How Long Can Breast Milk Sit Out Before You Can’t Use It Anymore?

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For parents and caregivers like myself, who for whatever reason experienced a period that traditional breastfeeding wasn’t an option, expressed milk is an excellent alternative. If you have ever dealt with expressed milk, it is likely you have asked yourself the following question: How long can breast milk sit out?  That question often comes with the stress of what to do if your “liquid gold” has the potential to go to waste.

The importance of handling breast milk safely

Expressed milk can come with challenges that are not considered when a baby is exclusively breastfed. As with any food item, there are necessary handling and safety rules to consider when dealing with expressed milk.Whether you acquired your milk from expressing yourself or from donations, it is important to follow Health precautions as it relates to breast milk. The short answer to this question is it depends. The long answer takes into account the storage method being used.

Breast milk should be kept as cold as possible before use. So How long can breast milk sit out? According to the Center for Disease Control, expressed breast milk that is sitting out can be kept at room temperature for around 6-8 hours. However, if this room is particularly warm, do not to exceed four hours.

Other important considerations

how long can breast milk sit out

Image: GIphy

“How long can breast milk sit out,” isn’t the only necessary consideration. How milk is kept is an important concern. The CDC provides guidelines about milk storage. Storing milk for extended the amount of time in methods, like freezers, reduce vitamin C content. Remember breast milk can be in a deep freezer for up to 12 months. However, you must also consider that breast milk changes with age to meet the needs of the baby. In other words, if you give your 14-month-old milk that you froze when they were six months old you will not be meeting their complete nutritional needs.

Final thoughts

When determining which milk to unthaw for feeding, always remember to go with the oldest milk first.Expressed milk is an efficient source of nutrients for your growing baby. Just be sure to follow proper storage and handling instructions 🙂

(Image: iStock / Pilin_Petunyia)