Zero Waste & Eco-Friendly Breast Milk Storage Guide

Find the right information so that you can store your breast milk safely, free of chemicals, and in an environmentally-friendly manner.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

Eco-Friendly Breast Milk Storage
Eco-Friendly Breast Milk Storage / Sander Tamm / Ecolife

Looking for safer containers to use in storing your excess flow until you need it? Expressing your breast milk for … whatever reason can be a highly practical habit, but finding safe breast milk storage containers can be a bit tricky. Let us help you find the right information so that you can store your breast milk safely and free of toxicants. 

Concerns over conventional breast milk storage bottles and containers

Using regular plastic food storage containers and plastic bags may seem logical and convenient, but these containers may be unsafe if they contain any of the following chemicals:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA): This chemical is used to make rigid plastic #7 polycarbonate containers and has been linked to neural, reproductive, and developmental health problems in babies. Though steps have been taken to remove this chemical from plastic bottles, it has not been as ruthlessly removed from food storage containers. Sometimes polycarbonate is identified as “PC” on the bottom of the product.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates are another class of chemicals used to make soft plastics such as those used to make some milk bags. They have been linked to numerous health problems, including cancer, endocrine disruption, development delays, and reproductive system damage. Like plastic baby bottle liners, it’s best to stay away from breast milk storage bags as they may leach chemicals into your baby’s milk.

Choosing a safe, eco-friendly breast milk storage container

You’ve gone to all of the trouble of expressing your breast milk, now choose a storage container that will keep your breast milk safe until it’s needed. Many of the rules for storing breast milk are the same as those you’d follow for choosing safe baby bottles.

  • Glass bottles: Glass is the safest choice for storing breast milk as it will not react with the milk and it is not treated with any harmful chemicals like plastics are. Though breakable, glass containers will never contain BPA and they’re recyclable when you’re done with them.
  • Polypropylene and polyethylene plastic: Marked with #1#2, or #5 in the chasing recycling arrows, these plastics will be BPA-free and are also recyclable (though #5 has been shown to be the safest of the three options). Though not preferred over glass, they are less breakable.
  • BPA-free plastic containers: Some polycarbonate plastic containers are now being made without the use of BPA and should be safer, although heating them in the microwave is not recommended. Only choose this option if it is labeled as BPA-free.

In many cases, you’ll be able to express your milk directly into baby bottles, but you can also adapt pretty much any glass containers for use as suitable receptacles for your breast milk.

How to store your breast milk safely

Once you’ve pumped or expressed your breast milk with a natural breast pump, here are the steps you’ll need to follow to properly store it until it is needed.

  1. Always wash your hands before handling your breast milk.
  2. Ensure that all of your containers are clean – they should have been washed in hot soapy water and rinsed thoroughly.
  3. Ensure you are using eco-friendly, natural breast milk storage containers. 
  4. Place a single serving of the breast milk into the container and label the container explaining the contents and noting the date and time it was put in was expressed.
  5. Put the milk into the fridge as quickly as possible after expressing it and keep it away from things like eggs, meat, and uncooked foods in a sealed container.
  6. Breast milk can be stored in a refrigerator for between three and eight days depending on your fridge’s temperature (the lower the temp, the longer the storage). Milk can be frozen as well although this will destroy some of the special, beneficial properties of breast milk.
  7. When it’s time to use your breast milk, heat it gently in a pan of warm water (not in the microwave as this may harm the beneficial properties of breast milk) but do not boil the milk. In the case of frozen milk, thaw it overnight in the fridge. If the cream and milk have separated (which is normal), give it a bit of a shake to reconstitute it.
  8. Never use breast milk that smells sour.