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Handling of Donor Milk

Storage, Thawing, and Handling Donor Milk

Put frozen bottles of pasteurized donor human milk in a freezer as soon as possible


  • Before handling milk or feeding equipment wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, with special attention to the area around and under the fingernails.
  • Dry hands with a single-use paper towel.


  • Store the milk in a freezer that always keeps ice cream hard (less than 0oF).
  • Store in the back of a freezer and NOT the door to ensure consistent and coldest temperatures.


  • Never thaw frozen human milk in a microwave oven or hot water.
  • The preferred way to thaw frozen milk is to place it in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Frozen milk can be thawed quickly in a container of warm water (not to exceed 98oF). Take care that the water does not touch the lid. When milk is liquid and still chilled, dry and refrigerate until use.
  • Thaw 1 bottle at a time and defrost the entire bottle. Do not pour off partially thawed milk.
  • When completely thawed remove amount needed to supplement.
  • Once the milk is liquid, it may be maintained for up to 48 hours in the back of a refrigerator (32-39oF) and not the door.


  • Thawed milk should NOT be left at room temperature.
  • Once milk is thawed, it cannot be refrozen.
  • Use thawed refrigerated pasteurized donor milk within 48 hours.
  • Pasteurized donor milk offered for a feed that is unfinished may be refrigerated and offered for the next feeding. Discard if not finished within 6 hours.


  • Warm an individual feeding by standing the container of milk in warm water or holding under warm water with the cap above the water.
  • Before feeding – swirl gently (do not shake) the container to ensure an equal distribution of the nutrients.

Storing, Thawing, Handling Donor Milk – English

Storing, Thawing, Handling Donor Milk – Spanish

Source: Best Practice for Expressing, Storing, and Handling Human Milk in Hospitals, Homes, and Child Care Settings, 4th Edition, 2019, HMBANA.

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