may have broken down.
And while milk storage bags fit most easily in the freezer door, where they’re a perfect fit for the narrow racks, they are actually safest toward the back of the freezer, where the temperature is colder and more consistent. Placing it in the door or near the front means it’s exposed to temperature changes every time you open the freezer. But in order make room, you may need to get a little creative.
Breast milk freezer-storage hack: Freeze milk flat in storage bags.
The No. 1 space-saving breast milk storage idea is to freeze storage bags of milk flat. You could lay them on the bottom of the freezer, or place them on a cookie sheet and slide them in on top of everything else (because when’s the last time you had enough room to see your freezer’s floor?). This gets them as compact as possible so they take up less space in the long run. Lasinoh’s Breast Milk Storage Bags have a 5-star rating and more than 77,000 reviews.
Breast milk freezer-storage hack: Place storage bags in gallon zip baggies to group them.
Since you need to use the oldest milk first, you’ll need to have a system in place. Labeling each storage bag with the date you pumped it is great, but further categorizing it by week or month can help too. If you want to use what you have on hand, grab some gallon-size plastic bags and start sorting, labeling each of them clearly as well. FORID’s Reusable Gallon Freezer Bags are an environmentally friendly alternative. Gift bags work well for this too, and are a little more structured.
Breast milk freezer-storage hack: Use plastic bins with lids to maximize your space.
Not all storage bins are created equal when it comes to freezer storage for breast milk. Using one with a lid keeps your stash safe from frozen foods, and also makes it easy to stack items around your breast milk without worrying about spills or tears to the bags. The First Years’ Breastflow Milk Storage Organizer is designed to work with their storage bags, but the Amazon reviews say it fits other brands’ bags as well.
Breast milk freezer-storage hack: Look for storage designed to do it all.
If you want the ability to freeze milk flat and keep it contained so it’s not sliding all over the place, a product like the Milkies Freeze Organizer is just the thing. Slide a bag into the metal tray on top for quick freezing, then insert it into the storage section once its frozen solid. Pull from the bottom when you need a serving to thaw, and you’ll always be using the oldest first without having to look at the dates. This organizer holds up to 60 ounces of milk without taking up much space.
Breast milk freezer-storage hack: Ditch bags altogether and freeze your milk in trays.
This Milkies’ set of two stackable storage trays lets you freeze milk in 1-ounce servings to reheat in bottles without using bags (meaning you don’t have to do the dance of freezing them flat now and organizing them later). If you want to create a larger frozen supply, you can always freeze them into the 1-ounce portions and pop them out into storage bags, label them, and save milk that way.
It may take some trial and error to figure out which storage system works best for you. Try a few of these tips and tricks and see what hacks make breastfeeding storage at least a little bit easier for you and your family.