Christine Michel Carter is the only award-winning advocate helping ambitious women and badass moms have rewarding careers.

Returning to work when breastfeeding or combi-feeding can be daunting, especially when combined with the overall emotions and logistics of your changing family routine. However, with some research and planning, you can find a breast milk storage solution that works for you.

Nursing moms have to face unique challenges at their workplaces. Thanks to Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 2010, employers must provide private and non-bathroom places where women can pump and store breastmilk for their babies and store them.

You have three options for properly storing breast milk at work: leave it out at room temperature, place it in the refrigerator, or keep it chilled in a cooler or lunchbox with ice packs, explains Kris McCormick, parenting expert. Here are some other tips from working parents:

  • The best breast milk storage at work is to invest in an insulated cooler bag or mini-fridge. These will keep the milk cool and safe for up to 8 hours, depending on the temperature outside. “I found the breast milk chiller made by Ceres Chill. It is great because you have a thermos that holds breast milk. You don’t need an ice chest, ice packs, or plastic containers. You simply put your milk in the thermos, and it keeps your milk cold all day long without using a fridge,” one mom adds.
  • It’s best to keep your breast milk inside a capped baby bottle or insulated bag to prevent other odors (like your coworker’s lunch) inside the refrigerator from mixing with it. If you don’t have access to these options, a separate cold pack can help preserve your milk until you return home.
  • “When I had my baby, I used the electric breast pump to store breast milk for my baby. My electric breast pump had a breast milk storage compartment that allowed me to pump and store simultaneously.”
  • You should also check that the fridge is properly working and that the temperature is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. While it’s best to bring home any breast milk you make that day home to your baby, you can leave breast milk inside a refrigerator for 3-5 days. 
Milk Stork Cool Commuter
  • This product is great for people who don’t want breast milk storage in a communal fridge and can carry their lunch into the office and then store breast milk as they pump during the day. Features include:
    • Holds up to 24 oz. of breast milk and keeps it refrigerated for up to 15 hours
    • Includes two ice packs
    • Perfect for deskside breast milk storage, commuting, and day trips
  • Lastly, breast milk storage in a cooler or lunchbox with ice packs while at work is fine. Use a high-quality insulated bag or bottle to prevent leaks and the loss of all your hard work. Also, look for containers made without BPA for toxin-free transport.
  • It’s also wise to label each bottle’s date and ounce amount. You can even mark the time if you want.
  • Some companies provide special backpacks explicitly made for storing breast milk. These backpacks are well-insulated and contain several compartments to store milk bottles, ice packs, and other accessories.  This is a great option if you want to pump on the go.
  • You can use dry ice to keep your breast milk cold if you do not have access to a refrigerator or freezer. This method is not recommended for long-term breast milk storage, but can be used if you need to transport milk to and from work.
  • In addition, if possible, pumping directly into plastic bags designed specifically for storing breast milk can help prevent spoilage as it keeps the milk fresher for more extended periods. 
  • Finally, be sure to label all containers with both your name and date so that you can quickly identify which container has the freshest milk available. 
  • “For those who are perhaps working longer hours, you can also discuss the provision of a specific breastmilk fridge in your workplace’s pumping room if provided. Many employers are looking to extend their maternity provisions ‘beyond the bump,’ and this small conversation with your HR or leadership team could make a positive impact on all current and future breastfeeding parents in your workplace,” explains Jessica Higham, marketing manager at Onoco.

Following these tips will help ensure that your breast milk stays fresh and safe while at work. As long as you follow safe breast milk storing guidelines, deciding breast milk storage at work is up to you!