Storing and thawing breast milk

Breast milk is very precious. Follow the guidelines and tips below to store and thaw your breast milk so that you can preserve all the important nutrients and minimize bacterial contamination.

Guidelines for storing and thawing breast milk

How long does breast milk last in the fridge? What about frozen breast milk or milk at room temperature? Medela recommends using the following guidelines for storing freshly expressed breast milk.

Storage guidelines for freshly expressed breast milk (for healthy term babies)

Storage place

Room temperature
16 °C to 25 °C
(60 °F to 77 °F)

4 °C (39 °F)
or colder

-18 °C (0 °F )
or colder

Breast milk thawed in the refrigerator

Safe storage time

Up to four hours is best

Up to six hours for milk expressed under very clean conditions*

Up to three days is best

Up to five days for milk expressed under very clean conditions*

Up to six months is best

Up to nine months for milk expressed under very clean conditions*

At room temperature: Up to 2 hours

Refrigerator: Up to 24 hours

Do not refreeze!


*Guidelines for expressing milk under very clean conditions:

Before expressing breast milk, mothers should wash their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. The pump parts, bottles and pumping area must be clean. Breasts and nipples do not need to be washed before pumping.

These guidelines for storage and thawing of breast milk are a recommendation. Contact your lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist for further information


Tips for freezing or thawing breast milk

  • If you pump small amounts of breast milk several times a day, make sure you mix the milk portions only when they have all been well cooled in your refrigerator. Never add freshly pumped milk to milk that has already cooled.
  • Do not store breast milk in the door of the refrigerator. Instead choose the coldest part of the refrigerator: at the back of the shelf above the vegetable compartment.
  • You can use milk bottles or Pump & Save bags for freezing breast milk. Do not fill the bottles or bags more than 3/4 full as the milk will expand during freezing.
  • Label the bottles or bags with the date of expression.
  • Do not thaw or heat frozen breast milk in a microwave or in boiling water. This is to avoid vitamin and mineral loss and to avoid scalding your baby.
  • In order to preserve the components of the breast milk, it is best to thaw the milk in the refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, you can hold the bottle or bag under warm water (max. 37°C).
  • Gently swirl the bottle or Pump & Save bag to mix any fat that has separated. Avoid shaking or stirring the milk.

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