Are you new to pumping? If so, you’ll know that there are a lot of questions around breastmilk and how long is breastmilk good for; How long can it sit out after I pump? How long can it stay in the fridge? How long can thawed breastmilk sit out? These are a few of the questions that you should know the answers to as you start pumping. In this post, I will tell you what you need to know to make sure that you are storing and handling your breastmilk appropriately so your baby will stay happy and healthy.
After you pump, it is best practice to refrigerate the freshly expressed milk within 4 hours. However, the milk will stay fresh 4-6 hours after you pump. Keep in mind that this is at room temperature which is 66-77 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mom Tip: Pump before your baby goes to bed and keep the milk in the nursery for when they get up in the middle of the night. This will save you a trip to the warmer and prevent you from waiting those dreaded 6 minutes that feel like an hour. If your baby mysteriously sleeps longer than 4 hours at a time, then you would still have time to throw it in the fridge to be used later.
If you do not use your freshly pumped milk, refrigerate it. You will have to use the refrigerated milk within 3-8 days or else it needs to be tossed out. Your refrigerator temperature should be 40 degrees or lower.
Milk that has been reheated should be used within one to two hours. If you cannot use it immediately after reheating, you should place back in the refrigerator as long as you are within the one hour.
How many times have you warmed up a bottle just to have your baby act like it is the worst thing in the world? Don’t worry, you can throw it back in the refrigerator within one hour and it can be reheated once more.
It is not recommended to refrigerate left over milk after a feeding because your baby has bacteria in their mouth and that can cause the milk to be contaminated. There are not many studies around this, but it is still best practice to dispose of unused milk within an hour or two of the feeding.
You probably have a deep freezer and if you don’t, you should probably get one if you plan on storing breastmilk. Breastmilk can stay frozen in a deep freezer for up to 12 months. If you are storing your milk in a regular freezer that is connected to your refrigerator, then you only have 6-9 months. This is due to the temperature that the frozen milk is kept at. If you are storing in a normal freezer, make sure to keep your milk in the back, where it stays the coldest.
We personally use a 7.0 cubic foot chest freezer like this Danby or Midea for around $250-300. You can always get a smaller one specifically for milk, but we wanted a little extra space:
The constant opening and closing of the regular freezer decrease the overall temperature of the frozen milk and shortening its lifespan. This leads us to the final tip; Never refreeze breastmilk once it has been thawed.
Now that you know how long breastmilk can stay out, you are ready to get pumping. Always use your best judgement and keep in mind that it is better to be safe than sorry. It is not worth risking your child being sick, so if you are not sure how long your milk has been out, you can tell if it has spoiled by smelling it. When in doubt, throw it out.
Please consult your pediatrician or health care professional if your baby is hospitalized or was born preterm. These storage guidelines are for healthy babies who were born at term.
Print off the storage table below (courtesy of the CDC) and put on your refrigerator to help remind you of all of guidelines for breastmilk storage.
ABA Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full Term Infants, Revised 2017
CDC: Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk
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