How Long Can Breast Milk Stay Out? Demystifying Storage Guidelines

How Long Can Breast Milk Stay Out? Demystifying Storage Guidelines

How Long Can Breast Milk Stay Out? Demystifying Storage Guidelines

How Long Can Breast Milk Stay Out? Breast milk is a precious and vital source of nutrition for newborns and infants. As a new mother, understanding proper breast milk storage guidelines is crucial to ensure its freshness, safety, and nutritional value. One common question among breastfeeding moms is, “How long can breast milk stay out?” In this article, we will delve into this topic and provide you with reliable information backed by reputable sources. So, let’s explore the shelf life of breast milk outside the fridge.

Importance of Proper Breast Milk Storage:

Proper storage of breast milk helps maintain its nutritional value and reduces the risk of contamination. Following recommended guidelines ensures that your baby receives safe and high-quality breast milk, while also preventing potential milk spoilage.

How Long Can Breast Milk Stay Out?

The duration for which breast milk can be safely left at room temperature depends on various factors, including the temperature of the room. Here are some general guidelines:

1. Room Temperature (approx. 77°F or 25°C):

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), freshly pumped breast milk can be safely left at room temperature for up to four hours (1). However, it is best to use the milk within two hours if possible to maintain its optimal nutritional value.

2. Cooler Room Temperature (approx. 66-72°F or 19-22°C):

If the room temperature is cooler, breast milk may remain fresh for up to six to eight hours (2). This extended duration is due to the slower growth of bacteria in cooler environments.

3. Warm Climate or Summer Weather:

In warmer climates, it is essential to be cautious as breast milk can spoil more rapidly. When the temperature rises above 77°F (25°C), breast milk should ideally be refrigerated within one hour of pumping or feeding (3).

Proper Handling and Storage Tips:

To ensure the longevity and safety of your breast milk, consider following these practical tips:

1. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling breast milk to minimize the risk of contamination.

2. Use clean, sterilized bottles or storage bags specifically designed for breast milk.

3. Label each container with the date and time to easily identify older milk for use.

4. Store breast milk in small amounts (2 to 4 ounces or 60 to 120 mL) to minimize wastage.

5. If you don’t plan on using the milk within the recommended time frame at room temperature, store it in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

6. Avoid storing breast milk in the refrigerator door. Instead, place it towards the back where the temperature is more consistent.

7. If refrigerated, use breast milk within three to eight days, depending on the guidelines of the specific source you follow (4). The longer you store breast milk, the greater the loss of vitamin C and other nutritional components (5).

8. If you want to store breast milk for extended periods, consider freezing it. When properly stored in a freezer compartment of a refrigerator, it can maintain its quality for three to six months (6). However, freezer guidelines may vary based on the type of freezer, so it is best to research specific recommendations.



1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – “Storage and Handling of Breast Milk”:

2. Mayo Clinic – “How to safely store breast milk”:
3. La Leche League International – “Storing Human Milk”:

4. American Academy of Pediatrics – “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk”:

5. U.S. National Library of Medicine – “Storage of human milk: Selection of containers and techniques for preservation”:

6. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine – “Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants”:

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