How long can breast milk last out of the fridge? (3 measures)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, ‘How long can breast milk last out of the fridge?’. We will look at the reasons that impact the shelf-life of breast milk and the ways to ensure that breast milk lasts in the best condition possible.

  • Freshly pumped breast milk last for an average of 4 hours at room temperature (77 F) 
  • Previously pumped breast milk lasts for a maximum of 4 hours.

How long can breast milk last out of the fridge?

It is best to give your baby fresh breast milk as it has the maximum antioxidants, vitamins, fat, and antibodies than stored milk. Antibodies are chemicals that help the body to fight infection, hence significant for a healthy immune system.

Sanitation concerning containment is crucial, but care needs to be taken when the milk is pumped. Make sure that the pump is also cleaned and sanitized frequently. 

When you store the breast milk, you may find that the fat and liquid part separate. You can swirl it gently, to make it uniform before you feed the baby.  If you mix forcefully, you risk losing some of the nutritional and protective components of the milk.

Breast milk can last at room temperature for up to 6 hours. If you experience a warm climate and do not use the air conditioning, breast milk can last for 4 hours at most.

Freshly expressed milk can last for four days in clean refrigeration, considering it was in an air-tight container.

However, it is best to use it within three days.

How to handle Breast Milk?

Proper storage of breast milk is salient, to not only prevent it from infection-causing microorganisms, but also to retain as much nutritional content as possible.

To store your breastmilk, wash your hands with soap and water. Use food-grade containers that are free from BPA. You can also use plastic bags specially manufactured for milk handling.

You can either save the milk in the fridge, freezer or insulated compartment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast milk can be left at  77F room temperature for a maximum of 4 hours. 

Some sources claim that breast milk can sit out for six hours but, it’s best to discard it after four months. The bacterial growth, however, depends on the ambient temperature. If you live in a hotter climate with a higher room temperature, then you can expect it to spoil sooner.

However, for used milk, discard the bottle after two hours. A milk bottle that was drunk from, contains saliva and bacterial contaminants. 

Keep in mind, that guidelines provided for breast milk handling are for healthy, full-term babies. Premature babies with a compromised immune system may be at higher risk for an infection. A healthy child is capable of fending off an initial bacterial spurt,

For further details regarding a baby with health-complication, consult with a doctor. 

Even though milk lasts for a while in the fridge or freezer, stored breastmilk starts to lose its vitamin C content.

To ensure that breast milk doesn’t go to waste, follow the guidelines stated below:

Use labels to mark the exact date and time of the pumped milk.

Store the milk further inside the fridge or freezer. Deep inside is where the temperature is lowest and stable. Compartments closer to the door have temperatures that fluctuate.

It is also wise to store breast milk in different portions. It prevents milk from excessive spoilage and consequent wastage.

Do not mix different batches of breast milk; this makes it harder to keep track of the expressed time and date. Also, this reduces the chance of bacterial contamination.

If left unrefrigerated, make sure to put the milk in a sanitized, covered container. Protecting it from environmental contaminants is important to ensure the best quality possible for any food, especially liquids. 

Be sure to store breast milk away from direct, heat sunlight or an open window.

In an instance where you take out the refrigerated breast milk, and soon decide that you don’t need it anymore, you may refrigerate it again. Here it will last only for two hours more, if not, then you might need to throw it away. 

When you use breast milk from the freezer, you must not thaw at room temperature. You must let it sit in the fridge or thaw in water. Temperature shock is another reason that can spoil a liquid quicker.

You can notice an unexpected smell from milk sometimes; even if it is not past due, the milk stays safe. The odor is caused by the lipase enzyme that breaks down fat into fatty acids to protect the milk from harmful bacteria.

In this brief guide, we answered the question, ‘How long can breast milk last out of the fridge?’. 

We looked at the reasons that impact the shelf-life of breast milk and the ways to ensure that breast milk lasts in the best condition possible.

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