Expressing and Storing

Below are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions on Expressing and Storing Breastmilk. For more detailed information see our leaflet on Expressing and Storing Breastmilk.

Storing expressed breastmilk

How long can I keep my breastmilk at room temperature if a fridge is not available?

If your breastmilk is freshly expressed it will keep for 6 hours without refrigeration, either at home or away from home.

How long can I store breastmilk in the fridge?

You can store milk in a fridge at 5 to 10 degrees Celsius for up to 3 days and a fridge 0 to 4 degrees Celsius for up to 8 days (* Please note these guidelines are for healthy term babies).

How long can I store breastmilk in the freezer?

You can store milk in a freezer at -18 degrees Celsius or below for up to 6 months.

Why are there variations in recommendations for storing expressed breast milk?

More information about this can be found on a separate page.

Feeding baby expressed breastmilk

What happens if my baby doesn’t take all of one bottle? Can I put it back in the fridge or on the side use it again?

Once the baby has drunk from a bottle of expressed milk it should be used up within an hour or thrown away. To avoid wasting your expressed breastmilk it is best to offer the baby only a little at a time. You can do this by keeping most of it in one container, in the fridge, and using it to top up the baby’s bottle a little at a time.

Defrosting frozen breastmilk

How do I defrost my milk?

It is best to defrost breastmilk in the fridge. This milk should be used within 12 hours of removing from the freezer. If your breastmilk is still frozen after this time, or you need to use it quickly, defrost under cool, then warm, running water. Dry the outside of the container with kitchen paper and use immediately. If you frequently find your milk is frozen after 12 hours in the fridge, try to freeze in smaller quantities.

How long can I keep defrosted breastmilk?

Defrosted breastmilk should be used straight away once it has fully defrosted.

Why can’t I defrost breastmilk in a microwave?

Breastmilk should not be defrosted in the microwave because it heats unevenly, destroying antibodies and nutrients. There is also a risk of scalds and the milk would need to be left at room temperature before use.

Transportation of expressed breastmilk

How can I transport milk home, which I have expressed at work?

Try to use a cool bag for transportation and put it in the fridge once you are home. Previously refrigerated breastmilk can be kept cool (10 deg C or below) for up to 24 hours when in a well insulated bag with deep-frozen ice-packs. Take care not to freeze your milk by wrapping the ice-packs in kitchen paper first. Please ensure this milk is used within the recommended refrigeration storage times as mentioned above.

Re-heating expressed breastmilk

How do I re-heat expressed breastmilk?

Expressed breastmilk can be used straight from the fridge or alternatively it can be warmed gently by placing the container (such as a bottle or sealed cup) in warm water to take the chill off. Take care not to over warm and use defrosted milk immediately.