How long is breast milk good in the refrigerator? How long can you keep it at room temperature? How long is breast milk good in the freezer? Can breast milk be reused?
These are common questions asked by many breastfeeding and pumping moms. Here are the answers to those questions and more!
Breast Milk Freezer and Refrigerator Storage
Freshly Expressed Breast Milk –
- Room Temperature – Discard after 3-4 hours
- Cooler with Ice Packs – Discard after 24 hours
Refrigerated Breast Milk –
- Freshly Expressed Milk – discard after 3-8 days (ideally, 3 days. This will depend on the temperature)
- Thawed Frozen Milk – discard after 24 hours
Frozen Breast Milk –
- Standard refrigerator attached freezer – discard after 6 months
- Deep- freeze, stand alone freezer – discard after 12 months
**NOTE: Please consult with your Doctor regarding storage guidelines if your baby was premature as those guidelines can differ or if your baby has any special health needs. These guidelines are to be applied to a healthy, full-term baby.**
Breast Milk Storage Tips
- Avoid wasting breast milk by storing in smaller quantities like 1-4 oz.
- Many companies make breast milk storage bags, but you can also freeze in an ice cube tray. Each cube should be about 1 ounce for a standard ice cube tray. Just ensure it is sterilized and properly covered while freezing. Then pop the frozen breast milk cubes into a freezer zip lock bag. (This tip can be applied to freezing homemade baby food too!)
- If you use the breast milk storage bags, leave some room at the top as frozen milk will expand and you don’t want your bag to tear! (It’s good practice to look at a bag first too before thawing to make sure there are no holes or your milk will leak out as it thaws!)
- Always store breast milk at the BACK of the refrigerator or freezer to ensure limited change to temperature when you open and close the doors.
- It is important to follow the guidelines for breast milk storage, so make sure to date each bag or bottle of milk so you know when it will expire.
- Do not add warm milk to cold milk. Cool the milk first before adding to already cold milk.
- Note that stored breast milk will separate into layers. The “cream” rises to the top while the bottom looks more watery. Expressed breast milk will also vary in color, smell, and consistency, so do not be alarmed.
- If baby does not finish an entire bottle, studies show it is probably safe to refrigerate for 1-2 hours before offering it again or discarding it. But there are factors that should be considered such as if baby sick (more bacteria will be introduced to remaining milk) or how long the milk was out to begin with, etc.
How to Thaw Frozen Breast Milk
- It is best to thaw frozen breast milk slowly. Put frozen milk in the refrigerator over night. Do not thaw by letting the milk sit out at room temperature.
- For a faster method, hold bag or container of frozen milk under cool running water. Then either heat the milk using the methods list below (in How to Warm Breast Milk) or refrigerate.
- NEVER microwave breast milk! It will create hot pockets of scalding milk that will burn baby.
- Thawed breast milk is good for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
- You CANNOT refreeze thawed breast milk.
How to Warm Breast Milk
- Place the container or bag of milk (thawed or frozen) into a cup of warm water. Let sit in the warm water until it is the desired temperature. Never use HOT water as it can cause the temperature of the milk to be too hot for baby and burn her.
- You can also use a bottle warmer.
- Test temperature on the underside of your wrist to ensure it is safe.
- Breast Milk temperature to feed baby should be about body temperature (98.6 degrees). It will feel luke-warm and should NEVER feel HOT.
- Again, NEVER microwave milk or heat directly on the stove. You can burn baby!
Have any helpful tips on breast milk storage? Leave your comment here!