How Long Does Breast Milk Last in the Fridge?

Breast milk that is pumped into a bottle or jar (also called expressed breast milk) is convenient for mothers. In this article, I will describe how long breast milk lasts in the fridge, as well as useful storage tips.

How long does breast milk last in the fridge? Breast milk lasts in the fridge for up to four days. Ensure that it is appropriately stored under the right temperature and inside clean, tightly sealed containers or bags. You can also store breast milk for up to six months in the freezer. 

Read on to find out more about how long breast milk lasts in the fridge so that it stays fresh and safe for your baby.

How Long Does Breast Milk Last in the Fridge?

Medical experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding to infants for up to six months, meaning no formula, water, or juice for the baby’s first six months of life.

Experts have also recommended continuing breastfeeding for up to one year, combined with solid food after six months. Babies get so many benefits from breastfeeding that cannot be provided by commercial formula milk.

Even with the knowledge that breastfeeding is best for babies, there will be some instances in which you’re unable to breastfeed your baby. Next to breastfeeding, expressed milk is best. If you can’t breastfeed your baby, you can express and store your breast milk in advance.

Storing and Handling Expressed Breast Milk

The most common reasons for not breastfeeding include having a newborn that requires special care in the hospital, going back to work, and producing more milk than your child’s needs.

Knowing the proper way to store and use expressed milk is essential. Fresh expressed breast milk can sit at room temperature for four hours. This method works best if you are away from your baby for only a short time – say, a trip to the gym or a quick errand. 

If you need to store breastmilk for longer than four hours, keep it in the refrigerator. So, how long does breast milk last in the fridge?

Breast Milk Storage Time

If you store and refrigerate breast milk immediately after expressing it, it can last in the fridge for four days. You can also store any leftover from thawed out breast milk in the fridge for 24 hours. Discard whatever is left after 24 hours.

If you want to store breast milk for an extended time, you can store it in the freezer. Freezing breastmilk can make it last for six months to a year.

Below is a chart that can guide you when storing expressed breast milk. How long is breast milk good for in fridge, freezer, or at room temperature:

Breast Milk Storage and HandlingStorage Time
Room temperature, freshly expressedUp to four hours, maximum
Refrigerator, 40°F, stable temperatureUp to four days, maximum
FreezerBest up to six months, but acceptable up to one year
*Thawed out frozen breastmilkMay be stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours

Important Note: Do not refreeze thawed out milk. 

Remember, breast milk is the best for your baby. It has high nutritional value with high antioxidants and bacteria-fighting properties. If you can’t breastfeed your baby, freshly expressed breast milk is your second-best option. Aside from newly expressed breast milk, refrigerated breast milk comes next, followed by frozen breast milk.

It is also essential to know that many research studies have suggested that the longer breast milk is stored either in the refrigerator or freezer, the more it is prone to losing its vitamin C content.

Also, remember that your breast milk changes accordingly to meet the needs of your baby. If you express breast milk when your baby is a newborn, and feed it a few months later, it might not fully meet your baby’s needs at that time.

How to Store Breast Milk in the Refrigerator and Freezer

how long breast milk last in the fridge
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before expressing breastmilk. Also, wash breast milk containers thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Refrigerate or freeze breast milk right away after expressing it.  
  • Always store breast milk in clean, food-grade bottles or containers with tight, well-fitted lids made from BPA-free materials. You may also use glass with a fitted cover or breast milk freezer bags. 
  • Avoid storing breast milk in disposable bottle liners or other plastic bags that aren’t specifically made for storing breast milk. 
  • Breast milk should be stored on the middle shelf at the back because it’s the coldest part of the refrigerator and has a consistent temperature. Avoid storing breast milk on freezer door shelves because the temperature is less consistent there.
  • Do not add freshly expressed milk to refrigerated milk. However, you may add small amounts of expressed milk to a container if the milk you are adding has also been chilled. 
  • You may also add refrigerated milk to frozen breast milk. 
  • Breast milk will expand when frozen, so avoid filling up the container before freezing. You only need to fill up to ¾ of the container. 
  • It is best to store breast milk at the back of the freezer to get a more consistent temperature. Do not store breast milk on the freezer door shelf as the temperature in this area is less consistent. 
  • Try to store breast milk in containers that are about 100 ml (or whatever amount your baby can finish in one feeding). This way, it will be easier to thaw, and you will have minimal wastage.
  • Label breast milk containers with the date of when it was expressed. 
  • Use the oldest breast milk first. 
  • If you’re traveling, breast milk may be stored in a cooler with ice for 24 hours. 

Warming Breastmilk from the Refrigerator and Thawing Breast Milk from the Freezer

Most babies can drink room temperature breast milk, while some babies like cool breast milk. It is also perfectly okay to give your baby breastmilk that came straight from the refrigerator if your baby likes it that way.

