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Breastmilk Storage System: The Ultimate Guide for Nursing Mothers

October 26, 2023

Explore the best Breastmilk Storage System for safe & effective milk storage. Discover tips, advice, and top product recommendations for nursing mothers.

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Introduction to Breastmilk Storage

Breastmilk is a precious source of nutrients for infants, packed with all the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for their growth and development. It also contains antibodies and other immune-boosting substances that help protect babies against infections and diseases. However, to ensure its quality and safety, it is crucial to store it properly.

Storing breastmilk isn’t as simple as pouring it into a container and putting it in the fridge. It involves careful handling to protect its valuable components and to keep it safe and sanitary for the baby. There are several factors to consider in choosing a storage system, including its effectiveness in preserving the nutrients, its suitability for your lifestyle and schedule, and its cost.

Key Takeaways:

  • Embrace the convenience and freedom of storing breast milk in your diaper bag, ensuring your baby receives nourishment anytime, anywhere, and promoting bonding with other family members.
  • Select the right diaper bag with insulated compartments, ample storage space, and easy-to-clean materials to ensure safe and hygienic breast milk storage on the go.

Breastmilk Storage Basics

Breastmilk is a living substance containing live cells, enzymes, and antibodies that can change according to your baby’s needs and your diet. That’s why it requires careful handling and storage.

Under ideal conditions, freshly expressed breastmilk can stay safe at room temperature for up to 4 hours. However, it’s best to refrigerate it as soon as possible if it won’t be used within that time. Refrigerated breastmilk is safe to use for up to 4 days, while frozen breastmilk can last for up to 6 months.

Is it safe to mix different batches of breastmilk?

Yes, it’s generally safe to mix different batches of breastmilk, as long as they were expressed on the same day. However, it’s important to cool the freshly expressed milk before adding it to already cooled or frozen milk.

Types of Breastmilk Storage Systems

When it comes to storing breastmilk, you have a few options to choose from: breastmilk storage bags, bottles, and trays.

Breastmilk storage bags are specially designed bags made of durable, food-safe plastic. They are usually pre-sterilized, come with a secure seal to avoid leaks, and have a designated area to write the date and volume of milk stored.

Breastmilk storage bottles, on the other hand, are reusable hard-plastic or glass bottles. They’re eco-friendly and cost-effective in the long run, but they take up more space in the fridge or freezer compared to bags.

Lastly, breastmilk storage trays are similar to ice cube trays. They allow you to freeze breastmilk in small portions, making it easy to defrost just the amount your baby needs for a feed.

Deciding on the best breastmilk storage system ultimately depends on your personal preferences, your baby’s needs, and your lifestyle.

Pros and Cons of Different Storage Systems

Choosing a breastmilk storage system is often a matter of personal preference, but understanding the pros and cons of each option can guide your choice. Each system has distinct advantages and potential drawbacks.

Breastmilk storage bags are an excellent choice for mothers who need to store a large supply of milk. They are easily stackable, take up minimal space in the freezer, disposable and most bags come pre-sterilized. However, they can be costly in the long-run, they are not environmentally friendly and can sometimes develop leaks.

Breastmilk storage bottles, either plastic or glass, are reusable and long-lasting, making them a cost-effective choice if you plan on pumping frequently. They are environmentally friendly, more sturdy and generally safe from leaks. But they do occupy more space in the freezer or fridge.

Breastmilk storage trays allow easy portion of milk into cubes, facilitating thaw process without wastage. The system is convenient and cost effective. However a significant downside is possibility of spill while moving trays and lack of airtight seal which could lead to freezer-burn.

Best Practices in Expressing and Storing Breastmilk

Following recommended practices while expressing and storing breastmilk is critical for maintaining its integrity and ensuring the safety of your baby.

Always wash your hands before pumping or handling breastmilk. Consider cleaning your breasts too, but avoid using soaps or lotions that could affect the taste of the milk.

When storing freshly expressed milk, cool it as quickly as possible. This helps preserve the live cells and antibodies in the milk. Using a refrigerator or a cooler bag with ice packs can do this effectively.

Maintain your breast pump’s hygiene by washing all the parts that come into contact with milk after each use. Occasionally, it’s a good idea to sterilize the parts, especially if your baby is less than three months old, was born prematurely, or has a weakened immune system.

Long-term Breastmilk Storage Tips

For mothers who need to express milk and store it for later use, knowing how to do so safely is essential.

