Conservation of expressed breast milk

Storage time

Colostrum: at room temperature (27 – 32° C) 12 hours.

Mature Milk:

  • At room temperature
    • 15° C for 24 hours
    • 19 to 22° C: 10 hours.
    • 25° C: 4 to 6 hours.
    • 30-38 °C: 4 hours.

Refrigerated (in a refrigerator) between 0 and 4° C: 8 days.

  • Frozen:
    • In the freezer compartment of a refrigerator: 2 weeks.
    • In the freezer of a fridge/freezer with separate doors: 3-4 months (because the temperature varies when the door is opened frequently).
    • In a separate commercial-type freezer, with a constant temperature of -19 °C: 6 months or more.

Type of container

Expressed breast milk should always be stored in containers intended for food use. Glass ones are the best ones, as they are less porous and offer the best protection. Secondly, hard transparent plastic (polycarbonate), and thirdly, translucent hard plastic (polypropylene). Another option would be commercially available plastic bags specially made for storing breast milk. Use the most practical option for you.

Cleaning the Containers

It´s best to wash them with soap and hot water, and rinse and dry them well before use. Alternatively, you could use a dishwasher.

How to Defrost and Heat Expressed Milk


Defrosting under the tap


Defrosting in hot water

There are several alternatives methods to defrosting milk: ideally, you should allow it to defrost slowly in the fridge, which takes a few hours, but you could run the container under the tap or immerse it in hot water if you don´t have much time. It isn´t advisable to defrost it in a microwave oven or heat it directly on the cooker. Once defrosted the milk can be kept for up to 24 hours in the fridge.

Bad Smell


Simmering the milk

Some mothers notice that, once defrosted, their milk smells acquires a bad smell. This is due to lipase action. To avoid it, you can simmer the milk before freezing, heating it until bubbles begin to form at the edge of the saucepan, and then freeze it, after allowing it to cool. Once it has acquired a bed smell there is nothing that can be done to eliminate it. There is no evidence that this rancid smelling milk may be harmful to the baby, and most refuse it.


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