How to store breast milk correctly

Newborns require good nutrition whilst in hospital and once they are brought home. Breast milk is an invaluable source of nourishment and immunity for newborns, so proper storage of milk in a neonatal fridge is crucial to maintain its nutritional value. 

There are essential steps to follow to ensure breast milk is safe to feed to children, such as using breast milk fridges to create optimal storage conditions for the milk. Below, we’ll run through a comprehensive guide to storing breast milk correctly to ensure it can be fed safely to newborns. 

Breast milk storage guidelines

Breast milk can be stored in various ways depending on the time it was expressed:

Freshly pumped breast milk

The time frame for storing fresh breast milk differs depending on where it is kept. At room temperature, breast milk can be kept for up to 4 hours. However, freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in a breast milk fridge for up to 8 days, and up to 6 months in a freezer. 

Thawed breast milk

Previously frozen milk can be left at room temperature for a maximum of 2 hours. You should never defrost your breast milk in a fridge as this will lower the internal temperature which can spoil other products you are storing. It is important to remember that breast milk that has been defrosted should never be frozen again. 

Leftover milk from feeding

If you find you have additional breast milk left from feeding, this should be used within 2 hours after the initial feeding time. We advise keeping this milk in a neonatal fridge to keep it fresh for future feeding windows.

Using a neonatal fridge for breast milk storage

Storing breast milk in a refrigerator is a great option if you intend to use it within a few days. You should ideally store breast milk in a designated neonatal fridge to ensure the milk is safe for feeding. Breast milk fridges are available in a variety of sizes to suit different needs. Our small neonatal solid door refrigerators are perfect for local countertop use, whereas large breast milk fridges are better suited for high traffic hospital wards. 

Breast milk should be collected in a clean container. You should wash your hands and avoid touching the inside of the container and the milk itself during collection. Additionally, you should use BPA-free sterile bottles or storage containers specially designed for breast milk. These containers will help to preserve the quality of the breast milk and will prevent any harmful substances from polluting it. 

Ensure your breast milk storage fridge is safe by making sure it is clean and sanitised. Make sure to wash the interior surfaces with warm soapy water and avoid using harsh chemicals. The interior should also be completely dry and set at the correct internal temperature range of +1oC – +5oC. Prior to storing your breast milk, check the high/low reading on the fridge controller to make sure it is operating at the correct temperature.   

Milk containers should be stored in individual trays to minimise the risk of cross contamination. Containers should also be labelled with the date and time of expression to avoid wastage in the future. If you are storing milk in a hospital, breast milk should be labelled with the baby’s name and hospital number for referencing purposes. 

How to defrost breast milk safely 

There are a number of ways to defrost breast milk safely for use. However, some recommended processes include: 

  • In a designated neonatal refrigerator: Once defrosted, breast milk can be placed in a breast milk fridge for storage. After thawing, breast milk should be used within 24 hours.
  • Under cool, running water: Place the container in a bowl of cold water and gradually increase the temperature to thaw.
  • Using a bottle warmer: To increase the breast milk to the correct temperature, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for thawing breast milk.

For safety reasons, you should always avoid thawing breast milk in hot water or the microwave, as these methods can ruin nutrients in the milk and potentially burn a baby’s mouth.

Why is storing breast milk in a neonatal fridge important? 

Storing breast milk correctly is essential to provide babies with the best nutrition whilst ensuring their safety. 

Breast milk must be stored in a dedicated neonatal fridge over a domestic fridge. Traditional fridges do not come equipped with accurate temperature control features to maintain a temperature of +1oC and +5oC and instead have a thermal reading of +0oC – +10oC. As a result of this wide temperature range, the nutritional value of breast milk can be affected. 

Following strict guidelines for proper collection, storage, and thawing can ensure that breast milk retains its nutrition and remains a valuable source of nourishment for babies. 

Contact Us

If you’d like any further information regarding our neonatal refrigerators, please call us on 0161 772 5666, or email us at A member of our team will be happy to help.