Expressed breastmilk handling and storage guidelines available to mothers in the community: A scoping review

Women Birth. 2020 Sep;33(5):426-432. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2019.09.009. Epub 2019 Oct 20.


Background: There is an increasing number of mothers expressing their breastmilk, which presents new issues for infant feeding. A primary concern is handling, storage, and warming of expressed breastmilk.

Methods: A scoping review was undertaken to explore online guidelines for handling and storage of expressed human breastmilk which are readily accessible to Australian mothers. Six common terms and questions regarding expressed breastmilk handling and storage were run through Google, Bing, and Yahoo search engines, and government health websites, informal milk sharing sites, and other sites frequently referenced on social media breastfeeding support pages.

Results: The top ten most cited resources were comparatively analysed. Only two of the resources were Australian based. There was a great variance in the guidelines offered for both handling and storage of expressed breastmilk. The most conservative storage recommendations for fresh breastmilk were up to 4h at room temperature and 72h in the refrigerator. The least conservative recommendations allowed fresh breastmilk to be stored at room temperature for up to 10h and in the refrigerator for up to 8 days, albeit strictly dependent on the temperature of the room and cleanliness of the expression. The majority of recommendations cited the same primary source. All resources stated that thawed milk should never be refrozen.

Conclusions: There are minimal Australian-based guidelines, and even less primary research, in the expressed breastmilk handling and storage space. The resources readily available to women in the community setting vary in ease of comprehension and can cause confusion.

Keywords: Breastmilk; Expressed breast milk; Guidelines; Handling; Storage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Breast Feeding
  • Breast Milk Expression*
  • Female
  • Food Handling
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Milk, Human*
  • Mothers*
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors