Breast milk storage guidelines

Brandi - posted on 09/15/2009 ( 24 moms have responded )

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Once breast milk has been warmed how long is it good for? Can you put it back in the fridge and save it for later? How long is thawed breast milk good for? These are some of the questions I have been wondering. I have been throwing out some breast milk if my son doesn't finish his bottle, and it really pains me to do so :( ... I only pump just enough to last my son each day, so wasting it is like throwing gold away in my house! LOL. I tried to get in on LLL's online chat to ask questions, but..... well I would ask to be let into it and would never get a response saying I could join!

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Jennifer (Elle) - posted on 09/15/2009

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Brandi,

I am a Post Partum Doula and a Lactation Counselor. What follows are the rules for the handling of human milk straight out of the textbook I used (La Leche League International Breastfeeding Answer Book, 3rd ED Rev.).

1. Breast milk does NOT have the same composition as cow's milk. It contains anti-microbial/bacterial properties that allow it to be stored for much longer than cow's milk and even much longer then previously suspected (there's a lot of incorrect, outdated information out there about this...).

2. Milk can stay in the refrigerator for up to 8 days.
3. Milk can stay in a cooler pack (slightly below room temp) for up to 24 hours.
4. Milk can stay in a freezer compartment (part of the fridge) for 2 weeks.
5. Milk can stay in a separate freezer door (also part of a fridge) for 3-4 months.
6. Milk can stay in a deep freeze for 6 months.
7. Milk kept at room temp for less then 24 hours can be re-refrigerated but not re-frozen.
8. Once milk has been thawed from being frozen, you cannot refreeze (but you can refrigerate).

To answer your question specifically, yes - if you've only had the milk out for under 24 hours (even if it's been warmed) you can stick it back in the refrigerator. I wouldn't however let it go the full 8 days...maybe just use it at the next feeding. This assumes that you're putting the milk into clean bottles (washed with soapy hot water) with clean hands.
Also - there are some cases where a woman produces a lot of lipase in their milk. This is an enzyme that causes milk to turn rancid sooner rather than later...this is rare but if it's the case, just smell the milk - if it's rancid - throw it out.

Additionally, I'm sorry to hear you've had a hard time getting onto LLL chats. Try Yahoogroups and see if there's a listserv group in your area. Otherwise feel free to contact me in the future if I can be of further help.

Good luck!

Best,
Elle Taviv
Post Partum Doula, Relationship Coach
www.thewrymama.blogspot.com

Ana De La - posted on 11/04/2012

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I've been wondering if I take refrigerated milk out and put it in the diaper bag to be use while out in about will it spoil or still be useable? Or do I have to have it in ice packs and kept chill? Help please!

Ari - posted on 11/11/2012

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So im posting this now incase anyone else looks at this although I know its a old post.. I feed my son ONLY bottled breastmilk I keep it the fridge for 6 days max(but our fridge is very cold), I DO reheat breastmilk usually only twice but I will do it more, and I will put a bottle (refrisgerated and heated) into a diaper bag and take it with us when we go out. I have never worried about what anyone else did because I will not throw out breastmilk (or at least prevent it at all costs) because I refuse to supplement formula.. My son is 5 months old he is in the 80% for night and weight and according to our doctor he is advanced nearing all the check points of a baby 2 months ahead of him.. I'm not trying to brag all im saying is go with your gut and if u think it's bad taste it (it should be like sugar water)..

April - posted on 09/19/2009

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Here's a chart I got from the Lactation Department at the hospital:
Freshly expressed milk is good at room temp for 4 hours. Good in a cooler w/ 3 ice packs for 24 hours. Good in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Good in the freezer 3-4 months. Good in deep freeze for 6-12 months. If the milk has been frozen, it's good in the fridge for 24 hours but previously frozen milk should never be re-frozen. If your little one doesn't finish a bottle, the milk can be returned to the fridge within one hour of being taken out of the fridge.