Properly refrigerated breastmilk can safely be stored for use within four days. For longer storage, freezing is recommended. In a standard freezer, expressed milk can be stored for up to six months. Always label stored milk properly, noting the date it was expressed on the storage container so that you can use the oldest milk first.

If storing in freezer, keep the breastmilk in the back of the freezer where the temperature is the most consistent.

When thawing frozen breastmilk, plan ahead and thaw the milk slowly in the fridge or by placing it in a bowl of lukewarm water. Once the milk is thawed, use it within 24 hours and do not refreeze.

Temperature Guidelines for Stored Breastmilk

Proper temperature is one of the key factors in ensuring the quality and safety of stored breastmilk. It’s crucial to know the right temperatures for different storage durations and types.

At room temperature (up to 77°F or 25°C), freshly expressed breastmilk is safe to feed to your baby within four hours, although it’s best to feed it immediately. In a refrigerator that is set at 40°F (4°C) or colder, stored breastmilk is safe for up to 4 days, but it’s ideal to use or freeze the milk within 48 hours. In a standard freezer with a constant temperature of 0°F (-18°C) or below, the milk can be stored for up to 6 months, and up to 12 months in a deep freezer.

Understanding the Thawing Process

Once you have stored breastmilk in the freezer, the next step is thawing it safely and correctly for your baby.

The safest way to thaw frozen breastmilk is to place it in the refrigerator the night before you plan to use it. This method takes the longest, often needing at least 12 hours, so planning ahead is important. If you need to use it more quickly, hold the milk under warm running water or place it in a bowl of warm water.

Never use a microwave to thaw breastmilk as it can destroy the beneficial properties of the milk and can also cause hot spots, which can burn the baby’s mouth.

Once breastmilk is thawed, remember to gently swirl it to mix the fat, which can separate when frozen. Shake the milk as little as possible to avoid damaging its components.

Thawed Milk Safety Guidelines

Thawed breastmilk should be used within 24 hours if it’s been thawed in the refrigerator. If you’ve thawed it quickly under warm water, use it right away. Never refreeze thawed breastmilk.

Traveling with Stored Breastmilk

Whether you’re going on a road trip, boarding a plane, or going back to work, traveling with stored breastmilk requires advance planning and precautions to make sure that the milk remains safe for your baby.

Keeping breastmilk cool during travel is important. Use a cooler bag with ice packs, making sure that the breastmilk is in direct contact with the ice packs. Try to fill the cooler as much as possible, as a full cooler will stay cold longer than a partially filled one.

If you are flying, check the airline’s policy on carrying breastmilk. Most airlines allow you to bring a reasonable amount of breastmilk in carry-on luggage, but it’s best to check in advance.

Once you’ve reached your destination, transfer the stored milk in a refrigerator or freezer as soon as you can. Remember to use the oldest milk first to keep the supply fresh.

Breastmilk Storage for Working Moms

Many working moms continue breastfeeding by pumping at work and appropriately storing the milk. With effective strategies and the right appliances, you can easily keep up your supply.

Depending on your workplace setup, you may have access to a refrigerator to store your pumped milk throughout the day. In case you don’t, an insulated cooler bag with frozen ice packs can keep your milk cold until you get home. Remember to store your expressed milk in properly labeled airtight containers, indicating the date and time of expression.

Plan your pumping sessions similar to baby’s feeding schedule. Pumping at the same time each day helps maintain a regular milk supply. Privacy and comfort are also important during this process; find a quiet and comfortable place to pump at work.

Transporting Breastmilk Home from Work

Transporting expressed breastmilk from work to home safely is critical. An insulated cooler bag with ice packs effectively maintains the temperature of the milk during transit. Ensure the ice pack is touching the milk containers for optimal cooling. Once at home, transfer the milk to the refrigerator or freezer promptly.

Safety Guidelines for Breastmilk Storage

Safety guidelines for storing breastmilk are designed to ensure that the nutritional value of the milk is preserved while also limiting bacterial growth. Always wash hands and clean pumping and storage equipment properly. Store the breastmilk in sterilized breastmilk containers or breastmilk storage bags. Airtight closures prevent any contamination.

Never top up fresh milk on previously frozen milk; freezing melts some of the ice crystals in the older milk, leading to a cycle of freezing and thawing that might degrade milk’s components. Make sure to date your containers so you can use the oldest milk first. Similarly, avoid reusing thawed milk that has been refrigerated for 24 hours or more.

