How Long Can Breast Milk Sit Out? The Facts You Need to Know

If there’s one thing all new parents must learn about once they bring home their baby, it would be feeding them. After all, a baby must have the proper vitamins and nutrients for them to enjoy a healthy life, and it comes from breast milk!

While many mothers breastfeed, there are various reasons as to why they must pump and store it for future use, may it be due to too much milk released from the breast, or if mothers are unable to breastfeed their child at the right time.

When feeding your baby prepared breast milk, you may have been wondering: “How long can breast milk sit out?

So read on as I answer your queries on how long breast milk can last once it’s outside the fridge.

How Long Can Breast Milk Sit Out?

Once you have warmed and fed your baby breast milk, there are times he won’t be able to finish it. So it’s left sitting out, either on the kitchen counter or beside him, for your little one to finish it for later. But because milk is filled with good bacteria, how long can it stay at room temperature until it starts being bad for your baby to consume?

Breast milk can stay unrefrigerated for up to eight hours without any harm of bacterial growth. But, I would recommend you not to leave it out in the open for over four to six hours.

In case you are unable to store your breast milk in a fridge or freezer after it has been sitting out, then I suggest you throw it out after the time has passed. It’s not safe to put the bottle of breast milk back in the refrigerator to feed your baby again later. The harmful bacteria that comes from your baby’s mouth may have made contact to what’s inside the bottle while he is feeding, which can grow and multiple despite refrigeration. Plus, reheating formula may end up with the milk losing a lot of nutrients in the long run.

How Do You Know If Breast Milk Is Spoiled?

How Do You Know If Breast Milk Is Spoiled

You will know if your breast milk has already gone sour not just by the time it has sat out, but by other factors, such as:

  • Taste

Just like normal milk we drink, spoiled breast milk would turn sour and taste rancid, unfit to feed to anyone.

  • Texture

Usually, stored breast milk will be separated into two layers. But once shaken, it will start fixing together. Spoiled breast milk, even when shaken, will still be separated by two layers. This shows signs of spoilage, because of the curdles.

  • Smell

Spoiled breast milk, similar to its taste, would smell sour or a bit spoiled like normal milk.

But even if the breast milk doesn’t show any of these factors but has been sitting out for longer, then I suggest you throw it away as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Breast Milk From Spoiling

You can’t stop breast milk from spoiling once it has been sitting out for hours, but you CAN prevent it from happening again! Here are some tips you can follow:

  • Prepare milk in small batches. Rather than freezing and storing milk in huge bags or bottles, opt to separate the milk in amounts that your baby needs to finish in one sitting. That way, you won’t worry about a lot of milk spoiling after one feeding session.
  • Be mindful of the expiration dates of breast milk, which vary between how you store it. It’s best to make labels, so you know when you need to use it.
  • Breast milk can last in the fridge for up to eight days, while thawed milk can sit for 24 hours. Expressed milk can last for 24 hours in an insulated cooler. When stored in a freezer, breast milk can last for six months, while it can last for up to a year in a deep freezer. But that is if you store it correctly!
  • Always wash your hands and equipment before and after pumping breast milk to assure that no harmful bacteria are sitting inside.

Tips on Preparing and Storing Breast Milk for Your Baby

Tips on Preparing and Storing Breast Milk for Your Baby

Besides learning about how to prevent breast milk from spoiling and how long it can sit outside the refrigerator for, here are more tips on how to safely prepare and store breast milk for feeding your baby:

  • Store breast milk in plastic or glass containers with well-fitting covers, or freezer milk bags. Avoid disposable bottle liners unless they are truly for storing breast milk.
  • I recommend you to store breast milk in freezers for it to last longer, especially if you won’t be using it shortly.
  • Once you are about to use breast milk to feed your baby, choose the oldest one first to reduce chances of it being left to spoil.
  • When thawing breast milk for your baby to drink, do not use a microwave. Instead, let the bottle or pack cool down in running water or thaw it in the fridge overnight.
  • If you do choose to reheat milk, it must be consumed within an hour.
  • Cleanliness is the most important thing. So when handling breast milk, may it be before pumping or after giving it to your baby, make sure that your hands are clean and free from dirt.

In Conclusion

When it comes to feeding your baby, breast milk is the way to go. As long as you know how long it can last when sitting out or once you have been storing it, then you won’t need to worry about handling breast milk or if it is unsafe for your baby to drink anymore.

I hope that this article answers your question: “How long can milk sit out?” Now that you know the answer and more tips on handling breast milk start utilizing these tips and ensuring that your baby gets nothing but the best today!

If you have any questions or would like to share your advice on breast milk, then comment down below. I would love to hear what you have to think.