What to do with Breast Milk Instead of Dumping it: 22 Awesome Ideas

A little one in a blue sleeper is nursing from a woman wearing a wine colored zip up jacket.

Have I ever mentioned how insane I was about my breast milk? I’m sure you’ll agree that hard-earned breast milk is the equivalent of liquid gold, and I treated it as such. I was that person who was bound and determined to use every last drop for SOMETHING and would quite literally cry over spilled milk. Waste not, want not, was the mantra of choice, and I made it a mission to figure out what to do with breast milk instead of dumping it. 

As time went on, I learned that my child didn’t have the same regard for breast milk as I did. She didn’t always finish the bottle, so I frequently found myself asking, “Can warmed breast milk be refrigerated again to give to my baby later?”

After all, I’d much rather feed my daughter the fruits of my pumping labor instead of turning into jewelry or makeup remover (just wait)!

If you’re wondering whether you can keep extra milk that’s already warm or use excess bags reaching their expiration date, stick around. 

Whether you’re interested in learning about breast milk healing properties or how to use breast milk for skincare, you’ll be shocked at how many uses for breast milk there are! 

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Should Warmed Breast Milk Go Back in the Fridge or Freezer for Baby?

Let’s start with the most important question: can you put warmed breast milk back in the fridge and feed it to your baby later?”

Yes…but only for a short time.

Per the CDC, thawed breast milk can remain in the fridge for up to 24 hours (starting when it’s completely thawed.) Once it’s warmed, the countdown is on, though. If you warm up your milk to feed your baby and there are leftovers, you can put it back in the fridge and give it to them, as long as it’s within 2 HOURS

After that two-hour mark, it’s no longer suitable for ingestion.

However, just because it’s undrinkable doesn’t mean it’s unusable. You can still put it to work in other ways–more on this later! 

How Long Does Breast Milk Last in the Freezer or Refrigerator?

What about storing breast milk you haven’t warmed yet; are there protocols for that?

Whelp, I’m glad you asked! The CDC offers helpful insight on breast milk storage and expiration dates, such as:

  • You can keep your freshly expressed milk at room temperature (on the kitchen counter, for example) for up to 4 hours, as long as it’s 77 degrees or lower inside your home. 
  • Did you put your milk straight into the fridge after pumping? You can keep it there for up to 4-days, as long as it’s in a sealed bottle or breast milk storage bag
  • If you prefer breast milk freezer storage, it’s technically usable for up to 12 months, but it’s BEST during the first six months after being expressed. 

Did you wait too long to give your baby the milk? Don’t worry; there are still plenty of ways to take advantage of breast milk healing properties.

Should you “Pump and Dump” Breast Milk?

Listen, Mama, parenting is hard. If you need to go out (or sit in) and have a few glasses of wine now and then to get you through, there’s no shame in that!

Just keep track of the amount of alcohol hitting your system.

When we drink, alcohol hits our milk supply via our bloodstream. Not only can this lead to problems for your little one’s well-being, such as their motor skills and sleep habits, but alcohol can also decrease your milk production by up to 20%.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed and enjoy a drink every once in a while!

The Mayo Clinic says:

“If you choose to drink, avoid breastfeeding until alcohol has completely cleared your breast milk. This typically takes 2 to 3 hours for 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of 5% beer, 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of 11% wine, or 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 40% liquor, depending on your body weight.”

They also recommend waiting for a drink until right after your baby nurses or you pump. 

There’s no need to “pump and dump.” That’s because alcohol clears your breastmilk at the same rate that it clears your system. The American Academy of Pediatrics says breastfeeding or pumping is okay 2 hours after your last drink.

However, if you’re wanting to “pump and store” breast milk for one of these unique uses, that’s fine too.

Understanding Breast Milk’s Healing Properties

The fact that we can feed our babies with the milk we produce is incredible. However, there are more breast milk benefits than just its dietary properties. 

When breastfeeding, you produce a substance chock full of antibodies and antibacterial properties. Not only do these support your little one’s immune system, but they can also provide exceptional healing opportunities for your baby’s skin and much more.

Make the most of your milk production by trying the ideas below if you can’t save your warmed-up breast milk and would otherwise throw it away.

Please note: There isn’t a ton of scientific information to back up some of these suggestions: just first-hand accounts that are largely anecdotal. Breast milk won’t hurt you if you use it in these ways, but it might not be the perfect solution you want it to be. Just give these recommendations a try and see how it goes! Can’t hurt to try! 

On a white sheet is a bag of breastmilk with a little ones hand holding it.
Did you know breast milk has healing properties? We’re sharing some of them with you!

