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How to Collect, Store and Freeze Breast Milk
Collecting Breast Milk -- Guidelines for Normal Newborns

First, wash your hands well. Wash breastpump equipment that contacts the breast, milk, or collection containers in a dishwasher or by hand in hot, soapy water. Rinse with cold water, and air dry on a clean towel. Check with your hospital, doctor or breastpump manufacturer for other instructions.

When to pump depends on you and your baby's schedule. Try to pump when the baby would normally breastfeed. Your milk supply usually is most plentiful in the morning, so that is a good time. Try to pump midway between feedings. Be flexible. If your baby skips a feeding, nurses a shorter time than usual, or only nurses on one side, pump out the rest of the milk and save it. If you are planning to return to work and continue breastfeeding, begin pumping one to two weeks before you return. Try to simulate what your pumping schedule will be at work.

Before pumping, get comfortably seated and relaxed. Pump your breasts according to the breastpump manufacturer's instructions.

Storing Expressed Breast Milk

There are several containers available for storing breast milk. These include specially designed plastic bags, plastic bottles or glass containers. There are advantages to each.

If you are going to freeze your breast milk, leave some space at the top of the container. Breast milk, like most liquids, expands as it freezes.

When using plastic bags, use those designed for breast milk collection. Before storing, fold the top several times and seal with freezer or masking tape. Place smaller bags in a larger bag to help protect against punctures. Medela's CSFTM bags come with twist ties for easy sealing and don't need to be double bagged. Mark the date and the amount on each container.

Freeze your milk in two ounce to four ounce portions. Smaller amounts thaw quicker, and you will waste less milk if your baby consumes less than you anticipated.

You may continue to add small amounts of cooled breast milk to the same container throughout the day. Chill milk in the refrigerator until evening. Then, freeze in appropriate amounts.

You may also add to already frozen milk. First refrigerate all freshly expressed milk until it's cold, and then add to the frozen milk. The newly added milk must be of a lesser amount than the already frozen milk.

If you carefully washed your hands before pumping or expressing, your breast milk will be safe for around 4-10 hours at room temperature, 66°-72°F. Immediate refrigeration, however, is recommended.

Fresh milk may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days at 39°F. Frozen milk may be stored in the back of the freezer portion of a refrigerator-freezer for up to six months. Frozen milk may be stored in a -20°C deep freezer for up to 12 months. Defrosted milk may be kept for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Defrosting Frozen Breast Milk

Place milk in refrigerator the night before you're going to use it. Refrigerator defrosting takes 8 to12 hours.

Or, place the milk under warm running water or in a pan of warm water. Don't use hot water, as this can destroy some of the milk's immunological components.

CAUTION: Never microwave breast milk! Microwaving breast milk can change the milk's composition, and has the potential to burn your baby.

Fat in breast milk will separate and rise to the top. By gently swirling the container, you can mix any fat that may have separated.

Never refreeze thawed breast milk.

Remember that the color, consistency and odor of your breast milk may vary depending on your diet or exposure to other foods in your refrigerator or freezer.

Discard any breast milk you don't use during a feeding.

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Disclaimer: All material provided at is provided for educational and informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor regarding the advisability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your individual situation.