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Storage, Handling, and Administration of Expressed Human Breast Milk: A Review of Guidelines

Last updated: June 1, 2016
Project Number: RC0783-000
Product Line: Rapid Response
Research Type: Devices and Systems
Report Type: Summary with Critical Appraisal
Result type: Report

Question

  1. What are the evidence-based guidelines regarding the optimal storage and handling conditions for expressed human breast milk in healthcare settings?
  2. What are the evidence-based guidelines regarding the optimal storage and handling conditions for expressed human breast milk in community settings?
  3. What are the evidence-based guidelines regarding the optimal conditions for safe administration of expressed human breast milk to pre-term infants?
  4. What are the evidence-based guidelines regarding the optimal conditions for safe administration of expressed human breast milk to healthy infants and young children?

Key Message

One systematic review, two guidelines, and one report which included amendments to the included guideline were identified. Specific recommendations pertaining to each research question could not be identified. Some general recommendations were available. Furthermore, there was not always agreement in recommendations from the different reports and also not all the same aspects were considered in each of the reports. According to two guidelines, expressed human breast milk (EBM) should be immediately transferred to the refrigerator or, if possible, immediately frozen. EBM may be safely stored at -20°C for six to12 months according to one systematic review, up to six months according to one guideline, and up to 3 months according to another guideline. However, according to one systematic review, freezing at any temperature can result in some degradation of immunological properties. For EBM storage, one guideline recommended containers made of food grade material and one guideline recommended containers made of either glass or BPA-free hard plastic.