How Long Can You Freeze Breast Milk?

Many mothers choose to breastfeed their babies for multiple reasons. Breast milk provides all of the necessary nutrients that an infant needs for healthy growth and development. Sometimes, breastfeeding moms may have to store their breast milk for later use. Freezing breast milk is a safe and effective way to store it. Breast milk can be frozen for different periods of time, and there are specific guidelines that need to be followed. This article will provide an in-depth guide on how long you can freeze breast milk, and how to do it properly.

Is it Safe to Freeze Breast Milk?

Yes, it is safe to freeze breast milk. Breast milk can be stored in the freezer for months while maintaining its nutritional value. However, there are certain guidelines that need to be followed to ensure the highest quality of frozen breast milk. By following these guidelines, you can be sure that your baby is receiving safe and nutritious milk, even if it was frozen for an extended period of time.

How Long Can You Freeze Breast Milk?

There are different guidelines regarding how long you can freeze breast milk, depending on where you store it. Breast milk can be stored in a regular freezer, a deep freezer or a refrigerator freezer compartment. Let’s break down freezing guidelines for each type of freezer:

Regular Freezer

  • Up to 6 Months: Fresh breast milk can be stored in a regular freezer, meaning a self-contained freezer that is attached to the refrigerator. If you store breast milk in a regular freezer, it can be frozen for up to six months.

Deep Freezer

A deep freezer is a separate unit that is not connected to the refrigerator. It is designed to keep food frozen for an extended period of time. The following are guidelines on how long you can freeze breast milk in a deep freezer:

  • Up to 12 Months: Breast milk stored in a deep freezer can be frozen for up to 12 months. If the temperature remains steady, some mothers have safely stored breast milk for up to 18 to 24 months.

Refrigerator Freezer Compartment

A refrigerator freezer compartment is the coldest part of a refrigerator. It is designed to keep food frozen for a short period of time. If you store breast milk in a refrigerator freezer compartment, use it as soon as possible or transfer it to a regular or deep freezer for long-term storage. Here are the freezing guidelines for breast milk in a refrigerator freezer compartment:

  • Up to 3 Months: Breast milk in a refrigerator freezer compartment can be frozen for up to three months. However, it is best to use breast milk stored in this compartment as soon as possible.

What Containers are Best for Storing Frozen Breast Milk?

It is important to use containers specifically designed for breast milk storage to prevent loss of nutrients or contamination. The most common containers used for storing breast milk include:

  • Breast milk storage bags: These bags are designed specifically for storing breast milk. They are made from sturdy and durable materials that can withstand freezing and thawing. These bags are also presterilized, ensuring that they are clean and safe for use.
  • Baby food jars: Baby food jars that are made from glass can be used to store breast milk. However, you need to make sure that you use the ones that are designed for freezing. These jars are a good option if you do not have access to breast milk storage bags.
  • Breast Milk Storage Bottles: These bottles are made from BPA-free plastic specifically for breast milk storage. They can be found with different ounces, and they are also dishwasher safe so you can easily sterilize them.

How to Freeze Breast Milk?

Freezing breast milk is easy, but there are certain guidelines that need to be observed to ensure the best quality of frozen breast milk. Here are some pointers on how to properly freeze breast milk:

  • Choose the Right Container: Always use a container specifically designed for storing breast milk. Breast milk storage bags, baby food jars, and breast milk storage bottles are good options for freezing breast milk.
  • Label The Container: Label the container with the date that you stored your breast milk. This will make it easy to keep track of which milk to use first if you have multiple bags or containers.
  • Fill the Container: Fill the container with the amount of breast milk that you plan to freeze. Do not overfill the container as the breast milk will expand when frozen.
  • Place the Container in the Freezer: Place the container on its side in the freezer so that the milk freezes evenly. Once the milk is frozen completely, you can stack the bags or jars up vertically to save space in your freezer.

How to Thaw Frozen Breast Milk?

Thawing frozen breast milk is simple, and there are different ways to do it. Here are some ways on how to thaw frozen breast milk safely:

  • In the fridge: Thaw the frozen breast milk in the refrigerator overnight. This method is the safest and best way to thaw frozen breast milk, as the milk will thaw slowly without being exposed to high temperatures.
  • Under running water: Hold the container of frozen breast milk under warm running water to thaw quickly. Make sure not to immerse the container completely in water. This method is quicker than thawing the milk in the fridge but more wasteful of your water.
  • In a bowl of warm water: Fill a bowl with warm water, and place the container of frozen breast milk in it. Keep the container’s top above the water’s surface so that water doesn’t get inside the container. This method is faster than thawing in the fridge, but it requires more work than the previous methods.

How Long is Breast Milk Good for After Thawing?

Thawed breast milk can be kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

It is important to use thawed breast milk quickly to ensure its quality and to prevent waste. Never refreeze thawed breast milk as this can cause contamination and the loss of nutrients.

Conclusion

Freezing breast milk is a safe and effective way to store it for later use. Breast milk can be kept in a regular freezer, deep freezer or a refrigerator freezer compartment for different periods of time, depending on the guidelines. Make sure to use containers specifically designed for breast milk storage and to label them with the date you stored the breast milk. Freezing and thawing breast milk can be done easily and safely by following the guidelines in this article. By doing so, you can ensure that your baby is receiving safe and nutritious milk, even if it was frozen and thawed multiple times.

FAQs

  • Q: Can you freeze breast milk that has been refrigerated?
  • A: Yes, you can freeze breast milk that has been refrigerated, as long as it has not exceeded the recommended freezing storage times.
  • Q: Can you freeze breast milk in the storage bags that have been previously frozen?
  • A: No, it is not recommended to freeze breast milk that has already been previously frozen, even if it is in a storage bag or container designed for breast milk storage. Only freeze fresh breast milk.
  • Q: Can you mix fresh and previously frozen breast milk together?
  • A: Yes, you can mix fresh and previously frozen breast milk together if they are both stored under the same conditions and at the same temperature. However, use them within the storage times recommended for previously frozen milk.
  • Q: How do I know if breast milk has gone bad?
  • A: Breast milk that has gone bad will have a sour smell and a different taste. It may also appear lumpy or have a yellowish tint. In cases of doubt, consult your baby’s pediatrician.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, November 18). Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm.
  2. The Women’s: Breast Milk Storage Guidelines. NHS.UK. (2021, August 13). https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/baby/breastfeeding/expressing-and-storing-breast-milk/breast-milk-storage/.

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