Breastmilk Collection and Storage Guidelines



Collecting and storing breast milk is an experience many new families will have. Most health insurance companies provide their members with a breast pump to assist in the efficient and safe collection and storage of breastmilk for times when lactating parents and babies are separated or when extra stimulation is required to maintain or increase milk supply.

Equipment Needed:

• Soap and/or hand sanitizer
• Dish soap (non-antibacterial) or saponified olive oil cleanser
• Disinfectant wipes
• Breast milk storage container
• Marker to label container
• Specialty bag for steaming pump parts (if needed)
• Refrigerator/freezer or cooler bag


Collecting breast milk safely

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water. If soap is not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Always use clean pump parts and collection containers. These may be washed in the dishwasher or by hand with dish soap and air dried.
  3. Premature babies, babies less than 3 months old, or babies with a compromised immune system may require daily sanitizing of pump parts and feeding items by boiling or steaming in a special microwave sterilization bag. Older, well babies, consider sterilizing periodically.
  4. On shared multi-user pumps, clean the entire pump exterior with a disinfectant wipe.

Storing breast milk safely

  1. Store milk in food-grade containers, bottles, or milk storage bags with a tight fitting lid or seal. Avoid containers containing Bisphenol A (BPA), indicated by the recycling number 7.
  2. Collect milk in 2-3oz increments to minimize wasting milk.
  3. Label storage containers or bags with the time and date of expression.
  4. If you do not plan on using the milk within 4 days, freeze immediately.
  5. See table below for storage temperatures and times

Thawing breast milk safely

  1. Use the oldest milk first.
  2. There are three recommended ways to thaw breast milk: Overnight in the refrigerator, in a container of warm water, or under warm running water.
  3. Never thaw or warm breast milk in the microwave. This can cause burns due to uneven heating.
  4. Milk does not have to be warm for feeding. Cold milk, milk at room temperature, and warm milk are all acceptable.
  5. Swirl the breast milk to mix the fat layer into the milk.
Type of
Breast Milk
Countertop 77°F or colder (room temperature) Refrigerator
Freezer 0°F
or colder
Freshly Expressed or Pumped Up to 4 hours Up to 4 days Within 6-12 months
Thawed, Previously Frozen 1-2 hours Up to 1 day (24 hours) Never refreeze human milk
Leftover from a feeding Use within 2 hours after the baby is finished feeding

Follow Up:

Contact a qualified lactation provider or your healthcare provider for more information or to create a custom care plan for safe storage and handling of human milk.


Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk | Breastfeeding | CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2019, from

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