To store breastmilk safely, choose containers that are sterilised and airtight. There are a number of breastmilk freezer bags that you can buy to store your milk in but you may find that they are prone to leaks, tears, and punctures and may not be airtight. However, Pam Lacey, Lactation Consultant and Chair of the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, adds: “Choose freezer bags that are thick, or have a nylon outer, and you should be OK. Alternatively, you could double-bag it.” Glass or hard plastic is preferable for storing milk for long periods of time.

You may have discovered many different guidelines on how long and where you can store expressed breastmilk (EBM). The UK Association of Milk Banking explains that this is because different groups have focused on a particular aspect of milk storage which has been presented in the research, rather than any of the guidelines being incorrect. Some guidelines are targeted at milk stored in sterile conditions in milk banks; others are relevant if you have a very premature baby. The following research-based guidelines come from the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM), and are suitable for a mother storing milk at home for a healthy, term baby.

You can store milk:
• At room temperature – not warmer than 77 degrees F/25 degrees C – for up to four hours
• In a coldbox with refreezable ice packs for up to 24 hours
• In a refrigerator with a temperature of 39 degrees F/4 degrees C or colder for three to five days
• In an older model single-door refrigerator with freezer compartment inside for two weeks.
You can store milk in a freezer for various lengths of time depending on the kind you have. Always keep the milk in the back of the freezer away from the door, because items stored towards the front are more susceptible to changing temperatures when you open the freezer.
You can store milk:
• In a fridge freezer with a separate door for each, for three months
• In a freezer with a temperature of -20°C, that doesn’t have a defrost cycle, for six to 12 months.
In addition to these guidelines from ABM, it’s useful to know that:
• You may combine milk you collected that day with frozen milk as long as it’s chilled for at least an hour first, and the amount that you are freezing is less than half of the frozen amount. Fresh milk retains more of its protective properties than frozen milk, so whenever possible, use refrigerated rather than frozen milk for feeding your baby. But note that frozen breast milk still has more health benefits than formula milk.
If you are going to freeze breastmilk, do so within 24 hours
• Milk that has been moved into the refrigerator from the freezer can be stored there for up to 24 hours
Remember, when you are expressing, to wash your hands and keep breast pump parts thoroughly washed, rinsed and sterilised in order to prevent any bacteria from developing in the milk.


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