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How Long is Breast Milk Good For in the Fridge?



Pumping is often an important part of giving your baby breast milk. Even if you are primarily feeding your baby from the breast, pumping can be a great way to maintain a steady supply. There may also be times you want to pump and store your milk, like when you have to go out without your baby or allow your partner or another person to feed the baby so you can get some extra rest.


After you've pumped your milk, you may be wondering how long breast milk is good for in the fridge. You may also be wondering how storing breast milk affects its quality. In this article, we will answer those questions and also give you some tips on how to store breast milk properly.


How Long is Breast Milk in the Fridge Good For?

Pumped breast milk only lasts for 4 to 6 hours at room temperature. Storing it in the refrigerator can extend its shelf life by up to 4 days. In the freezer, breast milk can last even longer. In a regular freezer, it can last about 6 months, and up to 12 months in a deep freeze.


Does Refrigerating Breast Milk Affect Its Quality?

Yes, refrigerating breast milk can affect its quality to some extent. The cold reduces the number of living cells and breaks down some of the immunoglobulins (antibodies). However, refrigerated breast milk is still full of nutrition and very good for your baby as long as you properly reheat it.


Tips for Storing Breast Milk

Pumping out your milk is one thing, but storing it comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some tips to help you more easily store and keep track of pumped breast milk.


Use Storage Bags

Storage bags made specifically for storing breast milk are often the most convenient way to store breast milk. They come pre-cleaned and don’t need to be sterilized. They are also disposable and don’t take up a lot of room. Although some storage bags come with preprinted measurements, those measurements tend to be inaccurate. It’s often better to portion out your milk using a sterilized measuring cup or scale so you know exactly how much each bag contains. If you fill each bag with enough milk for a one-time use, you can also avoid wasting milk. 


Instead of storage bags, you can also use clean, food-grade glass jars or bottles to store breast milk. Be mindful when using recycled bottles. Some recycled plastic bottles contain BPA (Bisphenol A), which can be harmful to your baby. Make sure to avoid bottles with a recycle number 7 on them. 


Leave Extra Space in Bags/Bottles

Liquid expands when it cools, and breast milk is no exception. Make sure you leave enough room in the storage bag or bottle when filling it with milk so you don’t end up with a mess.


Label Bags/Bottles Properly

Label storage bags or bottles with the date and time you pumped out the breast milk using a permanent marker or pen that won’t smudge if it gets wet. This is a great way to keep track of which milk is fresher. It is best to use older milk first, so your stash will last as long as possible.


Store Fresher Milk in the Back

Whether you are refrigerating or freezing your milk, it’s best to store “just-pumped” milk in the back of the fridge or freezer. It is colder back there, and it will be easier to use the older milk first when it’s the first thing you see when you open the door.


Frequently Asked Questions


Is breast milk okay after 5 days in the fridge?

No, you should only keep your breast milk in the fridge for a maximum of 4 days. If you don’t need to use the milk right away, transfer it to the freezer on or before the fourth day. It can last for up to 6 months in a regular freezer and up to 12 months in a deep freeze.


How will I know if breast milk is spoiled?

Spoiled breast milk smells and tastes sour. Make it a habit to always sniff or taste stored milk before feeding it to your baby.


Can I put breast milk back in the fridge after my baby drinks some of it?

Reheated breast milk can be safely kept at room temperature for up to two hours. Putting partially used breast milk back in the fridge is not recommended because it may contain bacteria from your baby’s mouth. Contaminated milk is not safe for your baby.


Can you rewarm breast milk twice?

No, you should only reheat refrigerated breast milk once. 


Summary

Your baby needs an average of 28 to 32 ounces of breast milk per day from 4 weeks until they are done breastfeeding. Storing breast milk properly in the fridge can help you maintain a steady supply and let others help you feed your baby.


For more medically-based, doctor-created, and patient-tested content on all things breastfeeding, check out our Better Breastfeeding platform. Get 24/7 access to information and solutions to help you effectively feed your baby, whether you are breastfeeding, pumping, or both.


Reviewed by Linda Dahl, MD

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