Breastfeeding 101: Storing Breast Milk at the Hospital


As you know, a mother’s milk is uniquely valuable for a baby’s health. Store-bought infant formula provides nutrition, but only mother’s milk contains antibodies, substances that help your baby resist diseases; provides a perfect balance of nutrients to help your baby grow and develop; and protects your baby against allergies.

Maybe you’re currently pregnant, or even just had your baby and are still at the hospital. If so, you may still have a few questions that have gone unanswered, especially when it comes to storing breast milk while at the hospital.

Here are a few answers to those questions:

  • You must store your milk in the human milk storage containers provided by the hospital. Get an ID sticker for your baby from your nurse. Write the time and date on the sticker and put it on the container of pumped milk.
  • Store milk from each pumping separately. Never add freshly pumped milk to a container of milk that is already in your refrigerator or freezer.
  • Immediately after pumping, put your milk either in the refrigerator or freezer. If your baby will take your milk within two days, refrigerate it. If not, put it in the back of your freezer (not in the door). You can keep frozen milk in a regular freezer for three months and in a deep freeze for six months.
  • To make sure that your milk is given only to your baby, there will be several checks done on each labeled container of your milk. These are checks of your baby’s name and hospital number. The nurse caring for your baby or another staff member will do these checks when you bring the milk onto the unit when your baby is admitted to the hospital, the milk is prepared to be fed to your baby, and when you take your milk home.

Remember, it is your responsibility to work with the staff members to make sure the expressed milk you take home is actually yours; you share the responsibility to make sure a staff member verifies your expressed milk before you take it at any time. Your participation in breast milk checks will protect you and your baby.

If you are not able to breastfeed your baby while your baby is in the hospital, you will need to use a breast pump. If you pump as often as your baby would normally breastfeed, this will help bring in and keep a good milk supply. Remember to always wash your hands before pumping.

We recommend 15 to 20 minutes of pumping, seven times in the daytime, plus one more in the middle of the night. Here is a pumping schedule example:

3:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., Noon, 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m.