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Storing and Using Breastmilk


full baby bottle lying on its side


If you have to be away from your baby for more than a few hours, you can express your breast milk and store it for later.  

Here's some advice on making sure your milk is stored safely.

Expressed breast milk can be safely stored (in a sterilized bottle) for:

  • Up to four hours at room temperature.
  • Three days in a fridge set between 0 and 4°C (not in the door of the fridge).
  • One month in the freezer compartment that is inside a fridge.
  • Up to six months in a separate door fridge freezer. Keep milk on the back shelf at a temperature of -18°C. Place the date on the freezer bag or container if you're building up a supply. 
  • Six to 12 months in a deep freeze at a temperature of -20°C. 

Watch a video on how to express breast milk.

As with all baby food, it's important to follow proper safety practices when using breast milk. Always use the oldest milk first - label all milk containers with the date.

Thaw frozen breast milk by:

  • putting the container in the fridge overnight
  • running the container under warm tap water
  • putting the container in a bowl of warm water (if you use this method, keep the lid of the container out of the water)

Be sure to defrost just enough for one feeding so milk is not wasted. Once milk has thawed, it may be refrigerated up to 24 hours. Do not store at room temperature. Never refreeze breast milk.

Shake the milk gently before giving it to your baby - the creamy part of the milk tends to separate when it is frozen.

Warm breast milk by running the container under warm tap water (if using an infant bottle, keep the nipple out of the water) or putting the container in a bowl of warm water. Never re-use milk leftover in the bottle after a feeding.

Milk can get too hot!

Never heat breast milk on top of the stove. It can get too hot too fast. Never microwave breast milk either. The uneven heat can burn your baby's mouth.

Resources & Links:
Storing Breast Milk

VIDEO: Admission to Postpartum - Keeping Your Baby Skin-to-Skin
VIDEO: Baby's Feeding Cues and Behaviours
VIDEO: Breastfeeding Positions
VIDEO: Hand Expressing Milk
VIDEO: Latching Your Baby

Last Updated: August 2, 2013