Modern mamas have a whole lot of options when it comes to keeping their breast milk fresh. Between the fridge, the freezer, the countertop, and even whether or not the bottle has been sipped on, parents have to consider breast milk freshness as a dynamic concept. Each interaction the breast milk has with different conditions after its expression changes the length of its life. So, to help a fellow mama or papa out, we’ve put together this quick guide to freshness created in line with CDC guidelines so you never have to ask yourself, how long does breast milk last?! We got you! Keep reading to become the master of mom’s milk!
If you’re ready to nurse or pump, you’ve got a small window to feed after your milk is expressed. Luckily, with a hungry baby, that's all you’ll need! But let’s talk specifics. So, how long does breast milk last at room temperature? After the milk has been freshly expressed or pumped, it is good for up to 4 hours at room temperature. If you like to keep your house nice and toasty, keep in mind this rule of thumb can change. The CDC describes room temp as 77°F or 25°C (or colder).
So, what if you’ve got enough for now and you’re ready to stash it for use in the near future? How long does breast milk last in the fridge? Assuming you’ve got that big cold box of yours cranked up to 40°F or 4°C, the breast milk will last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. But there’s a catch… It's best practice to avoid keeping the breast milk in the door due to the potential for frequent temperature changes. Got older kids standing with the door open saying there’s “no food”? Or simply can’t figure out how to satisfy your cravings yourself? We’ve all been there. All you have to do is squeeze that bottle somewhere where it can stay nice and chilly!
Ok, now you’re totally stocked up!! It’s time to save that liquid gold for some other time, who knows when? So, how long does breast milk keep in the freezer? If your temperature is set to 0°F or -18°C or colder, you’ve got some time. You won’t have to ditch frozen breast milk for at least 6 months. But be sure to toss it out at the latest after 12 months. While freezing can sometimes keep food safe until what feels like an eternity, this is your baby we are talking about! If you want the best quality, use or dump the milk after about 6 months. And if it’s freezer burned, it’s safe to say you can go ahead and lose it in favor of some fresher milk.
Ready to dip into your saved supply? Now we’re talking! So, how long does thawed breast milk last? Well, if you pop it in the fridge, be sure to use it up within 24 hours after the breast milk is totally thawed. If you’re ready to use it right now, once it's up to room temp or warmer make sure it’s used or tossed within 2 hours. Oh, and after it’s thawed you can’t refreeze it, so be sure not to make that decision too casually mama!
Mmmmm everyone loves some tasty leftovers! But, as always, you have to be cautious about how long they’ll last. When it comes to breast milk well… that’s not long. If your baby was sipping on your breast milk and didn’t finish the bottle, you’ll have to use or toss the leftover milk within 2 hours after the baby’s lips first touched it. Now that’s a tiny window!
On the Go
Whether it’s scrambling home after pumping in the office or bringing your milk on the family vacay, you’re in luck! Take your insulated cooler along with lots of frozen ice packs and your breast milk will keep for up to 24 hours. Once you arrive wherever you’re headed, be sure to use the milk ASAP, stash it in the fridge, or freeze it for later. Keep in mind on those hot summer days, that breast milk reaches an unsafe temp for preservation at above 104°F or 40 °C. So, be sure to stay cool!
Time to Toss
Aside from the rules of thumb we’ve mentioned above, sometimes you just have to use your best judgment if something seems off. While it’s normal for breast milk to change in taste or smell after it changes states (such as after freezing and thawing) these factors can also be indicators that the milk has spoiled. For example, a slight metallic smell can be normal. But, a sour or fishy smell is likely a sign of spoilage. So, what should you do? Stay on the safe side and if in doubt, toss that milk out!
Well, that’s it! Follow these guidelines and you’re an expert too. But before you head off to nurse, pump, feed, or just chill out, we want to chat real quick. We know that keeping track of all of this can be difficult to remember, even if you’re a total whiz! Forgetting how long a bottle has been in the fridge or when exactly it was placed on the countertop happens to just about everybody.
But, not only does breast milk decrease in nutritional value and grow harmful bacteria when it has been left out for too long, it can also pose a serious risk for you little one. Feeding your baby expired breast milk can lead to food poisoning and potentially cause an upset stomach, throwing or spitting up, and even fever. All of this is not meant to scare you, but rather empower you as a parent to select the right tools and routines that work for you to give your baby the freshest milk and the best nutrition possible. And, we’re here to help!
At Veba Baby, our mission is to support parents in their efforts to give their babies the freshest, most nutritious milk possible. That’s why our fearless female founder, Veon, created Veba Baby, the only smart milk monitor on the market that uses government agency guidelines to track breastmilk and formula freshness in real time. All for your baby’s health and your peace of mind. To stay in the know with the latest info, or to get Veba for your family, visit us at www.vebababy.com. Until then, sip fresh!