CDC Guidelines for Breastmilk Storage

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides detailed guidelines for storing breastmilk. Following these guidelines ensures that the milk retains its quality and is safe for the baby to consume.

Cleaning and Maintaining Breastmilk Storage Equipment

To ensure the safety and quality of expressed milk, it’s crucial to keep all breastmilk storage equipment clean and sanitized. You should wash all the parts that come in contact with the breast or milk with soap and warm water immediately after each pumping session. Rinse thoroughly to remove soap residue.

For a more thorough clean-up, most parts can be washed in the dishwasher, if dishwasher-safe. Otherwise, you can sanitize them in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. You can also use a microwave or electric steam sanitizing system designed for baby feeding equipment. Before storing the equipment, allow all parts to dry completely to prevent the growth of bacteria or mold.

Safety Storage of Equipment When Not in Use

After cleaning and drying, store all the equipment parts in a clean and protected space to prevent contamination. Covering the components with a clean towel or storing them inside a sealed container can help ensure their cleanliness until the next use.

Myths Versus Facts on Breastmilk Storage

Separating fact from fiction is essential when considering the best methods for storing breastmilk. Misinformation can not only lead to useless practices but can also compromise milk safety and quality. Let’s debunk some prevalent myths:

Myth: It says you can’t put breastmilk in the fridge immediately after expressing – it must cool down first.
Fact: The sooner breast milk can be refrigerated after expressing, the better. This helps preserve the quality and nutritional value of the milk.

Myth: You cannot combine milk from different pumping sessions.
Fact: It’s perfectly safe to combine milk from different pumping sessions as long as they are at the same temperature. Meaning, if you have milk in the fridge from an earlier session, you can add freshly pumped milk to it once it has cooled down in the refrigerator.

Science-backed Facts about Breastmilk Storage

Scientific studies provide valuable and factual guidance on breastmilk storage. For instance according to CDC, fresh expressed breastmilk can stay up to four hours at room temperature, up to four days in the fridge, and up to six months in a freezer. However, the milk should ideally be used sooner because the longer it is stored, the greater the loss of vitamin C in the milk.

Costs of Breastmilk Storage Systems

The cost of breastmilk storage systems can vary widely, depending on the brand, type of storage system, and where it is purchased. However, as an estimate:

Breastmilk storage bags can generally cost anywhere from $10 to $50 for a pack of 50 to 100 bags. They are often the most cost-effective choice for those on a budget, and are easy to use and dispose of, making them a popular choice among parents.

Storage bottles can range between $15 and $40 for a pack of 6 to 12 bottles. Choosing reusable bottles as a storage system can be cost-effective in the long run, as they can be cleaned and reused multiple times.

Economical Yet Efficient Choices

While considering the costs, it’s essential to keep in mind the functionality and quality. For instance, opting for lower-priced storage bags without double-zip seals might end up creating a mess and wasting milk. In contrast, spending a tiny bit more can ensure better quality, durability, and peace of mind.

Reviewing Top Breastmilk Storage Systems

Picking the top-rated storage system suitable to your needs can make a huge difference in your breastmilk storage experience. Here are some broad reviews on the top options available:

Breastmilk storage bags: Lansinoh’s bags are often favored by mothers for their double-zip seal and dispenser design. Medela’s pump and save bags are unique for their easy connect adapter that lets you pump milk directly into the bags.

Breastmilk storage bottles: Dr. Brown’s bottles come with a leak-proof secure cap and are made of BPA free materials. Medela’s bottles are popular because they can be used with Medela breast pumps.

Breastmilk storage trays: Sensible Lines trays are unique as they have individual tubes for freezing milk in serving-size portions which is convenient and cuts down on wastage.

Detailed Reviews on Top Storage Systems

While selecting the storage system, it’s recommended to research more detailed reviews online and compare the different features and prices. Customer reviews can offer valuable insights into others’ experiences, helping you make an informed decision.

Frequently Encountered Problems & Troubleshooting Tips

When dealing with breastmilk storage, it’s not unusual to encounter a few challenges. Recognizing and resolving these common issues can make the entire process smoother and safer. Below are some problems and their possible solutions:

Leaks in storage bags: This might occur if bags are overfilled. It is advisable to leave some space at the top as milk expands when frozen. Double-check the seal and lay the bag flat in the freezer to decrease the chance of leaks.

