How Long Can Breast Milk Sit Out?

As a mom, chances are high that you are going to have a time when you leave a bottle of breastmilk sitting out and end up staring at it wondering if it is still good. You may even give it a sniff to try to determine whether or not you can still give it to your baby without making her sick.

Raising a baby is hard and when you are worried and frantic, it can be difficult to remember what you did five minutes ago, which means that you may not even remember the time that you pumped or took the bottle out of the fridge to thaw.

When it comes to breastmilk, wasting a bottle can be devastating. After all, pumping is really no fun. In addition, when you pump enough to give your little one a bottle, it is likely so you can have a few minutes to yourself without the baby being attached to your breast.

What Can You Do?

As mentioned, leaving a bottle of breastmilk out is something that can happen to any mother at any time. In fact, it is the norm. The best thing that you can do is to simply make a note of the time when you pump or when you heat up your bottle.

Keeping some post its and a pen near you can really be a lifesaver. This makes it easy to jot down notes any time that you can. As a new mother, your memory is going to be tested regularly, so giving yourself reminders is recommended.

If you fail to put your pumped breast milk into the freezer or refrigerator right away, it can be frightening. A simple mistake of leaving it out longer than you intended can be quite devastating.

There is Good News

There is some good news for you if you are struggling with leaving breast milk out longer than you meant to. Breast milk can actually sit out for quite a while before it goes bad. But, how long is considered too long?

When it comes down to it, breast milk is actually pretty amazing stuff. It has tons of antibodies that fight off bad bacteria. For this reason, it can actually be left out at room temperature for longer times than most other foods.

There is a time limit of how long it can sit out, but even if the breast milk has "gone bad" it is still not going to be a danger to your body. Breast milk that has set out too long will simply taste bad and will lose some of its potent nutrients.

Recommended Time Frames

For those who need some exact time frames about how long they can leave their breast milk out, here is a chart of recommendations.

Freshly pumped breast milk: 6 to 8 hours at room temperatures between 60 to 85 degrees F. If in a room that is above 85 degrees F, it can be left for three to four hours.

Breast milk that is reheated: should be used within an hour. If your baby does not finish the entire bottle, it should be refrigerated within 30 minutes of the baby being done and then can be reheated once more.

Refrigerated breast milk: stays fresh for three to five days. If it was frozen before being refrigerated, it should be used within 24 hours. Store breast milk in the back of the freezer or fridge so that it is not hit with the warm air when the doors are opened.

If you pump your breast milk at work or away from home, it can be stored in a cooler for up to a day.

When freezing milk storage depends on the type of freezer that is being used. If your freezer and fridge share a door, the milk will only last a couple of weeks. If the freezer door is separate, the breast milk will last three to six months. You can store breast milk in a deep freezer it can last from six to twelve months.

A Few More Considerations

There are a few more things to consider when it comes to storing and using breast milk. The CDC states that the longer breast milk is in the refrigerator, the sooner it goes bad when left out. This means that if the breast milk has been in the fridge for five days, it may not be able to sit out for eight hours.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, you should refrigerate your milk as soon as you can after pumping because the longer it sits out, the amounts of vitamin C will go down.

If your breast milk has sat out for a while at room temperature, the amount of time it lasts in the refrigerator is going to be shorter. If you are not sure, error on the side of caution.

A Bit of Science

Everyone has heard that breast milk is best. However, fresh is also the best as with any other food. For this reason, it is most ideal to feed your baby directly from the breast as much as possible. The reason for this is because your milk will change as your baby's needs change.

It is quite amazing to think that your body gets information from your baby's saliva and will produce milk that she needs at that time from this information.

However, there are many reasons that a mama will need to pump, from working in an office, a baby that has difficulty latching on, or simply because you need a break from your baby from time to time. Expressing breast milk can be very helpful, which is why it is relieving to know that if you leave some out for a few hours, it is still going to be good.

One more thing, these tips are for breast milk only. Formula cannot be left out and cannot be reheated!


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