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Ask an Expert: How to Use Breast Milk Storage Times

*Ask an Expert is a blog feature hosted by a team of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). Once a month each IBCLC randomly chooses a question from The Badass Breastfeeder Facebook wall and provides their response on the blog.

By Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA

Fan Question:

“If I’m going to freeze my milk, do I have to do it right after I pump?”

Here’s how the guidelines in the table below work. You can refrigerate room-temperature milk at any point before its time is up. Depending on your room temperature, this would be before 4 hours (66°F to 72°F/19°C to 22°C) or before 6 to 10 hours (73°F to 77°F/23°C to 25°C). And you can freeze refrigerated milk any time before 8 days.

Milk Storage Guidelines for Healthy, Full-Term Babies at Home

Milk Storage/ Handling Deep Freezer(0°F/-18°C) Refrigerator Freezer(variable 0°F/-18°C) Refrigerator(39°F/4°C) Insulated Cooler with Ice Packs(59°F/15°C) Room Temperature


Fresh Ideal: 6 mo.Okay: 12 mo. 3–4 mo. Ideal: 72 hr.Okay: 8 days 24 hr. 6–10 hr. 4 hr.
Frozen, Thawed in Fridge Do not refreeze Do not refreeze 24 hr. Do not store 4 hr. 4 hr.
Thawed, Warmed, Not Fed Do not refreeze Do not refreeze 4 hr. Do not store Until feeding ends Until feeding ends
Warmed, Fed Discard Discard Discard Discard Until feeding ends Until feeding ends

unnamedNancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA is a board-certified lactation consultant in the Chicago area who has been helping breastfeeding families since 1982. Her books for professionals are used worldwide. Her books for parents include Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, which she co-authored with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, and her tiny problem-solving guide, Breastfeeding Solutions  In 2013, Nancy released her Breastfeeding Solutions smartphone app (available for Android and iPhones) to give mothers a quick, go-everywhere source of breastfeeding help. Nancy speaks at events around the world.