How Long Does Breast Milk Last in the Fridge?

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Breast milk storage in the fridge can be confusing and cumbersome. Follow these useful tips on storage, expressing, freezing, thawing breast milk and more to stay hassle-free.

So how long does breast milk last in the Fridge?

Freshly pumped breast milk can last up to 5 days in the fridge in regulated temperature. However, it’s recommended to freeze breast milk for 3 days for optimal results.

Human milk is a nutritious, living food with many immune-boosting, antioxidant, antibacterial, prebiotic, probiotic, properties in addition to nutrients.

Breastfeeding is good for the baby as well as for mother which leads to decreased infections and higher intelligence in the breastfed babies and decrease chances of breast cancer and with reduced risk of diabetes for the mothers.

If you want to express and store milk for planned events, lifestyle flexibility, and returning to work then knowledge of appropriate human milk handling and storage is essential for breastfeeding success in these situations.

Studies showed that human milk storage can be safe, allowing the facility of best nutrition to the child when breastfeeding or instantly expressed milk is not available.

When direct breastfeeding is not possible, stored human milk has all the good qualities, such that it is the complete nutrition for the growing baby.

According to American Society of Pediatrics the breast milk is best, full of nutrients within 4 days of storage in the fridge, but it can stay there up to 8 days securely.

How to choose a container for breast milk storage?

Store the expressed milk carefully in a clean, lidded glass or hard plastic, BPA-free container.

You can also get plastic bags designed especially for milk collection and storage. However, the bags might tear, leak and become contaminated more easily than hard-sided containers.

For extra safety, place the bags in a hard-plastic food storage container with a tightly sealed lid. Do not store breast milk in disposable bottle liners or plastic bags designed for all-purpose household use.

Containers for storage and breast pump milk collection kits must be completely disassembled, washed in hot soapy water and rinsed, and should always be thoroughly air-dried or dried with paper towels.

They do not need to be sterilized. If soap is not present, then boiling water is preferable.

Chemical sterilization is not ideal, as the disinfectant can be easily disabled and could expose a baby to unnecessary risk of both inefficiently clean containers and residual chemical product.

How much breast milk can be stored in the fridge?

Pour containers with the milk your baby will need for one feeding. You might start with 2 to 4 ounces (59 to 118 milliliters), and then adjust as needed.

Also, consider storing smaller portions like 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 59 milliliters)for unexpected situations or delays in regular feedings. Breast milk swells as it freezes, so don’t fill containers to the top.

Using watertight labels and pen, label each container with the date you expressed the breast milk.

If you’re storing expressed milk for your baby’s childcare facility, label your baby’s name completely and properly.

Place the containers in the back of the refrigerator or freezer, where the temperature is the coolest. If you don’t have a refrigerator or freezer, store the milk briefly in a protected cooler.

How long does breast milk last in the fridge, freezer or room temperature?

Fresh human milk may be stored securely at room temperature (10–29°C, 50–85°F) for some period.

Research suggest different optimal times for room temperature storage because conditions vary greatly in the cleanliness of the milk expression procedure and the room temperature.

Consider these general guidelines for healthy infants:

  • Room temperature. Fresh breast milk can be kept at room temperature for up to six hours. However, good storage within four hours is optimal. If the room is exceptionally warm, the limit is also four hours.
  • Insulated cooler. Fresh breast milk can be stored in an insulated chiller with ice packs for up to one day.
  • Refrigerator. Freshly expressed milk can be kept in the back of the refrigerator for up to five days in hygienic conditions. Nevertheless, use or freezer storage within three days is optimal.
  • Deep freezer. Freshly expressed milk can be kept in the back of a deep freezer for up to 12 months. However, using frozen milk within six months is ideal

Be careful as research suggests that the longer you store breast milk in the refrigerator or the freezer, the greater are the chances of losing vitamin C in the milk which promotes the growth of collagen tissue and you are important for babies’ gums.

Where stored * Storage temperature
(OF)
Storage temperature
(
OC)
How long
At room temperature 60 OF 15 OC 24 hours
At room temperature 66-72 OF 19-22 OC 10 hours
At room temperature 79 OF 25 OC 4-6 hours
In a refrigerator 32-39 OF 0-4 OC 8 days
In a freezer compartment inside a refrigerator 2 weeks
In a self-contained freezer unit of a refrigerator 3-4 months
In a separate deep freeze with a constant temperature 0 degrees F -19 degrees C 6 months or longer
  • CDC guidelines

What precautions are necessary before storing breast milk?

Certain precautions are essential before storing breast milk so that it will be healthy and nutritious for the baby. Few basics steps which you should always keep in mind are:

Washing:

You should wash your hands with soap and water, or a sanitizer even if your hands do not appear dirty, before milk expression.

Dirty hands can be the source of viruses and bacteria, some of which can cause illness.

Human milk having less bacteria at the time of expression acquires less bacterial growth during storage and the protein content is higher as compared to the milk that has a high quantity of bacteria.

You can express breast milk by hand or with a manual or electric pump.

Cleaning pumping kit:

Pumping is an alternative to provide breast milk to your baby. However, bacteria can grow quickly in breast milk or breast milk droplets that remains on pump parts.

Following these steps to clean your breast pump and help protect your baby from these bacteria.

