How long does unrefrigerated breast milk last?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “how long does unrefrigerated breast milk last” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of breast milk in different conditions. Moreover, we are going to discuss the reason behind the curdling of breast milk and the ways to tell if breast milk has gone bad.

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

How long does unrefrigerated breast milk last?

Unrefrigerated breast milk lasts for about 3-4 hours. Breast milk is loaded with a lot of nutrients and it always remains fresh inside the body of the mother. But once the breast milk is expressed, it has a short shelf life if kept unrefrigerated, therefore care should be taken while handling and storing breast milk. 

How long does breast milk last in the fridge?

Breast milk lasts for 3-5 days in the fridge if stored in an air-tight bottle or air-tight container at or below 40°F. 

Like all other milk variants, breast milk also has the ability to pick up odors therefore it should be stored in an air-tight container or bottle in the fridge. Moreover, it should be stored away from strong-smelling food items like garlic, onion, etc. 

It is better to store the breast milk on one of the shelves of the refrigerator rather than the door as there is a lot of temperature fluctuation at the door of the fridge and that can have a negative impact on the quality of expressed breast milk.

You can read more about how to properly store breast milk here

What is the optimum temperature to store breast milk in the fridge?

You should always store the expressed breast milk at 40°F or below. Bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between the temperature of 40°F and 140°F, therefore it is always advised to store breast milk at a lower temperature to preserve its freshness and quality for a long time.

How long does breast milk last in the freezer?

Breast milk lasts for about 6 months in the freezer when stored properly in an air-tight container or bottle.

What is the nutritional profile of breast milk?

Breast milk has a different nutritional profile, flavor, and color than regular milk. It is highly nutritious and contains all the macro and micronutrients that are needed for the proper growth and development of a baby. No doubt that the diet of the mother greatly impacts the quality of the breast milk but mostly breast milk has everything that a growing child needs.

Breast milk has two types of protein. 60-80% of it is whey protein while the rest is casein protein. Moreover, breast milk also contains all the essential fatty acids that are required for the proper nourishment of the baby. Now when it comes to the vitamins part of the milk, that is where the diet of the mother has the greatest impact. Therefore a mother should consume a healthy, nutritious, and wholesome diet so that the baby can get essential vitamins via breast milk.

So lactose is the main carbohydrate and accounts for 40% of the carbohydrates present in the breast milk.  Thus breast milk is important for the proper development and well-being of the child.

Why does expressed breast milk curdle?

As breast milk is not homogenized therefore when it is stored in the fridge it has the ability to separate into different layers based on differences in densities of various constituents of milk. A creamier layer (containing fats and protein) will float on the surface while a clear layer will be present at the bottom. All you gotta do is to give the bottle of milk a little swirl or shake it a few times and the two layers will become one again.

But if you are a bit skeptical about the curdled breast milk, it is better to give it a sniff test as spoiled breast milk has a distinct strong odor.

How to tell if the breast milk has gone bad?

You can tell whether or not breast milk has gone bad by considering its taste, consistency, and smell.

Taste

Breast milk is sweeter as compared to cow milk. So if you notice a sour taste after taking a little sip of milk then it is the indication that the breast milk has gone bad. 

Consistency

As the breast milk is not homogenized therefore it is natural for it to separate into layers when kept for some time in the fridge. But if even after swirling or shaking the bottle, the two layers do not come together, or if there are lumps present in it then it means that the breast milk has gone bad.

Smell

If you smell something foul or rotten while taking a sniff test then it is the indication that the expressed breast milk has gone bad.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question “how long does unrefrigerated breast milk last” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of breast milk in different conditions. Moreover, we discussed the reason behind the curdling of breast milk and the ways to tell if breast milk has gone bad.

Citations

https://www.romper.com/p/can-breast-milk-curdle-you-dont-want-to-give-baby-bad-milk-27961

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Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.

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