How long can breast milk stay out?

How long can breast milk stay out?
Posted on 02-07-2023

How long can breast milk stay out?

Breast milk is a valuable source of nutrition for infants, containing a variety of essential nutrients and antibodies that help protect them against infections and promote healthy development. Proper handling and storage of breast milk are crucial to maintaining its quality and safety. In this extensive response, I will cover various aspects of breast milk storage, including the duration it can stay out at different temperatures, guidelines for safe handling, and tips for maximizing its shelf life.

Breast milk storage guidelines recommend different durations depending on the temperature at which it is kept. Here are the general recommendations:

  1. Room temperature: Breast milk can safely remain at room temperature for up to four hours. The ideal room temperature is around 25°C (77°F). However, if the room is particularly warm, exceeding 25°C (77°F), it is advisable to limit the time to two hours.

  2. Insulated cooler bag with ice packs: If you are traveling or away from home, you can store breast milk in an insulated cooler bag with ice packs. In this case, breast milk can typically stay fresh for up to 24 hours. Make sure to place the ice packs directly on or next to the milk containers to maintain a cool temperature.

  3. Refrigerator: Storing breast milk in the refrigerator is one of the most common methods. It can stay fresh for approximately three to eight days, depending on the guidelines provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The recommended temperature for refrigerators is 0-4°C (32-39°F).

  4. Freezer: Breast milk can be stored in a freezer compartment within a refrigerator or a separate freezer. The duration it can stay fresh in the freezer depends on the type of freezer and the temperature maintained. In a freezer compartment of a refrigerator with a separate door, breast milk can be stored for about two weeks. In a standalone deep freezer, it can be stored for up to six months or even longer.

It's important to note that these storage durations are general guidelines and may vary depending on the condition of the breast milk, the temperature consistency of the storage environment, and the overall hygiene practices involved.

To ensure the safety and quality of breast milk during storage, here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

  1. Clean hands and containers: Before expressing or handling breast milk, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. Use clean containers specifically designed for breast milk storage, such as BPA-free bottles or breast milk storage bags. Wash these containers with warm water and mild soap, then rinse them well before use.

  2. Labeling: It's important to label the breast milk containers with the date of expression. This practice helps ensure that older milk is used first, maintaining freshness and avoiding waste.

  3. Avoid adding freshly expressed milk to already refrigerated or frozen milk: When storing breast milk, it is best to cool freshly expressed milk in the refrigerator for about an hour before combining it with already chilled or frozen milk. This practice helps maintain the temperature consistency and minimizes the risk of partially thawing previously stored milk.

  4. Thawing and warming: When you need to use frozen breast milk, it's recommended to thaw it gradually in the refrigerator or under cool running water. Avoid using warm or hot water for thawing, as it can damage the milk's nutritional components. Once thawed, gently swirl the container to mix any separated layers of fat. You can warm the breast milk by placing the container in a bowl of warm water or using a bottle warmer. Do not microwave breast milk, as it can create hot spots that may burn the baby's mouth.

  5. Inspect before use: Always examine the breast milk before feeding it to your baby. Look for any signs of spoilage, such as a sour or off smell, unusual texture, or discoloration. If you notice any of these signs, it is best to discard the milk.

Remember, breast milk is a perishable liquid, so proper storage and handling are crucial to maintain its quality and safety. If you have concerns about specific storage durations or guidelines, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or a lactation consultant for personalized advice.

In conclusion, breast milk can stay out at room temperature for up to four hours. For longer durations, it is advisable to store breast milk in a cooler bag with ice packs, refrigerator, or freezer. By following proper storage guidelines, practicing good hygiene, and inspecting the milk before use, you can ensure that breast milk remains safe and beneficial for your baby's nourishment.

Thank You