Breastmilk is often referred to as liquid gold! Moms work hard to express it and want its health benefits to be put to good use. “How long is breastmilk good for?” is a common question asked by all moms. Read in detail below so that you can make sure your baby drinks the milk before it goes bad. The following guidelines are written by an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant following best practices from the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Can newly pumped breastmilk sit on the counter? 

Freshly expressed or pumped breast milk can be kept at room temperature  (77F or cooler) safely, for up to 4 hours. Make sure it is covered and is not left in direct sunlight.

How long is breastmilk good for in the refrigerator? 

Breastmilk can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Place it at the back of the fridge if possible.This ensures that there will be no temperature changes when the door is opened. If you plan on freezing it, best practice is to do so as soon as possible. However, if you decided that you would like to freeze the milk that has been stored in your refrigerator it is still safe to do so within the 4 day time period.

How long can I safely leave it in my freezer?

It is best to only store your breastmilk in the freezer for up to 6 months. However, up to 12 months is considered acceptable, especially in a deep freezer. When placing milk in storage bags for freezing, remember that the liquid will expand when frozen so do not fill past the recommended line on the bag or up to the very top. Label it with your child’s name (if using for childcare), volume of milk (ie: 3.5oz), and date. 

How do I safely thaw frozen breastmilk?

When using frozen milk, always work from the earliest date first, so as to avoid waste. You can keep track of how much breastmilk and what dates you expressed it on with an app such as, BabyConnect.

Frozen breastmilk can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Once fully thawed in the fridge, use it within 24 hours. 

For more immediate use, defrost by placing it in a container of lukewarm water or run under lukewarm water.  Lukewarm water ensures that the properties and nutrients components of the milk stay intact. Once thawed, it can be safely used at room temperature for up to 2 hours. 

Can I give my baby the unfinished breastmilk left in the bottle at the next feed?

It is common for babies to have extra milk left in their bottle when transitioning to larger amounts as they grow. If there is still unfinished milk in your baby’s bottle, it is safe to give to your baby for up to 2 hours. This includes thawed breastmilk.

I hope this answered the ever present question, “How long is breastmilk good for?” For additional lactation and pumping guidance, visit our website to learn how we can support you. Schedule a virtual or in-person visit with a certified lactation consultant.

About The Author

Olivia Wojcik, RN has a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from SNHU, summa cum laude. She is a Certified Lactation Consultant through ALLP and Reiki level II practitioner. Olivia is trained as a Sleep Coach and Newborn Care Expert with BBN&N. In addition she is the mother to a beautiful two year old girl.