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Breast Milk Storage: The Guide to Storing Breast Milk in the Fridge

Storing Breast Milk in the Fridge

Breast milk is recognized as the most nutritious food source for infants, offering a plethora of health benefits that support a child’s development and immune system. For many mothers, breastfeeding can be both a rewarding and demanding task, particularly when it involves managing and storing breast milk for later use. Understanding how to store breast milk properly is crucial for maintaining its nutritional value and safety.

This blog provides a comprehensive guide on the recommended duration for storing breast milk in the fridge, accompanied by best practices to ensure its optimal quality. Whether you are a new mother or have previous experience with breastfeeding, this guide will offer valuable insights into the effective storage of breast milk, aligning with the latest guidelines to assist you in your breastfeeding journey.

Best Practices for Storing Breast Milk in the Fridge:

Breast milk is a vital source of nutrition for infants, providing the necessary antibodies, nutrients, and enzymes that they need for growth and immune support. Ensuring that breast milk is stored correctly can maximize its health benefits while maintaining its quality. The following best practices are recommended for storing breast milk in the refrigerator.

Ideal Temperature for Storing Breast Milk

The temperature of the refrigerator is a critical factor in preserving the quality and safety of breast milk. The recommended temperature for storing breast milk in the fridge is at or below 40°F (4°C). This temperature range helps slow down the growth of bacteria and preserve the milk’s beneficial properties. It’s advisable to place the milk in the back of the refrigerator where the temperature is more consistent and less subject to fluctuations from frequent door openings.

Proper Containers for Storing Breast Milk

Choosing the right containers is essential for maintaining the quality of breast milk during storage. Breast milk should be stored in clean, food-grade containers that are BPA-free. These can be hard plastic bottles with tight-fitting lids or breast milk storage bags specifically designed for refrigeration and freezing. Glass containers with screw caps or hard plastic containers are also acceptable. Still, they should be avoided if there’s a risk of breakage. Ensure containers are not filled to the brim – leave about an inch of space to allow the milk to expand as it freezes.

Guidelines on Labeling Stored Breast Milk

Labeling breast milk containers with the date and time of expression is crucial for organizing and safely using stored milk. Use waterproof labels and a marker to note these details. This practice ensures that the oldest milk is used first, adhering to the “first in, first out” principle. Additionally, if you are storing milk for a child in a daycare setting, include the child’s name on the label to avoid any mix-up with another child’s milk.

Recommended Duration for Storing Breast Milk in the Fridge:

The duration for which breast milk can be safely stored in the fridge depends on several factors, including the refrigerator’s temperature, the cleanliness of the storage containers, and how the milk is handled before storing.

Storing Freshly Expressed Breast Milk

Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. However, it is best used within three days for optimal nutrient retention and to ensure the best taste for the baby. If you do not plan to use the freshly expressed milk within this timeframe, freezing it is an effective way to extend its shelf life while preserving its nutritional and immunological benefits.

Storing Thawed Breast Milk

Breast milk that has been thawed in the refrigerator after being frozen can be stored for a shorter duration. Once thawed, breast milk should be used within 24 hours and never refrozen. During this period, the milk should be kept in the refrigerator and gently swirled (not shaken) before feeding to redistribute the fat that may have separated. It’s important not to leave thawed breast milk at room temperature for extended periods to minimize the risk of bacterial growth.

In conclusion, proper storage practices for breast milk are imperative to maintain its quality and ensure it remains safe and nutritious for infant consumption. By adhering to the guidelines for temperature regulation, choosing the appropriate storage containers, and following clear labeling protocols, parents can ensure that their infants receive the full benefits of breast milk. Additionally, understanding the recommended storage durations helps manage breast milk supply efficiently and minimizes waste. By following these guidelines, parents and caregivers can provide their infants with a healthy start, supported by the optimal nutritional and immunological benefits of breast milk.

Signs of Spoiled Breast Milk in the Fridge:

Recognizing the signs of spoiled breast milk is crucial for the health and safety of your baby. While stored breast milk has a distinct smell and taste compared to freshly expressed milk, changes in these characteristics can indicate spoilage. First, observe the odor; spoiled milk typically has a sour or rancid smell distinctly different from its usual scent. Another indicator is the appearance. While it’s normal for breast milk to separate into a cream layer and a milk layer, any discoloration or mold growth is a sign of spoilage. Lastly, taste is a reliable indicator, though less appealing; spoiled breast milk tastes sour.

It’s important to note that the immunological properties of breast milk can cause it to smell differently than cow’s milk, so slight variations in scent do not necessarily signify spoilage. When in doubt, it’s safer to discard the milk rather than risk feeding it to your baby.

FAQs about Storing Breast Milk in the Fridge:

Breast milk storage can sometimes seem complicated due to the living components of the milk, which can be affected by temperature changes, contamination, and handling. To assist in navigating these concerns, here are answers to some frequently asked questions about storing breast milk in the fridge.

Can You Mix Freshly Pumped Breast Milk with Refrigerated Breast Milk?

Yes, you can mix freshly pumped breast milk with refrigerated breast milk, but it’s important to follow a couple of guidelines to ensure the milk’s safety and quality. Firstly, cool the freshly expressed milk in the refrigerator before mixing it with previously chilled milk. This prevents the warmer, fresh milk from raising the temperature of the refrigerated milk, which could potentially encourage bacterial growth. Secondly, consider the dates of expression; it’s advisable to mix milk pumped on the same day or within a close timeframe to maintain consistency in the feeding and to avoid mixing very fresh milk with milk that is nearing the end of its optimal storage duration.

Can You Store Breast Milk in The Fridge Door?

Storing breast milk in the fridge door is not recommended. The reason lies in the temperature fluctuations that occur in the fridge door due to its frequent opening and closing. These fluctuations can lead to a higher risk of spoilage as breast milk is sensitive to temperature changes. It’s best to store breast milk on a shelf towards the back of the fridge where the temperature is more constant. This ensures that the milk remains at a stable, cool temperature, reducing the risk of spoilage and maintaining the milk’s quality for a longer period.

Is It Safe to Refreeze Breast Milk That Has Been Thawed?

It is generally advised not to refreeze breast milk that has been fully thawed. Thawing and then refreezing can compromise the milk’s nutritional and immunological quality, as well as increase the potential for bacterial growth. If breast milk is thawed in the refrigerator but not warmed, it can be kept in the fridge and used within 24 hours. However, it should not be refrozen once it reaches room temperature or is warmed for feeding. Any leftover milk from a feeding should be discarded to ensure the baby’s safety and health.

In conclusion, understanding how to properly store breast milk in the fridge, recognizing the signs of spoilage, and following best practices for handling and using stored milk are key elements in ensuring that your baby receives the optimal benefits of breast milk with reduced risks. By adhering to these guidelines, you can provide your infant with nourishing milk while minimizing waste and maintaining the highest standards of safety and quality.


In summary, proper storage of breast milk is crucial for maintaining its nutritional and immunological benefits. By adhering to the recommended guidelines, parents can ensure that their infant receives the maximum benefits of breast milk, while also minimizing waste. Remember, breast milk can be safely stored in the fridge for up to four days. However, if you’re unsure about the quality of the milk, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and discard any milk that appears or smells unusual.

These guidelines are not only simple but also effective in making sure that your baby has access to safe and nutritious breast milk at all times. Always trust your instincts and when in doubt, consult a healthcare professional for guidance.

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