Clarice - posted on 08/25/2011

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It really depends on how fresh the expressed bm is...if it was just pumped within a couple of days, you should be able to warm it, and if there is some left, put it back in the fridge, promptly, and be able to reheat it and use it again. It all depends on how much time it has spent being warm or at room temp. I've warmed the same milk up to three times but usually twice is the max. Once you pull frozen milk out of the freezer, you should use it up within 24 hours. You should be able to judge whether or not the milk is still good to use if you look at it, smell it, and feel it. Sometimes it will smell off because it has been heated but can still be used. If it really reeks like spoiled milk, it has soured. If it looks curdled it is bad. If it both smells bad AND you rub it between your fingers and it feels greasy, it is bad. This is just my experience. I was throwing out milk too until I figured out what soured breastmilk actually was.

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[deleted account]

Absolutely can't reuse heated milk. I've also been told that you can't freeze it either. All of my daughter's feedings were pumped, so I know how important it is to not throw away unused milk. We gave our daughter the milk straight from the fridge, and she took it just fine. However, your son being used to warm milk probably won't. You could try leaving it out an hour before his feeding, and freeze the rest afterward.

[deleted account]

Quoting Alta:

Wow.. DO NOT leave it in the fridge for a month... i don't do that with anything that I eat and wouldn't do that to my baby either! room temp for no more that 4 hours. I was told that breast milk does "keep" after being fed off of (unlike formula that has to be tossed immediately). But if not used by 4 hours i would discard it because saliva could get back in the bottle and start to break down the breast milk making in spoil fast. I feel the same way about it, pumped gold!!



The numbers she gave are right.  Check with your LC.  I don't leave mine in the fridge that long because I'm afraid I'll forget about it. 

Cristina - posted on 09/16/2009

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What I always do is pump then, freezer, then, when it's time to feed the baby, take one serving out and thaw every time, plus that way you can be always sure, it's good.
Luck.

Kathryn - posted on 09/16/2009

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What i have been told is you can keep it out of the fridge for about 12 hours. In the fridge it lasts for 4 days and in the freezer about 3-4 months. You cant put it back in the fridge after you have heated it up. Also if you have given your baby some milk and he doesnt finish it all it has to be thrown out for bacterial reasons and such. I felt the same way as you though, dreaded throwing out my breastmilk or spilling any lol

Brandi - posted on 09/16/2009

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Thanks guys! Yes I normally do taiste it before I offer it to my son. This is one of the ways I check to see if it's too hot. I normally serve it slightly colder then room temp, that way I know it's not too hot. I've had to give him a bottle just out of the cooler before, and honestly, this boy doesn't care what temp it is!

I know alot of people will say that they will stop when full, but I swear he doesn't. If the bottle says 6 oz or 3 oz he will drink it and want more (Screams his head off like I just gave him a shot! ).... As I said, he's 9 weeks old and I have had to portion it out in 3.5-4 oz bottles. I just heard from my mom (who is temp watching him) and he's already drank over 12 oz so far today.....

I'm starting to wonder if I can keep up. Both my pumps today have been just over 2oz!

Sacha - posted on 09/16/2009

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Try tasting it before offering it. I heard warmed breast milk was good for 10 hours at room temp but I've not found that to be the case. I left some out for 5 hours and my baby refused it. I tasted it before ditching it and it was soured! Yuck.

Lianne - posted on 09/16/2009

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yeah i can be frozen. And well done for doing such a good job by yourself, while working too. well done.

Lianne - posted on 09/16/2009

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i was about to write a reply but i think hannah has got it spot on. plus i wouldnt advise 2 reuse heated milk

Hannah - posted on 09/15/2009

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first off let me say,i think that its great that you are pumping. my daughter is ten months old and had some trouble nursing so i have been pumping and have been able to give her breastmilk exclusively. it is so beneficial for your little one. when my daughter was born, i saw a lactation consultant and this is the chart that she gave to me.
room temperature: 4 hrs
cooler w/blue ice: 24 hrs
refrigerator (fresh milk): 72 hrs
refrigerator (thawed milk): 24 hrs
frozen milk: 3-6 months
i hope this is helpful. also, when i figured out how much my daughter was eating daily i would freeze whatever was extra before offering it to her.

