Storage of expressed breast milk

  1. Storage containers
    These can include glass or sterilised bottles, disposable sterile breast milk containers and disposable storage bags. All containers, caps and funnels used in the expression and collection of breast milk should be properly sterilised. This can be done either by placing them in boiling water for five to 10 minutes, through steam sterilisation or by sterilisation tablets immersed in clean water.
  2. Volume of milk
    It is important to always store the expressed milk in feed-size amounts in sterilised bottles. This will prevent wastage and make it convenient during feeding times. Containers should always be labelled with the name, date and time of collection, especially when it is to be transported to the hospital. It should be refrigerated at once after expression. Always remember to use the milk expressed at the earlier date.

Home use: Storage guide for breast milk

Breast MilkRoom temperatureRefrigerator 4°CFreezer
Freshly expressed into a closed container6 to 8 hours (26°C or lower). If a refrigerator is available, store milk in itNo more than 72 hours. Store at the back, where it is coldest
  • 2 weeks in freezer compartment inside refrigerator (-15°C)
  • 3-6 months in freezer section of refrigerator with separate door (-18°C)
  • 6–12 months in deep freeze (-20°C**)
Previously frozen (thawed in refrigerator but not warmed)4 hours or less (i.e. the next feeding)Store in refrigerator for 24 hoursDo not refreeze
Thawed outside refrigerator in warm waterFor completion of feedingHold for 4 hours or until next feedingDo not refreeze
Infant has begun feedingOnly for completion of feeding, then discardDiscardDiscard

Breast milk transportation guide

To avoid infection, special care should be taken when storing breast milk for premature babies in hospitals. The moving of stored milk from place to place must maintain the cold chain.

When transporting expressed milk, put the bottles in a cooler box with ice packs. Transfer the bottles into the refrigerator once you have reached your destination.

Always give the freshly expressed breast milk to baby, where possible.

It is not necessary to freeze your breast milk unless you have so much excess that your baby is unable to consume it within 48 hours. Properly refrigerated milk can be kept for 24 to 48 hours.

“However, at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH)’s Department of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, the policy is to discard the milk after 24 hours to lower the risk of infection in premature babies,” shares Dr Varsha Atul Shah, Department of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Ref: Q15