How long does breast milk last?
First, let’s look at the ins and outs of storing breast milk.
Breast milk is pretty durable provided it’s sealed in a sterilized air-tight container and chilled at a consistent temperature. How long it lasts will depend on where you store it. Here’s a quick run down:
- Refrigeration – up to 5 days at 39.2F (4 C) or lower
- Freezer (in fridge) – up to 2 weeks
- Freezer (separate compartment) – up to 6 months
- Room temperature – up to 4 hours
If all this sounds like a lot to remember, fear not! The best way to avoid any confusion is to label all your bottles and containers with use by dates, and use the oldest milk first.
Of course, sometimes you might need to transport milk, so be sure to use an insulated cool bag on those occasions.
You might also be wondering if you can let milk stand and then chill. Unfortunately not. The key to not spoiling breast milk is to keep it at a consistent temperature, so if you’re planning on refrigerating or freezing you’ll need to do this as soon as possible.
What’s the best temperature to serve breast milk?
Now, let’s move on to warming breast milk.
Warming breast milk means heating it to somewhere between body and room temperature, although some babies don’t mind it a little chilled.
The easiest and safest way to warm milk is to use a baby bottle warmer. We don’t recommend using a microwave because they tend to create uneven hot spots that can burn your little one’s mouth; a baby bottle warmer, on the other hand, allows you to gently defrost milk and/or warm it evenly—and preserves the quality of the milk by heating it gently.
Frozen milk can be thawed in a baby bottle warmer (this, again, will preserve the quality of the milk), in the fridge, under running water or in a bowl of warm water. Once it’s thawed, don’t refreeze.
If you don’t have access to a baby bottle warmer, you can warm milk by placing it in a bowl of warm water. Be sure to test the temperature of the bottle on your skin before serving it to your little one.
Happy bottle feeding!
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