  • Look at the pump kit and tubing to make sure it is clean. Change moldy tubing instantly.
  • When used properly, breast pump tubing does not touch the pumped milk and does not need to be cleaned regularly.
  • Maintain an extra set of tubing in case the set you are using gets dirty or damaged.
  • If your tubing has water droplets in it at the end of a pumping procedure, separate the tubing from the extension/pump kit, but leave it attached to the pump. Run the pump for a few more minutes until the tubing is completely dry.
  • If your tubing has milk residue or mold in it, discard it immediately because it is difficult to clean properly. Switch it with a new set of tubing and check to see if the problem persists.
  • The valves or membranes need to be replaced.
  • If the outside of your tubing is soiled, wipe it with a disinfectant wipe.

Which is more effective for expressing breast milk? Hand or Electric pump?

Expressing is a way of taking out milk from your breast. You use your hands, a manual pump, or an electric pump. It’s useful to get in the right mood too.

The calmer you are, the easier it will be. Oxytocin hormone is released in your body when you’re happy and relaxed, and that’s what causes your milk to be released. 

Hand expressing breast milk

You’ll need a good size container, such as a mug, to collect your milk in. Make sure it’s either well-cleaned and scalded with boiling water, or sterilized.

You’ll also need some sterile bottles, bags, or lidded containers to store your milk in. Expressing by hand does take a bit of getting used to, and you may need to practice for a while. These tips may help:

  • Gently massaging your breasts or applying a warm flannel to them before you start, can help the milk to flow out easily.
  • Hold your breast with one hand and with the other hand, make a “C” shape with your fingers and thumb. Press the area around the nipple gently (rather than the nipple itself).
  • Squeeze and then release until you get into a pattern. Your milk will start to discharge as a few drops at first, increasing to a steadier flow. If milk is not coming, rotate your hand round your breast and try another area.
  • Repeat the procedure, until the flow slows down and then move to a different part of your breast. When you’ve done one breast, move onto the other.

Pump expressing breast milk

Whether it is manual or an electric pump, it will be based on what you’re easy with, how frequently you need to express and how much milk you need to take out.

Few electric pumps permit you to express both breasts at the same time. 
Most pumps work similarly. You place a suction cup and funnel accessory over your nipple and areola.

This pretends how your baby suckles, stimulating your milk to flow. If you’re using a manual pump you constantly press a handle to create the pumping action. In an electric pump, the machine does this for you.

Expressing shouldn’t be painful, but if you’re experiencing any pain, or you’re finding it difficult, speak to your midwife.


This activity takes anywhere between 15 minutes and 45 minutes, to pump both your breasts. Don’t use the time to guide you, though. Keep on pumping for as long as your milk is flowing well.

Change breasts when the flow slows down. Keep changing between breasts. Even if there is a small quantity of milk coming out, it all adds up.

If you want to express just to discard the feed, expressing by hand or using a cheaper manual pump is best for you.

If you’d like to pump regularly at home, a standard electric pump may be the best choice for you.

If you want to express lots of milk because your baby can’t feed from your breast, you may want a professional double electric pump. It will be available from hospitals, and you can also hire them for use at home.

How do I thaw breast milk safely?

Keep in mind, always thaw the oldest expressed breast milk first.

Remember first in, first out. As time passes, the quality of breast milk can decrease in terms of nutrition and health.There are numerous ways to thaw your breast milk:

Keep in the refrigerator overnight.

  • Set in a container of warm or lukewarm water.
  • Under lukewarm running water.
  • Never use a microwave for thawing or heating breast milk
  • Microwaving can destroy nutrients in breast milk and create hot spots, which can burn a baby’s mouth.

Use breast milk within 24 hours of thawing in the refrigerator (this means from the time it is no longer frozen or completely thawed, not from the time when you took it out of the freezer).

As soon as, breast milk is at room temperature or warmed after storing it in the refrigerator or freezer, it should be used within 2 hours.

Please note, never ever refreeze breast milk once it has been thawed.

The appearance and color of your breast milk might vary, depending on your dietary intake.

Also, thawed breast milk might seem to have a changed odor or consistency than freshly expressed milk even still it’s safe to feed to your baby. If your baby declines the thawed milk, it is a helpful indication to reduce the storage time.

Should I warm the thawed breast milk before feeding my baby?

Breast milk does not need to be warmed. It can be given at room temperature or cold.If you want to warm the stored milk, here are some tips:

  • Keep the container tightly sealed while warming.
  • Warm the milk by keeping the container of milk into a separate container or vessel of warm water for a few minutes or by pouring warm tap water over the container for a few minutes until it gets at your desired temperature.
  • Never heat breast milk directly on the cooktop or in the microwave.
  • Before feeding it to your baby, test the temperature of the breast milk by putting a few drops on your wrist. It should feel warm, not hot.
  • Spin the breast milk to mix the fat, which may have parted and needs to be mix.

If the milk is left inside the bottle by the baby, the leftover breast milk can still be used within 2 hours after the baby is finished feeding. After 2 hours, unused breast milk should be discarded.

Resources:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm
  2. https://abm.memberclicks.net/assets/DOCUMENTS/PROTOCOLS/8-human-milk-storage-protocol-english.pdf