How Long Can Breastmilk Sit Out?

Breastmilk is without a doubt the best food you can give to your baby. If you are happy to breastfeed your baby on demand whenever and wherever you are it is also the most convenient way to feed your baby.

Think about it, you won’t have to worry about expressing milk, storing breastmilk, heating your breastmilk or sterilizing and washing any bottles!

However lots of moms are not comfortable with breastfeeding their babies in public and find it stressful trying to find a place to feed their babies in public. In addition perhaps you are not with your baby all the time, which means you will need to express and store your breast milk for someone else to feed your baby.

I always recommend having some breast milk stored anyway since you just never know when you will need an emergency stash of breastmilk! A good example is if you get very ill and you need to take antibiotics, you will need to stop breastfeeding while you are taking medication.

With my first baby I was too shy to breastfeed in public and I refused to feed my baby in a bathroom. I found it much less stressful to bottle feed my baby when I was out and about and leave the breastfeeding for the comfort of my own home.

One of the things that worried me was how long can breast milk sit out without it going off.

Now the thing is that it wasn’t just that I was worried about not having enough milk for my baby, but I also didn’t want to throw away any of my breastmilk. I had to do that once and it was heartbreaking.

It is not quite the same thing as chucking out formula milk is it?

So here are a few guidelines to remember…

How Long Can Breastmilk Sit Out?

Firstly remember that if you thaw frozen breast milk you can not freeze it again.

If you are keeping your breast milk at room temperature (66°F – 78°F  /  19°C – 26°C) you should try and use it within 4 hours but you can push it to 6 hours.

If you are going to be out for longer than 6 hours rather store your breast milk in an insulated cooler bag(5°F – 39°F / -15°C – 4°C). Keep the milk in contact with the ice and try not to open the cooler bag. You can safely store your breast milk in an insulated cooler bag for up to 24 hours.

How Long Can Breastmilk be Frozen for?

When you freeze your breastmilk there are loads of different ways you can do it, but the most convenient and hygienic is to use proper breastmilk storage bags. They come already sterilized and you can store them conveniently, freezing them flat which takes up much less space.

Don’t reuse your breastmilk storage bags, they are only meant to be used once!

While breastmilk can be safely frozen longer than these guidelines, the fat starts to break down, so it is best to stick to these time limits:

Freezer Compartment within Fridge (5°F / -15°C) 2 weeks

Freezer Compartment separate Door (0°F / -18°C) 3-6 months

Deep Freezer (-4°F / -20°C) 6-12 months

How Long Can You Store Breastmilk in the Fridge?

You can store breastmilk for up to 8 days in the fridge, but ideally you will rather want to use your breastmilk within 3 days.

Store your Breastmilk Properly

It really is important to follow the correct guidelines for storing your breastmilk, remember that if you don’t store your breastmilk properly you might not be able to use it for your baby.

Here are some tips for you to follow:

  • Wash your hands before expressing breastmilk.
  • Don’t overfill your breastmilk storage bags or your storage container when freezing. Remember that your breastmilk will expand when frozen.
  • Use PBA free storage bags or containers
  • Label your breastmilk with the date, add your baby’s name if your breastmilk will be going to a daycare setting.
  • Keep your frozen breastmilk in the middle of the freezer because the temperature is most consistent.

Heating and Thawing Breastmilk

Remember to never heat or thaw your breastmilk in a microwave. To defrost your milk just leave it in the fridge overnight or run it under some water to thaw.

The best way to heat milk for your baby is to put the breastmilk into a cup of warm water.

When your breastmilk thaws it is common the the cream and milk to separate, just swirl it together but don’t shake it as this could damage the milk components.

Check Also

Nursing in public

Empowerment And Comfort: 8 Tips For Breastfeeding In Public

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to nourish your baby, but many new mothers …


  1. I cant make use of this artical but once again save for when there is a second baby 1st baby is on formula couldnt breast feed but when i hear someone talk i can always say what i read on the blogs.

  2. Im also sure if there is a second one i could breast feed for the first 5 days with help of nipple shields but the he didnt want to latch my doula helped me nicely without the nipple shields but the nurses put it on so my son could drink thats p*ssed me off abit the doula was wonderful nurses irritated me for some reason.

    • Lynne Huysamen

      Perhaps when you have your second baby get hold of the La Leche League before birth and have a La Leche League leader available to help you? Or maybe a lactation consultant.

      It will make such a massive difference. I think also in hindsight being a mom the second time around is so much easier in the way that with my first baby the nurses kept wanting to take my daughter away to sleep in the nursery. I didn’t let them take her, but I was unsure of myself.

      With my second baby I was so much more sure of myself as a mother and a lot more experienced. I am sure if that happens to you a second time you would be more confident to tell them not to use nipple shields. It is your baby and your right to decide how you want to breastfeed.

  3. I heard so many stories of mommies that had an accident or had to get an operation and then the baby at home is in stress as they cant drink from mommy. Since my little one was born i started expressing milk. One feed was from the breast and the next from a bottle. Its 3 months almost and we still do this. To breastfeed is my bonding time with him but i must say the bottle helps allot when i need a break, going to town or visiting family and friends.

    • I also found it so nice to be able to express some milk so my hubby could have a turn feeding the baby! He really felt like he was missing out and enjoyed having a turn to feed. I also enjoyed having a break every now and then 🙂

  4. Great post for new mom and newborn baby. You may also share how to boost breast milk.

  5. I enjoyed breast-feeding so much I that I can’t have it in other way if I have choices of course

  6. First time mommy can be very painful but when you now have 2nd baby its more enjoyable than anything even the baby also enjoys drinking milk from mommy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!