Storing & transporting breastmilk

As for collection, the requirements for storing breast milk are more stringent for sick or pre-term infants in hospital than for healthy infants at home. The literature review identified evidence suggesting that the maximum storage time of breast milk under clean conditions in a refrigerator at 0–4°c is 96 hours (evidence grade c).375 note that breast milk storage guidelines vary

Storing Breast Milk At Home

The ABM (Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine) has recently updated its protocol for storing breast milk for home use. the safety measures for storing breast milk outlined in these guidelines are consistent with the recent ABM protocol. Breast milk can be stored in glass or plastic containers, including sealable plastic bags. Freshly expressed milk that is being refrigerated or frozen should be stored in a new container rather than added to previously refrigerated or frozen milk.

Guide to storing expressed breast milk at home

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water – hands must be thoroughly dried with a clean towel, single use towel or hand dryer
  • Refrigerate or freeze milk after expressing
  • Use fresh milk whenever possible
  • Freeze milk that will not be used within 2 days
  • Date the container at the time of collection and use the oldest milk first

Length of time breast milk can be stored

Breast milk status

Storage at room temperature
(260C or lower)

Storage in refrigerator
(50C  or lower)

Storage in Freezer

Freshly expressed

6–8 hours

If refrigeration is available store milk there

No more than

72 hours

Store at back,

where it is coldest

2 weeks in freezer compartment inside

Refrigerator (–15°C)

3 months in freezer section of refrigerator with separate door (–18°C)

6–12 months in deep freeze (–20°C)*

Previously frozen (thawed)

4 hours or less – that is, the next feeding

24 hours

Do not refreeze

Thawed outside refrigerator in warm water 

For completion of feeding

4 hours or until next feeding

Do not refreeze

Infant has begun feeding

Only for completion of feeding

Discard after feed



* Chest or upright manual defrost deep freezer that is opened infrequently and maintains ideal temperature

Transporting breast milk

  • Transport breast milk in an insulated container – an Esky with a freezer brick
  • If some milk has thawed it should be used within 4 hours – do not refreeze it
  • Place the labelled milk in the refrigerator (or in the freezer if it is still frozen) immediately upon arrival

Expressing and Storing Breast Milk gratefully reproduced by permission. National Health and medical Research council (2012) Infant Feeding Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.

Back to Top