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Breast milk: Labeling and storing in the hospital

Breast milk is much more than nutrition for your baby, it is medicine. It protects your baby from infection, is easily digested, and enhances brain growth. Breastfeeding helps decrease the risk of ear infections and respiratory illness.

Breast milk production begins by the change in hormones following the birth of your baby. Your milk production is based on the removal of colostrum (first milk from the breasts). To optimize your milk supply, frequently remove the milk from your breasts (every 2 hours during the day and every 3 to 4 hours at night, which is 8 to 12 times per day for the first 2 weeks). 

We will feed your baby using fresh milk first. If none is available, we will use refrigerated milk before using frozen. Babies should receive at least one fresh breast milk feeding per day. This maximizes the benefits of your milk.  Breast milk can be refrigerated or frozen to increase its shelf life. Mark the first 30 pumpings with bright dot stickers given to you by your nurses on the top of the containers (number them 1,2,3,…30). This helps staff use it in the order it was pumped. Your earliest pumpings may be stored in syringes, a few teaspoons is normal in the early days. Labels will be provided with your baby’s name; write the time and date of expression on that label. Milk expands when it freezes, so do not fill syringes or bottles to their max line.

Hospital Breast Milk Storage Guide






  4 hrs

  Cooler bag w/ice


  24 hrs



  48 hrs



  6 mo

  Deep freezer


  12 mo

  Thawed in refrigerator       


  24 hrs

  With additives in refrigerator             


  24 hrs

Please note that breast milk storage recommendations are less stringent when your baby is at home. See the La Leche League website for home recommendations:

Updated 7/2019

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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