Pre-expressed breast milk is a must-have in situations when you have finally planned a much deserved night out or want milk on deck so that your partner can help out with those late night feeds (thanks, honey!).
There are a few different ways to store it, but the preferred way for most parents is in the fridge.
Keeping breast milk in the fridge means having it on hand whenever you need it.
But how long does breast milk last in the fridge?
Does the stuff ever expire?
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Yes. Breast Milk Does Go Bad.
Breast milk has a far shorter lifespan than the standard cow’s milk and a significantly shorter lifespan than that rice and almond milk stuff.
But how long it lasts really depends on how you store it and what conditions that milk has been in.
For optimal storing, moms should:
- Thoroughly wash their hands prior to pumping
- Make sure that the pump is clean and sanitized (pro tip: don’t want to spring for a pump? No problem. Most pharmacies will rent these often incredibly expensive units out for a small fee)
- Make sure that the bottles are super clean (hot soapy water or a go in the dishwasher is usually fine)
- Store the milk in a tightly sealed container (bags designed for breast milk storage or well sealed bottles are fine)
- Get that milk on ice or in el frigo ASAP (the longer it’s out, the more time nasty bacteria has to grow)
Under these conditions, your breast milk can last anywhere for three to five days in your refrigerator.
Store it all the way in the back and make sure you write down the day it was expressed.
image source: Affinity Health
How Can I Tell If My Milk’s Gone Bad?
Unlike other types of milk, odd colors and textures are no surprise when it comes to breast milk.
Not only will the color and texture differ when the milk’s freshly pumped, but it may also change while it’s in the refrigerator.
Don’t freak out if:
- The milk has taken on a yellowish, greenish, bluish or even sometimes brownish hue
- The milk separates into two separate layers, one which is lighter and watery and one which closely resembles heavy cream
- The milk takes on a soapy or metallic scent.This happens to some milk, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the leche has soured (if your baby is rejecting it, you can heat it to approximately 180F though keep in mind that scalding it will cause the milk to lose nutrients)
The best way to tell if your milk’s gone bad is to use your nose.
Give it a whiff (especially if the milk is nearing the 3 day mark) and see if smells right.
You’ll be able to tell if it the milk’s gone bad since it’ll have that same strong and distinctive rancid rank that sour cow’s milk takes on.
Your Milk Storage Options
Storing breast milk in the fridge isn’t the only way to make sure that you always have milk on hand.
If you’re going to be out shopping for a new pair of yoga pants or hitting up a café for a much deserved venti non-fat latte with caramel drizzle and are only going to be gone for 3 to 4 hours, breast milk can be left out at room temperature.
Going on a day trip?
Freshly expressed breast milk can last in an insulated cooler loaded with ice packs for approximately 24 hours.
Freezing breast milk in a standard freezer lasts for up to 2 weeks, and deep freezer breast milk can keep for 6 to 12 months.
Two things for us pumpin’ mamas to keep in mind, however:
a) Breast milk expressed during the first few weeks of an infant’s life has a different composition than the breast milk your body produces when your baby is older (our breasts adapt to the needs of our baby – yeah, they’re smart like that).
If you have deep frozen newborn milk on deck, it may not be suitable for your one year old.
b) The longer breast milk is stored, the less vitamin C it will contain.
Also if your baby is a preemie, sick or is hospitalized, there are different storage guidelines which your doctor or nurse can help you with.
Freedom At Last!
No longer do you need to be tied down simply because you’re the one in the home with the amazing breasts which are nourishing this new life you have created!
- Store milk in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for 3 to 5 days
- Warm the milk on the stove (using a microwave is no bueno as it can create “hot pockets” which will burn your babe)
- Now everyone can get in on the feeding fun (seriously, some people find this a thrill)
Have a question about storing breast milk? Feel free to post it below.