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Storing Expressed Milk

You can express your milk and store it in clean containers. Your family or a sitter can feed it to the baby. This way, your baby gets the benefits of your milk even when you can't be there at feeding time. These guidelines are based on CDC guidelines, But, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) allows longer storage times if the breastmilk is expressed under very clean conditions.

If you want to follow the longer storage times, talk with your baby's healthcare provider to see if this is OK for your baby and if you are expressing your breastmilk under very clean conditions

Type of storage

Details about storage

Storage times

Room temperature


  • At room temperature (up to 78°F or 26°C)

  • Tip: Keep the container clean, covered, and cool.

3 to 4 hours is best; 6 to 8 hours is acceptable under very clean conditions



  • In a refrigerator (less than 39°F or less than 4°C)

  • Tip: Place milk in the back of the main section of the refrigerator.

Up to 4 days; up to 8 days if expressed under very clean conditions



  •  In a freezer (0°F or -17°C)

  • Tip: Store milk toward the back of the freezer.

  • Never refreeze milk once it's been thawed. Once thawed, use right away or refrigerate no longer than 24 hours.

6 months is best; up to 12 months is acceptable if stored in deep freezer at -4°F (-20°C) or colder

Guidelines for milk storage

Always use a clean container to collect and store milk. Never pour warm expressed milk into a bottle with cold milk. And be sure to label and date each bottle or bag of milk. To store milk safely, see the chart above.

Woman putting bag of breast miilk into freezer.

Warming stored milk

Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator or in a bowl of warm water. It’s a good idea to warm refrigerated milk before using it. For your baby’s safety:

  • Use the oldest milk first.

  • Warm a container of milk by putting it in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for a few minutes. Or use a bottle warmer set on low.

  • Gently swirl the milk to mix it. Then place a few drops on your wrist. The milk should be near room temperature.

  • Don’t put the milk in a microwave. This could create pockets of hot liquid that can burn your baby’s mouth.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Mary Terrell MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2021
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