Many moms choose to start building a freezer stash of expressed milk for various reasons. Pumping is a great option for working moms looking to leave pumped milk with their little one’s day care provider. And having extra milk on hand is great for family members and friends to be able to feed baby or allow a mom a little extra time away on occasion.

But along with all the other things new moms have to figure out, in addition to nursing and pumping, correct storage guidelines can be hard to figure out. Below is a great Cliff Note of important storage guidelines and usage of breast milk taken from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Clinical Protocol #8, revised March 2010.

Milk Storage Guidelines

Location of Storage


Optimal Storage

Maximum Recommended

Room Temperature

16-29°C (60-85°F)

3-4 Hours

6-8 hours acceptable under very clean conditions


≤ 4°C (39°F)

72 Hours

5-8 days under very clean conditions


< -17°C (0°F)

6 Months

12 months acceptable

Important Information

  • Cool newly expressed milk down in fridge before adding to previously chilled milk
  • Space should be left at the top of storage container to allow for expansion in the freezer
  • It’s typical for infants at daycare to take 2-4 ounces of human milk at one feeding. Label each storage container with date milk was expressed and child’s name for day care.
  • Frozen human milk should be stored in the back of the freezer to prevent intermitted rewarming due to freezer door opening
  • Very few studies have evaluated milk storage safety at 15° C (59° F), which would be equivalent to a blue-ice pack in a small cooler

Using Stored Breast Milk

  • Use oldest milk in fridge or freezer first
  • Babies can drink milk cool, at room temperature, or warmed. Babies may show a preference
  • Defrost milk in fridge overnight, by running it under warm water, or setting it in a container of warm water
  •  Previously frozen milk that has been thawed for 24 hours should not be left out at room temperature for more than a few hours
  • There have been no studies on the duration of time milk can be kept at room temperature once the baby has partially fed from the bottle or cup
  • It seems reasonable to discard the remaining milk within 1-2 hours after the baby is finished feeding
  • No recommendations can be made on the refreezing of thawed human milk

In addition to following the correct storage guidelines, organization of freezer milk can quickly become over whelming. Look for an upcoming post on best practices to organize your freezer.


The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants (Original Protocol March 2004; Revision #1 March 2010). 2010. 5:3.

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