How to Use Breast Milk for Skincare: Our Top 7 Suggestions

Is your baby’s skin riddled with eczema flare-ups or baby acne? Are you looking for the next big thing in the anti-wrinkle industry? Hold on to your hat; the best solution might actually have to do with your breasts!

There are many interesting ways people suggest using breast milk for skin care that benefits mom and baby; we’ve listed some of the most popular ideas below.

1. Wrinkles and Stretch Marks

Would you like to add a natural anti-aging solution to your skincare regimen? Well, breast milk could be what you’re searching for. 

Thanks to the Vitamin C and E inside breast milk, experts claim it can help maintain the “viability and texture of human tissue cells.” Its nourishing antibody properties may have what it takes to help eliminate wrinkles and stretch marks. 

Just ask Halsey! The famous singer started using her breast milk during her daily self-care routines and touts it as the “best skincare ingredient ever!

2. How to Use Breast Milk for Eczema

With more than 700 varieties of healthy bacteria in its makeup, it’s no wonder breast milk has the power to provide impressive healing properties.

Take skin conditions, for example; evidence shows that applying breast milk topically effectively treats atopic eczema. A 2015 study even proves it’s just as reliable as hydrocortisone when it comes to reducing eczema symptoms. 

3. Treating Cradle Cap

We already know that breast milk can help treat various problems with baby’s skin, but did you know that also includes cradle cap

Some moms suggest applying breast milk to a little one’s scalp and gently combing through their hair to lift the dry, scaly patches of skin. I’ve also talked with fellow mamas who mix some breast milk into their baby’s shampoo.

4. Soothe Sunburns

Finding the best baby sunscreen, sunblock for kids, and sun protection for yourself is hugely important. However, no matter how careful you are, getting sunburned is still possible. 

Time is the best treatment for a bad sunburn. Thankfully, there are still ways to comfort your throbbing skin in the meantime. In addition to products like aloe vera, breast milk has anti-inflammatory properties that might ease your discomfort. 

5. Acne Solutions (Including Baby Acne!)

Whether you’ve suddenly reverted to your pubescent teen acne days or your little one suddenly has a case of baby acne, breast milk’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients can help. 

6. Diaper Rash

Our little one has extremely sensitive skin. No matter how diligent we were about applying diaper rash cream, using skin-friendly diapers and wipes, and changing her frequently, she still managed to get diaper rash several times. 

It broke my heart every time she’d have an “episode” and would seem so miserable every time she peed or pooped.

Eventually, we applied breast milk to her bottom underneath her diaper rash cream, which helped calm the redness and irritation more quickly. Research has proven the efficacy of this, too! So before you shake your head and wonder what to do with breast milk before dumping it, consider using it for diaper rash.

7. Run a Milk Bath 

As I said, our daughter’s skin was SENSITIVE. We used all the different lotions and potions, but rashes, dryness, and eczema were still a part of her regular routine. 

When she seemed especially bothered, I would pour a pouch of breast milk into the water because it was so soothing on her problematic skin. 

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First-Aid Treatments You Can Do With Breast Milk

Figuring out how to use leftover breast milk for skin care purposes is one of many things you can do when you want to know what do do with breast milk instead of dumping it. Many people also have good experiences using it for various first-aid purposes.

1. Ear Infections

Not only can breastfeeding your little one reduce their chances of getting ear infections, but if they do get sick, breast milk might be able to treat it. 

I’ve talked to moms who placed a few drops of breast milk into their child’s ear to help soothe the side effects of ear infections. Just be careful to put the drops near the entrance of your baby’s ear canal and not directly inside it, and always consult with your doctor before trying a home remedy for earaches, as they can be quite serious!

2. Help Eliminate Pink Eye

During a 2021 study, researchers proved that using breast milk as eye drops during pink eye infections was just as effective as standard ophthalmologic solutions. 

The experts even stated that this powerful ingredient could be considered a first-line treatment for eye discharge in kids over six months. 

3. Cuts and Scrapes  

Storytime! When our baby was about five days old, we took her out for a long car ride. When I went to take her out of her car seat at the end, I noticed she’d gotten ahold of her sweet face and left a massive scratch down her left cheek.

After my initial fears that I’d already let my baby get “destroyed” within the first week of being a terrified new parent, I decided to see what my breast milk could do for the war wound.  

Imagine my shock when I noticed the mark was completely gone within just a few hours of putting on the breast milk

I’m no scientific expert, but from that point forward, I was unafraid to slather my children in human breast milk. If your little one gets a scratch or scrape, dab a little on the spot and see what happens. 