Milk smell or taste changes after storage: Lipase, an enzyme in breastmilk, can sometimes cause this. Scald the milk before storing to inactivate the enzyme.

Difficulties in measuring milk in storage systems: Always label the expressed milk with its volume before freezing or storing. For more precise measurement, consider using a bottle rather than a bag.

Problems with Storage Systems

Each storage system might present unique challenges. For example, storage trays might cause more milk exposure to air during removal, potentially leading to freezer burn. Using a storage bag or bottle inside the tray can prevent this. Always review the directions provided with your chosen storage system to prevent any issues.

Expert Tips on Breastmilk Storage

Getting advice from experts can drastically improve your breastmilk storage practices. Some of these valuable insights include:

Pediatricians: They stress the optimal storage temperatures and advise on the recommended storage durations to maintain milk’s nutritional quality.

Lactation consultants: They can provide practical tips, like suggesting to store milk in smaller amounts to avoid waste and recommending the “first in, first out” rule to ensure the oldest milk is used first.

Experienced mothers: They often offer tried-and-true advice based on their own experiences, including tips on affordable storage systems, easy thawing methods, and storage management techniques.

Insights from Health Professionals

Health professionals like dietitians and neonatal nurses can also provide valuable advice on storing expressed milk to maintain its optimal nutritional value and ensure safety for your baby.

When storing breast milk in a diaper bag, use a small insulated cooler with ice packs to keep the milk cold and fresh. Make sure to label the milk with the date it was expressed.

Additional Resources on Breastmilk Storage

There are plenty of resources available for those seeking more information on this topic. Here are several useful resource types:

Books and manuals: Many comprehensive guides, like “The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk” by Diana West and Lisa Marasco, provide important insights into milk production, expressing, and storage.

Online resources and discussion forums: Websites like La Leche League International, Kelly Mom, and websites of health organizations often have sections devoted to breastfeeding and milk storage. Discussion forums on these sites or on parenting platforms can also provide first-hand advice and solutions to common problems.

Mobile apps: Apps like Baby Tracker and Pump Log can help you keep track of pumping and storage schedules, ensuring you’re managing your stored milk correctly.

Top Online Resources for Breastmilk Storage

Many valuable online resources can simplify your breastmilk storage journey. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide evidence-based guidelines on their websites.

The Environmental Impact of Breastmilk Storage

Breastmilk storage does leave an environmental footprint. Much like any food storage, it involves using resources, which can potentially lead to waste. Understanding the environmental impact of these practices can help you make more sustainable choices.

Waste production: This refers to the disposable items utilized in breastmilk storage, such as storage bags or liners. Make efforts to recycle where possible or opt for reusable options to reduce this impact. Additionally, consider the waste produced by stockpiling more milk than necessary. Reducing overproduction and thus, over-storage, can help minimize waste.

Sustainability issues: This refers to the energy used in freezing and refrigerating milk and the production process of storage systems. Consider energy-efficient appliances to store your milk and seek out storage systems from manufacturers engaged in sustainable practices.

Biodegradable storage options: While not common, there are some biodegradable storage options in the market. These biodegradable storage bags decompose much faster than regular plastic ones, reducing the impact on the environment.

Ethical Considerations in Choosing Storage Systems

It is also beneficial to consider the ethical implications of your choices. Try to support companies that prioritize environmentally-friendly practices and fair treatment of workers. Also, consider the local community’s impact and your personal values when making your decision.


Choosing a breastmilk storage system and using it effectively is a key aspect of breast-feeding. It requires careful thought and understanding about the needs and routines of both mother and baby. The ideal storage system allows convenience, promotes hygiene and safety, preserves the quality of the milk, and ideally is ecologically responsible.

Remember, every experience is unique. What works for one individual may not work for another. So, trial and error are part of finding the system that works perfectly for you. As a new mother, the importance of getting accurate information cannot be overemphasized. Thus, leverage available resources to improve your knowledge while sharing personal experiences to help others in their journey.

Key Takeaways About Breastmilk Storage Systems

Proper storage protects the nutrients in your milk, safeguarding your child’s nutrition intake. While there is a myriad of options available, the choice of a storage system comes down to personal preference. Remember, be economical without compromising on quality and safety. Lastly, the well-being of your baby is paramount, and every effort you take towards effective milk storage is a step towards ensuring their health.