Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.3 Requirements for Special Groups or Ages of Children

4.3.1 Nutrition for Infants Preparing, Feeding, and Storing Human Milk

Frequently Asked Questions/CFOC Clarifications


Date: 10/17/2011

Topic & Location:
Chapter 4
Nutrition and Food Service
Standard Preparing, Feed-ing, and Storing Human Milk

I cannot find any information in the new CFOC as to how long a bottle of breast milk can be kept after it is fed to an infant.  It states that a bottle of formula should be discarded after one hour.  I would think that it should be the same, since saliva is introduced into the bottle regardless of its contents, but I want to make sure.
Can you offer some guidance?

This Standard provides two references at the end of the “Guide-lines for Storage of Human Milk” chart on page 166. Both re-sources state that breast milk should be discarded after it is fed to an infant.

  1. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee states: “Milk left in the feeding container after a feeding should be discarded and not used again.”
  2. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states: “Do not save milk from a used bottle for use at another feeding.”
A specific amount of time is not given (similar to the formula standard). The milk could be used again if it’s the same feeding (for example, if the infant takes a short break from eating), but if it is clearly a different feeding, it should be thrown away.

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 8/23/2016 and 06/10/2020.


Expressed human milk should be transported and stored in clean and sanitary bottles with nipples that fit tightly or in equivalent clean and sanitary sealed containers to prevent spilling during transport to home or to the facility. Only cleaned and sanitized bottles, or their equivalent, and nipples should be used in feeding. The bottle or container should be properly labeled with the child’s full name and the date and time the milk was expressed.1 The filled, labeled bottles or containers of human milk should immediately be stored in the refrigerator on arrival.

Frozen human milk may be transported and stored in single-use plastic bags and placed in a freezer with a separate door or a stand-alone freezer, and not in a compartment within a refrigerator. To prevent intermittent rewarming due to opening the freezer door regularly, frozen human milk should be stored in the back of the freezer and caregivers/teachers should carefully monitor, with daily log sheets, temperature of freezers used to store human milk using an appropriate working thermometer.

Expressed milk brought by a parent/guardian should only be used for that child. Likewise, infant formula should not be used for a breastfed child without the parent/guardian’s written permission. Labels for containers of human milk should be resistant to loss of the name and date/time when washing and handling. This is especially important when a frozen bottle is thawed in running tap water. There may be several bottles for different children being thawed and warmed at the same time in the same place.

The caregiver/teacher should check the child’s full name and the date on the bottle so that the oldest milk is used first. Human milk should be thawed in the refrigerator if frozen. If there is insufficient time to thaw the milk in the refrigerator before serving, it may be thawed in a container of warm water, gently swirling the bottle periodically to evenly distribute the temperature in the milk and mix the fat, which may have separated. Frozen milk should never be thawed in a microwave oven because uneven hot spots in the milk may cause burns in the child and excessive heat may destroy beneficial components of the milk.1–3

Human milk containers with significant amount of contents remaining after a feeding (>1 oz) may be returned to the parent/guardian at the end of the day as long as the child has not fed directly from the bottle. Returning unused human milk to the parent/guardian informs the parent/guardian of the quantity taken while in the early care and education program.

Although human milk does not need to be warmed, some children prefer their milk warmed to body temperature, around 98.6°F (37°C). When warming human milk, it is important to keep the container sealed while warming to prevent contamination. Human milk can be warmed

  • In a waterless warmer
  • By placing the container of human milk into a separate container of warm water
  • By placing the container of human milk under running warm (not hot) tap water for a few minutes

Human milk should never be warmed directly on the stove or in the microwave. After warming the milk, caregivers/teachers should test the temperature before feeding by putting a few drops on their wrist. It should feel warm, not hot.2

Avoid bottles made of plastics containing bisphenol A (BPA) or phthalates, sometimes labeled with recycling code 3, 6, or 7.4 Use glass bottles with a silicone sleeve or silicone bottle jacket to prevent breakage, or use those made with safer plastics, such as polypropylene or polyethylene (labeled BPA-free) or plastics with a recycling code of 1, 2, 4, or 5.

