How Long Can Breast Milk Sit Out?

Working moms or those who are often on the go can sometimes find it hard to breastfeed their little ones in public, especially in a place without a nursing station. It may also be difficult for them if they don’t have free time on their work schedule to feed their little one, so they have to resort to pumping. By doing this, their little ones can have access to breast milk even without their mom.

Breast milk pumping can still be an effective way to feed your little one with nutritious content from a mother’s body. However, storing breast milk is where the story gets a little bit tricky. This article can help you know how long breast milk lasts and how to store it properly.

Exactly how long can breast milk sit out?

This largely depends on where you store the breast milk and what temperature is it going to be stored. Here are the most common temperature situations:

1. For room temperature, breast milk is good for at least 6 hours if it was fresh. If you find that the room is a little bit warmer than usual then you should could maybe at least 4 hours instead.

2. For storing inside coolers with ice packs, you can keep them fresh for up to 24 hours or 1 day. This may be helpful if you want to keep breast milk for a long trip and you have to bring a cooler with you.

3. For deep freezers, you can actually store your breast milk for up to 12 months or 1 year! This could mean a lot if you really want to stock up on breast milk or for moms who want to donate them to the parents who really need nutrition for their little ones.

Related post: How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply Quickly

4. For the common area of the fridge, breast milk can be stored up to 5 days, as long as they were hand expressed in a clean way. This usually happens to work moms who need to refrigerate their breast milk to keep it cool.

How do I smartly store breast milk?

Keeping breast milk okay for consumption may sound like something that’s very intimidating to do, but here are some simple guidelines that you can do at home (or at work):

1. Use a clean, BPA-free container. Store the milk in a container that you know will not leak out any harsh chemicals from plastics. This can ensure that your baby will only get nutritious breast milk without the added toxins. There are many containers out there that are BPA-free and are safe for use with infants.

Aside from that, many milk storage bags are actually made by manufacturers that are specifically designed for breast milk storage. You may also want to try considering hard containers if you want to keep them intact without leaks. This can be helpful if you are going on a long trip outdoors with your little one and putting them inside your ice-packed cooler.

2. Add labels to your breast milk containers. Label them accordingly so that you will know when they were expressed and when they will expire. You can even color-code them so that people don’t mistake them for regular milk and accidentally drink them out of the fridge…yikes!

3. Fill them up in a balanced way. Don’t overfill the container for your breast milk because temperature changes could make them expand, such as when they get frozen. You can also separate smaller containers so that you have something that’s ready to go and easy to thaw (see below) when your baby really needs it.

Related post: How to Choose the Best Baby Bottle Warmer for Breast Milk

4. Be careful when mixing old and new breast milk. If you have stored milk and you’ve used some of it, and now you want to add newly-expressed milk, make sure they are at the same temperature. If you add one warmer over the other, it can cause initial thawing, which may decrease the quality of your breast milk.

Instead of pouring them together right away, wait for the frozen one to thaw and then add them together. Or, you can wait for the new one to be frozen or cooled before adding it to the old milk. At any rate, just keep them together in the same coldness.

5. Thaw frozen breast milk in the right way. Many of the first-time moms don’t know how to thaw breast milk that was stored from a fridge. The first thing you do is to thaw the oldest milk that you stored and let it sit under warm water or running water. Make sure you do this thawing one night before you intend to use the milk.

Don’t thaw the breast milk in very hot conditions, such as in the microwave or over the stove because this can kill most of the important nutrients in the milk.

6. As much as possible, don’t freeze back milk you just thawed. Many experts agree that when you thawed milk and freeze it again, it can decrease the quality of the milk overall. When your baby didn’t consume it within 2 hours or so, then it’s probably not that ideal to drink anymore.

7. If you can, put freshly-expressed breast milk into the fridge right away. This helps you to preserve the breast milk’s qualities, including nutrients, which may not last long if they sit on regular room temperature. Also, you will be adding more lifespan to your breast milk if you keep it in a cold place, such as your fridge.


To wrap things up, letting breast milk sit out is something that’s inevitable in some occasions. However, knowing when breast milk can be ideal for consumption can help you out so that you know if you’re feeding your baby the right nutrients. After all, pumping out breast milk is still hard work that you worked hard for, so make sure it counts by storing it properly!

We hope that this article about breast milk can help you out – or informed a mom who’s new to breast pumping in general.

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