Pumped breast milk: Separating fact from fiction

You already know that breast milk benefits infants in some pretty incredible ways. If you’re pumping and storing milk to give to your little one, it can be quite a journey – not always easy, but certainly well worth it – and you might face some curious questions along the way. Why is my breast milk green? And do I really need to toss this bottle of liquid gold?

We’re here to break down some breast milk fictions for you, so you can proceed with just the facts. You’ve got this!

Fiction: You can refreeze milk again and again.

Fact: Unfortunately, you can’t refreeze milk after it’s been thawed. But you can store it on the countertop for 1-2 hours or in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, starting from when the last crystal has thawed.

Fiction: You have to refrigerate breast milk right away.

Fact: If you’re not going to be using the milk right away, it is advised that you do refrigerate or freeze the milk for later use. But you can actually leave freshly pumped milk out for up to 4 hours, or even 6-8 hours at lower temperatures. One caveat here: If you’re in a location that’s particularly toasty – meaning warmer than 77 F (25 C) – then the fridge or freezer is the way to go.

Fiction: If you’re looking at your stored milk, all beautifully lined up, and you see what looks like a rainbow of different colored milk, it means something must be wrong with the milk.

Fact: Breast milk actually comes in a range of colors, and sometimes when you see a few bottles or bags lined up you can really notice the difference. But a range of shades – from blue to green, white to yellow, pink to orange – is all totally normal. The reason for the different shades can be based on what you eat or drink, what time of day you pump, or even if it’s a bottle from the start or end of a pumping session. But it’s all good for your little one!

Fiction: If a baby doesn’t finish a bottle of breast milk, you’ve got to toss what remains.

Fact: As long as you use that milk within 2 hours of when your little one has finished feeding, you’re in the clear. Phew! No crying over spilled milk.

Fiction: Breast milk can’t be stored in an insulated cooler bag for very long.

Fact: Milk Stork’s Pump & Tote coolers provide up to 60 hours of refrigeration and the Pump & Ship coolers provide at least 72 hours of refrigeration.

Fiction: Since breast milk is always changing over time to meet the nutritional needs of your baby, if you have old, frozen pumped milk, it won’t still be good for your baby.

Fact: That breast milk is still full of so many nutrients and so much yummy goodness, so you can definitely still use it. Frozen milk is best within 6 months of having been pumped and stored, but is totally acceptable for use even up to 9 months later (12 months in a deep freezer). If you have quite the stockpile to choose from, it’s always a good idea to just use your oldest milk first.

Fiction: If your milk has separated or smells funky it must be bad.

Fact: It’s super common for stored breast milk to separate or look like there are clumpy parts on top while the bottom is clear- think of it a bit like the cream rising to the top – so just give the bottle a little whirl or shake to mix things back up. And sometimes after freezing, breast milk can smell almost a tad soapy or sour, but this is actually perfectly okay, and the result of a substance found in milk called lipase. Spoiled milk, on the other hand, smells very distinctly sour – you’ll likely know it when you smell it.

Fiction: You can refrigerate milk for a few days then freeze it, no problem.

Fact: If you won’t use the milk right away (meaning, within 4 days) it’s really best to freeze it. Breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days (though on that fifth day you’re pushing the limit, so give it a smell test), but after this time it should be discarded, because after this time the milk’s protective properties that help slow the growth of bad bacteria begin to break down.

Fiction: You need a fancy bottle warmer to heat up stored milk.

Fact: Sure, a bottle warmer can work wonders, but you can also heat up refrigerated milk by placing it in a bowl of hot water or running it under a hot faucet. Got frozen milk? It needs to thaw, so don’t put it directly into hot water yet. Instead use cool water to thaw it first, before then increasing the temperature of the water to warm it up.

Fiction: Traveling for business while pumping is difficult.

Fact: It isn’t when you use Milk Stork! Your employer has partnered with Milk Stork to help its working mom employees travel for business more comfortably by being able to tote or ship breast milk across the country. With Milk Stork, you can ship your breast milk home from anywhere in the US, while keeping it fresh. You can also use Milk Stork’s Pump & Tote option to fly with your breast milk either in your checked baggage, or as a carry-on.

Milk Stork’s coolers come in two sizes: 34 and 72 oz, so you’re covered no matter how long your trip is. Milk Stork’s Pump & Tote coolers provide up to 60 hours of refrigeration and the Pump & Ship coolers provide at least 72 hours of refrigeration.

You can tap the button below to learn more about Milk Stork and get started by placing an order today.

Learn more

  • “Proper Storage and Separation of Breast Milk.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. March 26 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm.
  • “Storing Human Milk.” La Leche League International. La Leche League International. Retrieved April 1 2019. https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/storingmilk/
Get the Ovia Parenting app
Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Google Play Store Get our app at the Google Play Store