How Long Does Breast Milk Last?

There are many reasons to store breastmilk. You may be going back to work, running errands, or want your partner to experience the miracle of feeding. When this happens, you can express the milk and store it so that your baby has nourishment if you’re not there. Expressed milk still keeps many of its health benefits, so it’s ultimately better than formula. However, good hygiene is essential to ensure that the breastmilk is safe for baby’s consumption.

Which Storage Options Are Best?

Breastmilk is ultimately best for your baby. Freshly expressed milk is preferable, but refrigerated expressed milk is better than frozen. Even so, you can freeze the breastmilk, and it is still going to be healthy for your baby. Plus, freshly expressed milk has more bacteria-fighting properties. It also has more vitamins, antioxidants, and fat than frozen or refrigerated breastmilk.

How Long Can You Store the Expressed Milk?

If you’ve expressed your breast milk safely and cleanly, it’s possible to store it in the refrigerator, freezer, or at room temperature. It all depends on how soon you’re going to use it. These guidelines can help you make the right choice:

  • Room temperature is between 60 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit; you can store the milk for up to six hours, but only under extremely clean conditions. It’s best to use it within four hours of expressing it.
  • You can store it in the refrigerator at 39 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Your breastmilk can last up to five days under very clean conditions. However, it is best to use it within three days.
  • It’s also possible to store it in the freezer, making sure it is at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. You can keep it up to nine months in very clean conditions. Still, it’s best to use it within six months.

Very clean or extremely clean conditions mean that you follow all of the instructions for sanitizing and cleaning your breast pump. Babies who have been in the NICU or a special care ward may have stricter rules for storing and cleaning the breast pump.

Tips for Using Your Expressed Breastmilk

You may find that stored breastmilk separates into layers. The fat or cream rises to the top. To combat this, you can swirl the bottle gently to mix everything back up before feedings. Do not shake or stir the breastmilk vigorously because it can damage the protective and nutritional components of the milk.

As your baby feeds from the bottle or cup, bacteria from their mouth can get into the milk. Therefore, you shouldn’t save any leftovers. If your baby wants more within two hours of the initial feeding, you can use the same bottle. Since you don’t want to waste expressed milk, consider storing it in smaller amounts. You can always refill the bottle if your baby wants more.

Refrigerator Storage

When it comes to storing your breastmilk in the fridge, there are a few helpful tips:

  • Put it in the container and into the refrigerator as quickly after expressing as possible.
  • Store milk in clean storage bags or milk bottles made using BPA-free materials. BPA is used in many plastic containers, but it could have long-term health effects.
  • You can add small amounts of expressed breastmilk to the same container, as long as your new milk is cooled beforehand. Don’t add milk directly from the breast to cooled milk.
  • Store the milk at the back above your vegetable compartment. This is often the coldest part of the refrigerator. Never store it in the door because temperatures are less consistent here.

Freezer Storage

If you want to store breastmilk in the freezer, here are a few helpful tips:

  • Express the milk and get it in the freezer as soon as you can.
  • You can add more milk to the frozen milk, as long as you cool it completely in the fridge first.
  • Store the milk in small containers (about 60 ml) to avoid wasting it. Plus, it is going to be easier to thaw this way.
  • Only fill the containers three-quarters of the way full to allow for expansion.

Using Frozen Breastmilk

Using Frozen Breastmilk

To thaw the breastmilk, put it in the fridge for about 12 hours. You can also hold the bag/bottle under warm water until it is thawed. Do not leave frozen breastmilk out to thaw on the counter.

You should never boil or microwave breastmilk that has been cooled. Your baby is likely to drink it at room temperature. If they prefer body-temperature breastmilk, you can achieve this with a bottle warmer.


When it comes to feeding your baby, you want it to be done right. If you have to leave and must express your breastmilk, it’s essential to know how long it can last both in and out of the freezer and refrigerator. Hopefully, we have sufficiently answered these questions for you. If so, and you want to know more, please fill out our contact form.

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