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Breastfeeding and milk storage


If you are breastfeeding your infant while at St Jude, you may need to pump (express) your breast milk and store it for later use. It is important to know how to store your milk, so it will be safe for your infant to drink.


When you arrive at St. Jude, tell a nurse that you are breastfeeding and may need to store your milk. Upon request, Nursing Services will put a small refrigerator/freezer in your child’s room. The nurse will give you labels that include your child’s name and medical record number. You can use the labels on your milk containers. If you need a breast pump, the hospital will provide one for you. Ask to see the lactation consultant so that your needs can be met. You are encouraged to continue breastfeeding your child while at St. Jude.

A lactation specialist will be happy to help you. She can answer questions and provide breastfeeding support.

Guidelines for expressing breast milk:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. This will help protect your baby from infection.
  • Use a clean container. This should be a bottle that comes in a sealed package. If you did not bring bottles from home, Nursing Services will give you 2-ounce or 8-ounce collection containers for your expressed milk.
  • On the label, write the date and time (including a.m. or p.m.) that you expressed the milk. Attach the label to the milk container.
  • Leave at least half an inch (1.5 cm) of space at the top of the container, so the milk has room to expand if it is frozen. If milk is to be used within 48 hours, it is best not to freeze it.
  • Close the container, label it, and place it in the refrigerator in the room.
  • Milk should be frozen in amounts of 2–4 ounces so it will thaw quickly and prevent waste.
  • Breast milk should be stored in the St. Jude refrigerator for only 48 hours. To store milk longer, you will need to transfer it to a freezer at your home or housing facility. If your baby is in the hospital, you can request a freezer for your room to store your excess milk.


St. Jude offers several Mothers’ Rooms for patient families and staff. You can use these rooms to breastfeed your infant or to express and store your milk while you are at the hospital. Ask your nurse for the one most convenient for you. Please refer to “Do you know…Mothers’ Rooms at St. Jude” for more details.

You can store your expressed milk in a Mothers’ Room refrigerator for up to 24 hours. You will need to bring a cooler for taking expressed milk home. We recommend that you use “Blue ice” (that you provide) to keep milk cool during transport around campus.

Overflow storage for all patients

  • Overflow storage is available for no more than 48 hours when all other storage areas are full. Surplus expressed breast milk will be stored in a secure area with limited access; it will be a freezer deemed safe for food storage in Food Services. (Label the milk as described above.) For storage in Food Services, the dietitian will tell the Patient Services supervisor, or on-duty Food Service supervisor/manager. The dietitian will obtain the mother’s excess milk from her and deliver it to Room Service staff.
  • Human milk must be maintained in a frozen state while in extended storage. After the milk has been thawed completely (absence of ice crystals), it should not be re-frozen.
  • After the milk has been in the emergency freezer storage for 48 hours, the dietitian will talk to the mother about whether the excess milk should be:
    • Discarded,
    • Sent home, or
    • Donated to milk bank. In this case, the mother must give permission to send the milk to a designated HMBANA milk bank. The dietitian will give the mother contact information to begin the donation process. Room Service staff will remove milk from emergency freezer storage and send it to the milk bank, using the bank’s guidelines and resources that will be shipped directly to St. Jude for milk transport. Learn more at

Thawing human breast milk

To thaw frozen milk, hold the container under warm running water until the milk is thawed and heated to room temperature. Human milk should not be heated in a microwave oven. Valuable parts of the milk will be destroyed if it is overheated. Also, microwave ovens heat liquids unevenly, causing "hot spots" in the milk that could burn the baby.

Milk that was frozen but is now thawed can be kept refrigerated safely for up to 24 hours. However, if the thawed milk is for an infant with a weak immune system, it should be used within the hour. It should not be refrozen.

To avoid waste, freeze the milk in small amounts: 2 to 4 ounces (60–120 ml). Small amounts thaw and warm quickly. Less milk will be wasted if the baby does not drink it all.


To learn more about breastfeeding or expressing and storing milk, call the lactation specialist in Clinical Nutrition Services at 901-595-3318. If you are calling from outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2ST-JUDE (1-866-278-5833), and extension 3318 or 3315.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).