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Storing Expressed Milk

You can express your milk and store it in clean containers. Your partner or a sitter can feed it to the baby. This way, your baby gets the benefits of your milk even when you can’t be there at feeding time.

Type of storage

Storage times

Room temperature


  • At room temperature (up to 85°F or 29°C)

  • Tip: Keep the container clean, covered, and cool.

3 to 4 hours is best; 6 to 8 hours is acceptable (under very clean conditions)



  • In a refrigerator (39°F or 4°C)

  • Tip: Place milk in the back of the main section of the refrigerator.

72 hours is best; 5 to 8 days is acceptable (under very clean conditions) 



  •  In a freezer (0°F or -17°C)

  • Tip: Store milk toward the back of the freezer.

6 months is best; 12 months is acceptable

Guidelines for milk storage

Always use a clean container to collect and store milk. Never pour warm expressed milk into a bottle with cold milk. And be sure to label and date each bottle or bag of milk. To store milk safely, see the chart above.

Source: Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. (Original protocol March 2004; revision #1 March 2010.)

Warming stored milk

Baby bottle filled with milk in measuring cup of water.

Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator or in a bowl of warm water. Before using milk that has been in the refrigerator, it is a good idea to warm it. For your baby’s safety:

  • Use the oldest milk first

  • Warm a container of milk by putting it in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for a few minutes, or use a bottle warmer set on low.

  • Gently swirl the milk to mix it. Then place a few drops on your wrist. The milk should be near room temperature.

  • Do not put the milk in a microwave. This could create pockets of hot liquid that can burn the baby’s mouth.


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