To warm breast milk from the fridge, place the milk in a bowl of warm water, and then leave it for a couple of minutes. You can also hold the bottle under warm water running from the tap.

Do not microwave breastmilk from the refrigerator or the freezer. Microwaving breastmilk isn’t safe because it can cause hot spots that can scald your baby’s mouth. Microwaving can also lessen and damage the milk’s nutritional value.

To thaw breastmilk from the freezer, you can place it in the refrigerator to thaw out. It usually takes about 12 hours to defrost a bottle of milk. You may then run it under warm water once fully thawed out. If you need to thaw out breast milk, place the breast milk container in a bowl of warm water. Leave it there until milk is fully thawed. You may swirl it a few times while defrosting as the fat may separate from the liquid.

Note: Defrosted breast milk should be consumed within two hours. Do not refreeze breast milk.

How to Know When Breast Milk Is Spoiled

Some factors can affect how long you can effectively store and preserve breast milk to keep its nutritional value and avoid spoilage.

1. Temperature

The first factor is temperature. As mentioned earlier, storing at 40°F stable temperature will make breast milk last in the refrigerator for four days. And keeping breast milk in the freezer at a stable temperature of 0°F extends its storage time up to six months.

So how long can breast milk last in the fridge? Breast milk lasts for up to four days, but only if the fridge is kept at a proper 40°F.

2. Breast Milk Storage Container

The next factor is the type of breast milk storage containers. Use leak-proof containers with tight, sealed lids. If storing in bags, use only breast milk storage bags. These containers should be very clean to avoid contamination.

how long will breast milk last in the refrigerator

3. Color of Breast Milk

Breast milk comes in a variety of colors. It may be yellow or off-white. Sometimes, it may appear with blue hues or look slightly orange. A lot of things affect breastmilk like the mother’s diet and certain medications.

The color of your expressed breast milk can also vary from one pumping session to another. For this reason, color is not much of a basis for telling if breast milk is spoiled.

4. Smell of Breast Milk

Breast milk also has various smells. Usually, you can tell when food has become spoiled by its smell. However, breast milk can sometimes have a strange or odd smell but doesn’t necessarily mean that it is spoiled. The smell of breast milk is also affected by diet and certain medications.

To find out if breast milk has gone bad, you can do the following things to check:

Examine It Closely

Breast milk contains fat, which will rise to the top and separate with the water. Give the container a good swirl, and if it mixes quite easily, then the milk is not spoiled. Spoiled milk will remain separated even with a good swirl. If it appears curdled at all, it’s a good sign of spoilage.

Give It a Really Good Smell

I mentioned above that breast milk may smell odd. But, if it smells rancid or sour, it’s best to discard it. Sometimes, breast milk can also smell soapy, which happens when there’s too much lipase in the milk.

Lipase is a type of enzyme present in breast milk and has a lot of benefits. Some babies reject breast milk with this soapy smell. But don’t worry, breast milk with this smell is perfectly safe for your baby.

Taste It

Breast milk definitely tastes very different from formula or cow’s milk. Try tasting it after expressing breast milk. You can also taste refrigerated or thawed out expressed milk. If the milk tastes sour or rancid, discard it. It has most likely become spoiled.

Expressing breast milk is no easy task. It takes patience and hard work. But, the trade-off is worth it. Breast milk is called liquid gold because it is very precious. That’s why you don’t want to waste even a drop of it. So, follow the recommendations above for proper storage to avoid spoilage.

Conclusion – How Long Does Breast Milk Last in the Fridge?

Breast milk is best for newborns because it has the right mix of nutrients. It contains vitamins, minerals, proteins, fat, and carbohydrates, which are everything babies need to grow.

How long does breast milk last in the fridge? Breast milk will last in the fridge for a maximum of four days. But you need to ensure that it is stored consistently at 40°F. Keep breast milk stored on the middle shelf of the fridge, and not on the door shelves.

Below is a chart that can guide you when storing expressed breast milk. How long can breast milk last in the fridge, freezer, or at room temperature:

Breast Milk Storage and HandlingStorage Time
Room temperature, freshly expressedUp to four hours, maximum
Refrigerator, 40°F, stable temperatureUp to four days, maximum
FreezerBest up to six months, but acceptable up to one year
*Thawed out frozen breastmilkMay be stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours

Freeze breast milk if you need to store it for a longer time. Make sure that you store it under a consistent temperature of 0°F. Store it at the back of the freezer.

Also, it is best to keep breast milk stored in containers or bags specifically designed for breast milk to avoid contamination, which can lead to spoilage.

Remember, breast milk is always best for your baby for its nutritional value. If you can’t breastfeed because you’ll be away from your baby, your next best option is expressed breast milk. Happy feeding, mommies!