Chona - posted on 09/15/2009

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Yes, you can freeze the milk that is left in the fridge. I also strictly pump and whatever is left over from that day I put in a storage bag and put in the freezer. I have been reading a lot about 4-4-4 milk can be left out on the counter for 4 hours 4 days in the fridge 4 months in the back of the freezer and 6-12 months in the deep freeze.
Some times if i warm and bottle and my baby doesn't drink it, I put it back in the fridge. I just cant dump it. Its too painful. I am aware of botulism and that I shouldn't do that..but

Sarah - posted on 09/15/2009

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You can't re-refridgerate warmed breast milk, but if its a little cooler than room temp I have put it back in the fridge. If my girl is hungry enough she'll drink it straight from the fridge! (but she likes it better if its room temp or warmer) If its warmer than room temp. then discard it after about an hour. I've never left it out for any Ionger than that. I agree, its like pouring gold down the sink, but I would rather do that then risk my child getting sick. Also, its good in the fridge for a week NOT a month, but if it's thawed milk it has to be used within 24 hours. Sure some moms say that their kid was ok, but is it worth the risk?

Brandi - posted on 09/15/2009

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Yeah, what I pump in a day is 'normally' gone the next day... It MAY stay around for the day after, but that is rare.



Another question. If I pump and the milk isn't used that day (tho has been stored in the fridge) could I then freeze it? I've been thinking of trying this, that way I can stay strict with my sched.... Making sure I ALWAYS pump enough for the next day.

[deleted account]

Wow.. DO NOT leave it in the fridge for a month... i don't do that with anything that I eat and wouldn't do that to my baby either! room temp for no more that 4 hours. I was told that breast milk does "keep" after being fed off of (unlike formula that has to be tossed immediately). But if not used by 4 hours i would discard it because saliva could get back in the bottle and start to break down the breast milk making in spoil fast. I feel the same way about it, pumped gold!!

Brandi - posted on 09/15/2009

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I'm a single mom, so I normally always pump. This way when I get home from work I still clean, do laundry, and make dinner for myself. At night and the first thing in the morning, I will breast feed if I don't feel like pumping and have the extra time. But when my son feeds from the breast I have to make sure I have 30-45 min set aside, because if it's any less time he will scream his head off untill I start feeding him again. With a feeding around 6 and another between 8 and 9..... and I go to bed at 10, it's really hard to breastfeed him. And he's at daycare from 8 till 6



I do have to admit, pumping 6 to 8 times in 24 hours is getting the best of me.

Lucy - posted on 09/15/2009

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it does seem wasteful to throw it out but once it's been warmed i wouldn't use it again. Also it's good to keep the milk you pump together, that way you know he's getting all the milk he would from a feed. The thinner first milk and the fatty hind milk. Saving bits for later or mixing remnants from bottles might not taste as good! I agree that storing milk in small batches works well if you feel you're wasting a lot, if he wants more you can just grab another batch from the fridge. Also i found when i was breastfeeding that there was always more in there anyway so even if you're throwing some out you can still make more at least! xxx

[deleted account]

It isnt good for the baby to keep rewarming refridgerated breast milk, do you always pump breast milk, i only pumped breast milk if i was having anight off, that way i never wasted any and you and the baby have a special bond if they went to the breast and was fed that way i hope i helped

Rebecca - posted on 09/15/2009

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I always put in back in the fridge and used it for a later feeding. Plus mothers milk isn't like cows milk you can even leave it out for a few hours and it won't spoil, I just kept it out on the counter out of sunlight though. I also only pumped enough milk for my daughter to last while I was at work, you can freeze it, up to 6 months, in a deep freezer (not a frost free freezer like your frigde/freezer). I had lots of little 4-6 oz frozens bags, which seemed ridiculous but many times she would only drink 4 oz at a time so it worked out perfectly. Hope this helps. Good Luck

Nikki - posted on 09/15/2009

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I learned this at the hospital after I had my baby....breast milk is good at room temperature for up to 10 hours. After that, it spoils and you need to throw it out. You can put it in the fridge for up to a month and in the freezer up to 6 months. But once it's been warmed up you can't put it back in the fridge for later...it spoils. I've been using this information since my daughter was born (over 8 months ago) and she's doing fabulous...she can even tell if it's been out too long (by accident), I guess it tastes different. Anyways, I hope this helps! Good luck!

Sacha - posted on 09/16/2009

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Try tasting it before offering it. I heard warmed breast milk was good for 10 hours at room temp but I've not found that to be the case. I left some out for 5 hours and my baby refused it. I tasted it before ditching it and it was soured! Yuck.

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