How Long Can Breast Milk Stay Out (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 4 Hours

If you are a working mother, you are probably torn between managing work and taking care of your baby. The most critical aspect that you need to take care of is feeding the baby.

Since breastfeeding is very important for a baby’s health and growth, breast milk must be available for the baby whenever the baby feels hungry. And for that, using pumps becomes the most viable option.

There are various options that one can check out when it comes to storing pumped milk. However, it is important to know how long you can store it under different conditions like room temperature or freezer, etc.

How Long Can Breast Milk Stay Out?

Any type of perishable item when kept out at normal room temperature starts to go bad after a certain amount of time. The same is the case for Breast milk.

In general, how long will breast milk stay out completely depends on the way you store it. However, if you store the milk for a longer time by freezing it, it tends to lose vitamin C over time.

The various ways including the pumped milk to be stored at room temperature, if it is to be used within hours. And if the user is after more than four hours then it is recommended that you can freeze the milk.

Frozen breast milk will last longer as compared to breast milk that is kept out at normal room temperature. Since the frozen milk is out for a lesser time, the bacteria take longer to grow. The chances for the bacteria to grow in the breast milk that is kept at room temperature is much higher than frozen milk.

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Freezing can be a good option since it only needs to be thawed. There is no need to warm it again. You can put the frozen breast milk out for getting thawed and when it comes closer to room temperature, it can be then utilized for consumption.

However, if you are considering using only freshly pumped breast milk then do make sure that it is utilized within four hours of pumping.

Criteria For StorageStorage Time
At Room TemperatureFour Hours
In an Insulated CoolerUp to 24 hours
RefrigeratorUp to four Days (Needs to be sued
within three days)
FreezerUp to 12 months (Needs to be used
within six months)

Why Can Breast Milk Stay Out For Long?

Milk is a perishable item, be it store-bought cow milk or breast milk. It is perishable, meaning, if kept out at room temperature, then there are chances that it can go bad in a couple of hours or more.

And hence there is a limit to which it should be kept out. How long breast milk can stay out depend on a lot of factors but among that the temperature matters a lot.

The reason why there Is a limit to the time for which you can keep breast milk out is that due to the heat in the environment, bacteria start growing in the milk and the milk then goes bad eventually.

You can keep in mind a few things if you are thinking to store breast milk outside itself. Below are the things to remember:

  • Store breast milk at room temperature for four hours or a little over that if the temperature is 77 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
  • If the normal room temperature in your area is more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, then the time limit for storing the breast milk outside is only a couple of hours, strictly not more than that.
  • If kept out for more than six hours at the max, it will start smelling and that should denote that it has gone bad.
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Conclusion

Since the milk can go bad fast if kept outside and if the temperature is high, you can try storing it in the refrigerator instead of wasting the breast milk.

If you are going to refrigerate the breast milk then make sure that you are storing it towards the back of the refrigerator. so that it stays good for a longer time. Also, if you are freezing it by keeping it in the freezer then you can use it even after a good amount of time.

References

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24985584

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