How long can you store breast milk?

Ask Anne…

Question: I am going to be storing some breast milk for times that I might not be at home so that my son’s father might be able to offer him a bottle. The question that I have is how long can you store breastmilk in the refrigerator and or freezer… Thank you in advance for your help.

Answer: You’ll find that there is some conflicting information out there about storing breast milk. The official guidelines keep changing every few years, and there is still a lot of outdated information floating around. The experts used to say that you could store milk in the fridge for 24 hours, then they said 48 hours, then 72 hours, and now they say that it will safely keep for up to 8 days. They used to think that because human milk wasn’t pasteurized like cow’s milk, then it would spoil faster than formula. Now we know that because of the live cells and antibodies in human milk that limit the growth of bacteria, it actually stays fresh much longer than cow’s milk or formula. Current general guidelines are this: fresh milk will keep in the fridge up to 8 days, and frozen milk will keep 3-4 months in a regular freezer compartment with a separate door, and in a chest type deep freezer, 6-12 months.

Always use fresh milk when you can, because freezing the milk will kill some of the live cells. Frozen breast milk is still better than formula, because freezing doesn’t kill all the cells, and formula doesn’t have any to begin with. You can find out lots more details about storing milk in Pumping and Storing Breastmilk.

Anne Smith, IBCLC
Breastfeeding Basics

About Anne Smith, IBCLC

Anne Smith, IBCLC
As the mother of six wonderful breastfed children, three perfect breastfed grand babies, and an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) with over twenty-five years experience in lactation counseling, I can offer you professional support, as well as information and advice based on my personal experiences over the years.

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