Expressed human milk that presents a threat to a child, such as human milk that is in an unsanitary bottle, is curdled, smells rotten, and/or has not been stored following the storage guidelines of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (see Human Milk Storage Guidelines table), should be returned to the parent/guardian.2 Written guidance for staff and parents/guardians should be available to determine when milk provided by parents/guardians will not be served. Human milk cannot be served if it does not meet the requirements for sanitary and safe milk.1

Although human milk is a body fluid, it is not necessary to wear gloves when feeding or handling human milk.5 The risk of exposure to infectious organisms during feeding or from milk that the child regurgitates is not significant.2

Some infants around 6 months to 1 year of age may be developmentally ready to feed themselves and may want to drink from a cup. The transition from bottle to cup can come at a time when a child’s fine motor skills allow use of a cup. The caregiver/teacher should use a clean, small cup without cracks or chips and should help the child to lift and tilt the cup to avoid spillage and leftover fluid. The caregiver/teacher and family should work together on cup feeding of human milk to ensure the child is receiving adequate nourishment and to avoid having a large amount of human milk remaining at the end of the feeding.6 Two to 3 ounces of human milk can be placed in a clean cup and additional milk can be offered as needed. Small amounts of human milk (≤1 oz) can be discarded.

There are many different factors that can affect how long human milk can be stored in various locations, such as storage temperature, temperature fluctuations, and cleanliness while expressing and handling human milk. These factors make it difficult to recommend exact times for storing human milk in various locations, but the Human Milk Storage Guidelines table can be helpful.


Human Milk Storage Guidelines
Storage Locations and Temperatures
77°F (25°C) or colder
(room temperature)
40°F (4°C)
0°F (-18°C) or colder
Freshly Expressed or Pumped Human Milk Up to 4 hours Up to 4 days Within 6 months is best.
Up to 12 months is acceptable.
Thawed, Previously Frozen Human Milk 1–2 hours Up to 1 day (24 hours) Never refreeze human milk after it has been thawed.
Leftover Human Milk From a Feeding
(baby did not finish the bottle)
Use within 2 hours after the baby is finished feeding.
Eglash A, Simon L; Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM clinical protocol #8: human milk storage information for home use for full-term infants, revised 2017. Breastfeed Med. 2017;12(7):390–395. Accessed October 24, 2019
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Proper storage and preparation of breast milk. Reviewed August 6, 2019. Accessed October 24, 2019


By following this standard, early care and education staff is able, when necessary, to prepare human milk and feed a child safely, thereby reducing the risk of inaccuracy or feeding the child unsanitary or incorrect human milk.1,2 In addition, following safe preparation and storage techniques helps nursing mothers and caregivers/teachers of breastfed children maintain the high quality of expressed human milk and the health of the child.7,8

Center, Early Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS General Plan for Feeding Infants Feeding Human Milk to Another Mother’s Child Feeding Cow’s Milk Techniques for Bottle Feeding Warming Bottles and Infant Foods Plastic Containers and Toys
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Proper storage and preparation of breast milk. Reviewed August 6, 2019. Accessed October 24, 2019 
  2. Eglash A, Simon L; Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM clinical protocol #8: human milk storage information for home use for full-term infants, revised 2017. Breastfeed Med. 2017;12(7):390395. Accessed October 24, 2019
  3. Extension Alliance for Better Child Care. Guidelines for child care providers to prepare and feed bottles to infants. Published August 15, 2019. Accessed October 24, 2019
  4. Eco-Healthy Child Care. Plastics & plastic toys. Children’s Environmental Health Network website. Published June 2016. Accessed October 24, 2019
  5. La Leche League International. Storing human milk. Accessed October 24, 2019
  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Working together: breastfeeding and solid foods. website. Updated February 23, 2012. Accessed October 24, 2019
  7. Boué G, Cummins E, Guillou S, Antignac JP, Le Bizec B, Membré JM. Public health risks and benefits associated with breast milk and infant formula consumption. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2018;58(1):126–145
  8. Binns C, Lee M, Low WY. The long-term public health benefits of breastfeeding. Asia Pac J Public Health. 2016;28(1):7–14

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 8/23/2016 and 06/10/2020.