It’s a question many (if not most) new mothers Google at some point early in their child’s life: How long can I keep frozen breast milk? And until now, answers have varied from “a few months” to “more than a year.” But there’s finally a more definitive answer, based on research just published by the Journal of Pediatrics. And the answer is (drumroll): nine months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that deeply frozen (below 0 degrees) breast milk can be kept for three to six months, while the Human Milk Banking Association of North America says that it can be safely stored for upwards of a year, though it counsels that around three months is ideal.
But researchers this time around sought to answer not just “how long” can milk be maximally stored but how long can it be stored without losing any of its nutrients or benefits to the baby. That is, after all, the point.
To answer the question they collected, froze, and tested the milk of 40 mothers over a period of months. They found that “fresh frozen” milk — milk that is pumped and then immediately frozen, fares better in the freezer than milk that is pumped and then refrigerated before being frozen.
They conclude that nine months is the ideal length of time for all frozen milk to be stored, though they do not necessarily advise that it should be thrown away after that period: simply that the milk begins to lose vital nutrients at that point.