As parents, we are always looking for ways to make our lives easier. One of the most popular questions I get is “How long is breast milk good after warming?”
It’s important to know how long your breast milk will last because it can determine when you need to start pumping again. If you’re uncertain, read on!
Breast milk lasts 24 hours in a refrigerator. 6-8 hours at room temperature, depending on what type of container you have.
Frozen breast milk can last up to 12 months if stored correctly.
The best solution would be to pump every two hours, so your breasts don’t become engorged or painful. You might also want to take some deep breaths–you got this!
I’ve included an easy-to-follow graphic at the end of the article that you can print for future reference.
Perhaps you are a mom going back to work and want to know how to handle expressed milk.
Or maybe you are taking care of the baby and feeding with the express milk mom leaves at the fridge. You need to know where it is safe to store it.
Should you freeze it, can you combine it, can you store it after warming it up? How can you tell if it’s well?
We all know how cow milk smells and tastes, but human milk is still unknown to many. The texture, color, and smell are not comparable to what we know as milk.
Being a mom or a caregiver doesn’t mean you have that knowledge. That is the reason I’ve gathered the following information, so you know exactly what to do in each situation.
Easiest Way to Store Breast Milk
The process begins even before the milk is out; you must start by washing your hands with soap and water. Then inspect the pump to make sure the kit is clean. The freshly expressed milk should go right into one of the following.
- Milk storage bag.
- Clean glass container.
- A clean plastic container that is food-grade and does not have the number 7 in the recycle symbol. This means it’s BPA plastic.
Never store milk in another plastic container like disposable bags not manufactured for that purpose.
If you intend to refrigerate or freeze the milk, make sure you label each container so you can keep track of the date it was stored.
What is the Ideal Temperature for Breast Milk
Freshly expressed milk can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 hours, which is 77°F (25°C) or colder.
You can do that if you are feeding the baby within the next couple of hours and don’t want the milk to be cold.
If you need to store it for a longer period, place it in the refrigerator to use within the next 4 days. At an average temperature of 40°F (4°C).
To store it for longer periods or to create a breast milk bank, place it in the freezer with a temperature of 0°F (-18°C) or colder.
You should use it ideally within the next 6 months or even up to 12 months later.
When refrigerating or freezing milk, avoid placing the containers in the doors. This is an area where the temperature fluctuates with every opening.
Plan what you are doing with the freshly expressed milk, so you don’t refrigerate and then freeze. If you know you will need it for later than 4 days, freeze it right away to keep the quality.
How to Freeze Breast Milk So It Doesn’t Spoil
While it seems to be an easy task, frozen breast milk requires some organization to avoid waste and maintain freshness. Here are a couple of tips, so you have a successful freezing process.
- Store milk in small amounts or portions that the baby will use per feed. If you express 10 ounces and frizz them together, but each feed only takes 2 ounces, you still need to heat 10 ounces.
- Leave at least one inch of space on the top of the container, so the milk has room to expand during the freezing process.
- Use freezer-grade containers like glass or plastic. Breast milk storage bags are safe too, but they don’t protect milk as well as a hard container.
- Clearly label each container and try to keep the oldest reachable, so you use them first.
- If you are traveling or need to deliver frozen breast milk to the care provider, you can safely transport it in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours.
- Never refreeze milk that was thawed.
The Best Way to Thaw Frozen Breast milk
Now you have a couple of frozen containers and are ready to use them; congratulations! But the question is how to thaw them safely?
Is the stove an option? How about the microwave? We defrost food there all the time. Well, let’s remember breastmilk is not the same as peas and carrots and must be handled with care.
Start by selecting the oldest label in the freezer; remember the first-in, first-out rule.
Now you have two options, do an overnight refrigeration thawing or set the container inside a warm water container or warm running water.
Never thaw breast milk in a microwave, it can create hot spots that are dangerous for your little one, and it also destroys nutrients.
When you thaw milk in the refrigerator, you have 24 hours to use it; start counting from when it thaws. Never freeze again milk that has been thawed.
The Correct Way Of Heating Milk
Freshly expressed milk does not need to be heated since it has the right temperature for your little one.
If you take a container out of the refrigerator after some hours or after thawing, there is no need to warm it.
But if you wish to feed your little one with warm breast milk, you should follow these guidelines.
- Place the container in a warm water bowl, make sure the milk container is sealed. Running water might work as well; just make sure it is warm, not hot.
- Test the temperature always before feeding your baby; a couple of drops on your wrist will tell if it is ok.
- Never warm breast milk in a microwave or directly on the stove to avoid losing nutrients.
Frequently Asked Questions About Breast Milk
Can you mix milk from different pumping sessions?
The short answer is yes, but you need to keep an eye on the temperature. Mixing freshly expressed warm milk with the one cold in the back of the fridge is not a good idea.
You can store it separately in the fridge. Once it all reaches the same temperature, combine it to fill the portion you need to feed your baby.
You should never combine freshly expressed milk or refrigerated milk with frozen one. The temperature change might thaw the frozen one and lead to spoiling the whole container of milk.
Can you mix milk from different days?
If you follow the temperature rule, you can mix them only when both containers reach the same temperature. But always keep the label of the oldest milk, so you are aware of the date you should consume it.
Can I use the leftovers?
If your baby didn’t finish a milk bottle during a feed, you have 2 hours to use it. After that, you should discard it. Placing it back in the refrigerator does not give you more time to use it.
Can I reheat breastmilk?
This is a gray area question for most parents. If you need to reheat milk, your baby was already in contact with the milk, you only have a 2-hour window to use it.
If you wish to reheat, follow the warming guidelines.
Breast milk color and smell.
The color and smell of breast milk depend on the mother’s diet, and it can change during the day. If you express milk in the morning and compare it to the afternoon session, it might look and smell different.
That does not mean one is better than the other. Breast milk is a dynamic food, changing from time to time to meet the baby’s requirements.
Should I Shake Breast Milk Before Using It?
After it’s been sitting for a couple of hours in the refrigerator, you might notice it separates into different layers. The reason is, breast milk has water and fat. Due to their different density, they separate.
You can swirl or shake the container without a problem to get an even liquid.
Can You Put Breast Milk Back In The Fridge After Warming?
According to CDC guidelines, you can put breast milk back in the fridge after warming it. You should put the breast milk in a sterilized container and then label it with the time that it was warmed.
You can keep the milk in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours. You should discard any unused milk to avoid the risk of your child becoming sick.
You should not warm or heat breast milk more than once. If you need to warm up the milk again, just remove it from the fridge and let it stand until lukewarm before rewarming.
How can I tell if breast milk goes bad?
There are three main ways to tell if breast milk has gone bad. This method of testing is perhaps the easiest one.
If you notice that your breast milk smells sour, then this means that there are bacteria growing in it, and it has gone bad. Breast milk that smells spoiled should not be consumed.
Another way to test is by checking its color or consistency. If the breast milk has changed color, becoming either darker or lighter than it normally is, or if it has become thicker or thinner than usual, then it is likely that the milk has gone bad.
Again, this milk should not be consumed.
The last way to check if breast milk has gone bad is by looking for curds in it. If you notice curds or clumps in your breast milk, then it has gone bad.
That is because the fat particles have separated from the watery part of the breast milk. Breast milk that has gone bad should not be consumed.
We hope many of your questions have been solved, especially how long after every temperature change you can use the breast milk for.
Here is a visual guide you can follow for future references…