4. Fix Blocked Tear Ducts

Up to 6% of little ones are born with blocked tear ducts because they have not developed properly. Luckily, they usually open on their own, but if you want to help the process along, try gently placing a couple of drops of your milk on your infant’s inner eye. 

5. Insect Bite or Sting Relief

As a born and raised Floridian, I’ve learned to live alongside gnats, mosquitoes, and other buggy nuisances. And unfortunately, so have my poor children.

The first time our daughter came home with a kaleidoscope of mosquito bites after an outing, I started panicking about what to do for her. I was nervous to apply any type of medication to her sensitive skin, so I grabbed some leftover breast milk that I’d warmed up earlier in the day.

I gently rubbed some on her spots; by the following day, they were barely noticeable!

6. Chickenpox

Per the CDC’s recommendations, most kids get vaccinated against chickenpox these days. If your kiddo ends up with it, however, consider a breast milk bath! A 2012 study shows breast milk can shorten the duration of your child’s illness. 

7. Warts

A 2004 article from CBS News reported that Swedish physicians believe topical breast milk treatments might hold the answer to killing off the human papillomavirus that causes warts thanks to its natural antibiotic properties!

8. Treat Cracked, Sore Nipples

When we start figuring out this whole breastfeeding thing, we always look for the best nursing supplies to make the experience successful. 

What if I told you, however, that one of the most important breastfeeding essentials is actually your milk itself?

Of course, it’s necessary for, you know, feeding your baby, but breast milk healing properties are also great for soothing your raw, cracked nipples in the early days of nursing. Not only can this treat them, but it will also keep them moisturized. Just express a little extra milk after feeding and gently rub it over your nipples. 

Use Breast Milk When Making Baby Food

So, you’ve warmed your breast milk and put it in the fridge for future use. Before it’s past its prime and no longer ingestible, why not use it to make a snack or meal for your little one? This is one really great idea for what to do with breast milk instead of dumping it!

1. Mix Breast Milk Into Solid Foods

Have you started making your own homemade baby food? Instead of thinning out your purees with water, why not use breast milk to enhance your little one’s meals with extra vitamins and nutrients?

2. Make Breast Milk Popsicles

Poor babies are so miserable when they’re teething, and we parents want to do anything we can to ease their discomfort. 

If you have a freezer mold, you can always throw some breast milk into it for freezing and let your teething baby enjoy a breast milk popsicle! The coolness will alleviate your baby’s swelling and pain. 

3. Use Leftover Breast Milk in Baby Cereal

When babies start eating cereal-type products, you can use your previously warmed-up milk to make them. Trust me, your little one will prefer it over plain water!

4. Create Breast Milk “Smoothies” for Baby

We can’t put together on making snacks with breast milk without including smoothies! Blend your little one’s favorite yogurt and fruit with some milk for a yummy treat. Our girls are smoothie obsessed and would eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if we let them!

On a wooden table sits two empty bottles sitting on their sides and a bottle attached to a manual breast pump.
Wondering what to do with breast milk instead of dumping it? We’ve got you!

The Most Unusual (but Awesome!) Uses for Breast Milk

It might feel like we’ve already covered 101 uses for breast milk, but we’re not done yet! 

Here are a few more ideas you can try beyond using leftover breast milk for skincare and baby snacks. Check them out below!

1. Turn Your Milk Into Jewelry

From stackable rings to necklaces, did you know there are jewelry makers who will turn your breast milk into one-of-a-kind accessories? 

Rather than tossing that warmed-up breast milk that can’t stay in the fridge, you can send it off and get a precious keepsake in return.

2. Use it As Your Makeup Remover

I’m sure this option might not be for everyone, but if you feel like giving it a try, I’m here to support your decision!

An article on the makeup and skincare blog MakeupStash! talks about how a fellow mama used her leftover breast milk as a cleanser and moisturizer instead of throwing it down the drain. She surprisingly loved the results and made it part of her new routine!

3. Turn it Into Lotion

Do you want to make the most of your breast milk’s topical benefits? Why not craft some DIY breast milk lotion for yourself or your baby?

Medela offers an excellent recipe for a lotion like this that includes beeswax, grapeseed oil, and Vitamin E oil. It’s an excellent alternative to other skincare products full of subpar ingredients. 

It’s Time to Put Your Leftover Breast Milk to Work

So now you should fully have the answer to the question what to do with breast milk instead of dumping it! Just because you’ve passed that 2-hour window for refrigeration after it’s warmed up doesn’t mean the leftovers are trash.

Whether you want to use breast milk for eczema, baby smoothies, or a brand-new necklace, the options are plentiful! 

How will you take advantage of these ideas for what to do with breast milk instead of dumping it?