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How Long Can I Keep Breast Milk At Room Temperature

Safe Breast Milk Practices

Following safe and proper storage of breast milk is important to keep the quality of your breast milk. We all know how tiring it can be to pump so don’t let it go to waste. Different temperatures will have different timelines for how long breast milk can be stored. However, there are multiple factors that can play into this such as the amount of milk, the sanitation of the environment, and temperature changes in your fridge or freezer.

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If you have just pumped your breast milk and are planning to store it, you have a few options. You can leave the freshly pumped breast milk at room temperature for up to 4 hours. Room temperature is considered to be 77 ℉ or colder! If you want to go ahead and place the milk in the fridge the recommended time is no longer than 4 days. If you are placing it straight into the freezer we recommend using it after 6 months but you can use it up until 12 months. To break it down a little easier here is a chart:


Timelines

Room Temperature 

Up to 4 hours 

Refrigerator 

Up to 4 Days

Freezer 

Up to 12 months (6 months recommended)



How to reheat breast milk

If you have chosen to freeze your breast milk in bulk and are wondering how to reheat it, don't worry! There are two options on how to heat your breast milk. The first is letting it thaw in the fridge overnight. However, be wary of this method. After it has thawed in the fridge it is only safe to use for 24 hours. For busy moms who need to thaw immediately here is a better method for you. Whether your milk is in a bag or bottle you will need to get a bowl or cup of warm water. Place your bottle or bag in the bowl and let it heat to room temperature. If your child likes warmer milk than you could let it heat until body temperature which is about 98 ℉. If you happen to have a bottle warmer this will work perfectly as well but be sure to not overheat. Avoid using a microwave to reheat your breast milk as your milk may become overheated. After it is fully heated you will want to swirl the bottle or bag gently to mix the separated fat back together. 

Re refrigerate breast milk 

If you have previously had your breast milk stored in the freezer and fridge then heated it up you may be wondering if it is safe to put back in the fridge. The answer is absolutely not. You should never refrigerate or refreeze your breast milk. If you have heated your breast milk it should be used within 2 hours or thrown away. If heated and left out longer than 2 hours it can start to grow in the breast milk that you may not even see. 


Breast Milk Storage Tips 

We know how difficult it can be to figure out how and the correct way to store breast milk. Below we listed some tips to help storing your breast milk easy

Store in smaller portions

Storing your breast milk in increments of 3oz is recommended. This is because it will cut down on the time it takes to thaw. If you fill your bottle or bag more than three quarters it will overflow during freezing. This is because breast milk expands during freezing.  If you need more than 3oz you can combine them together after thawing. 

Freeze as soon as possible

Once you have pumped your breast milk it's recommended to freeze immediately unless you are planning to use it within 2 hours. Doing so will help limit the chance for bacteria to grow.

Label Breast Milk 

Once you have finished pumping and are ready to store your breast milk it’s important to label. If your bag or bottle doesn't have line measurements you may want to write the ounces on there. What is most important to write is the date that you pumped your breast milk. If you want to get very specific you can also write the time you pumped. 

Store in back of freezer

You may not think the location of your breast milk in the freezer matters, but it does! Store your breast milk in the back of your freezer. Never store on the sides or in the door. The temperature is most consistent in the back and will help keep the temperature regulated. Most freezers have self defrosting walls which is why you shouldn't place breast milk here. 

Transporting Breast Milk

If you are a mom on the go and are always traveling while needing to pump keep these things in mind. If you are going to be out longer than 2 hours after pumping you will need to consider bringing a cooler or ice pack with you. This will ensure your breast milk won’t go bad and be a waste! 

Why does my breast milk look different 

Your breast milk may smell or look weird after you have thawed it. This can also happen with breast milk that has been in the refrigerator. Some of this can be traced back to your diet at the time of pumping. Other times this is due to an enzyme breaking down called lipase. This helps release fatty acids and prevent bacteria. If your milk smells spoiled or rancid it may be best to throw it away. 

Leche | Daniel Lobo | Flickr

Takeaways

How you choose to store your breast milk is entirely up to you. But you need to be aware of the proper storing techniques. Never re-refrigerate or freeze breast milk that has been thawed before. Some people think freshly pumped breast milk can stay on the countertop for 4 hours but to be safe stick to 2 hours to ensure safety. If your baby didn't finish their original bottle you can leave it out and have them finish but only 2 hours later. Otherwise it is best to throw it out. Refer to our chart at the beginning of the article for other storing time and temperatures. 

 

Sources

https://elitebaby.us/blogs/news/pumped-breast-milk-storage

https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding/mums-journey/storing-and-thawing-breast-milk

https://elitebaby.us/blogs/news/thawing-frozen-breast-milk-in-bags