Collecting and storing breast milk

Follow these suggestions when collecting and storing milk for a healthy, full term infant.

If you are a mother who breastfeeds, the process of collecting and storing milk for your baby is very important. Follow these simple suggestions to keep your baby happy and healthy.

Collecting and storing tips:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Always use a clean pump.
  • Wash your pumping equipment with soap and water and let it air dry after each use.
  • Express milk from both breasts.
  • If you’re away from your baby, try to pump about the same time that your baby would typically eat.
  • While at home with your baby, try pumping after feedings. This will help to build a supply of pumped breast milk.
  • Store breast milk in clean glass or hard plastic bottles or in breast milk collection bags.
  1. Place a single serving in each container.
  2. If freezing, leave a space at the top of the bottle or bag because the milk will expand.
  3. Label the container with the date the milk was expressed.

It is best to refrigerate your breast milk quickly after pumping and use it in the next day or so.

However, there may be times you may not be able to refrigerate or use your milk right away.

Follow the guidelines below for storing your breast milk.

Guide to storing fresh breast milk for use with healthy full-term infants:



How long?

Things to know


Room Temperature (60°F-85°F)

3-4 hours optimal 6-8 hours acceptable under very clean conditions

Containers should be covered and kept as cool as possible.


39°F or colder

3 days optimal

5-8 days acceptable under very clean conditions

Store milk in the back of the main body of the refrigerator.


(Separate door from refrigerator or a deep freezer)

0°F or colder

6 months optimal 12 months acceptable

Store milk toward the back of the freezer where the temperature is coldest.


Thawing breast milk:

  • To thaw frozen breast milk, place the unopened container in the refrigerator overnight or hold the container under warm running water until the milk is thawed.
  • Never thaw or warm up breast milk in a microwave oven. Microwaving can destroy live cells and create hot spots that could burn your baby’s mouth.
  • Store thawed breast milk in the refrigerator and use within 24 hours. Do not re-freeze again.

Michigan State University Extension’s Breastfeeding Mother to Mother Program can answer your questions about breastfeeding. For additional information on breastfeeding your baby, go to

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