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Breast milk is best for your baby.

Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, and the Dietitians of Canada recommend that you exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months and that you continue to breastfeed for up to 2 years or longer along with complementary foods.

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Storing breast milk

Here are some general guidelines for handling, storing, and thawing breast milk for full-term, healthy babies. If your baby is sick or premature, check with your health care provider first.

  • Always wash your hands before touching your breasts, the breast pump, and expressed milk.
  • Label the clean storage container or heavy-duty breast milk bag with the date, time, and volume of milk collected so you can use the oldest milk first.
  • Place breast milk in a cooler or refrigerator as soon as possible.
  • Wash pump parts in hot soapy water and rinse well after each use.

If you plan to freeze your breast milk, do so within 24 hours of collection and after it has chilled in the refrigerator. Freeze breast milk in small portions, about 60 to 120 mL, so it can thaw quickly. Remember to leave about 2.5 cm of space at the top of the container or bag to allow for expansion during freezing.

Breast milk storage guidelines for healthy, full-term babies:1

Room temperature3 to 4 hours
Small cooler with ice pack24 hours
Refrigerator72 hours
Freezer6 months

Thaw breast milk gradually either in the refrigerator, under increasingly warm running water, or in a bowl of warm water. Never use a microwave or boiling water to thaw breast milk. Microwaving may cause “hot spots” and affect the components of the milk.


1. ABM Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants (Original Protocol March 2004; Revision #1 March 2010).Breastfeeding Medicine 2010;5(3).

2. A Mom’s Helpful Guide to Breastfeeding,p. 40-41, 2017.