How Long Can Breast Milk Sit Out Before It Goes Bad?

Spectra S2 vs. Medela Pump In Style

“Breastfeeding is not a choice, it is a responsibility.”

“Breastfeeding is nutrition, warmth, and love all rolled into one.”

“A mother makes milk. What’s your superpower?”

A mother would know that breast milk is best for her baby. When your baby is born, he depends on your milk. Your milk is your baby’s food and he sleeps silently after his tummy is full with the breast milk. Other than providing basic nutrition, it has several benefits.

Here is a post for all the expecting mothers and those, who are already blessed with a baby. You may have certain queries in your mind. These include –

As a new mommy, you need to know the basics. We are right here! We will answer all your queries in this post. How does that sound? Let us first look at the benefits of breast milk.


How long can breast milk sit out after being refrigerated?

So, you refrigerate the breast milk and keep it outside. You are concerned whether it will go bad within few hours. How long can the breast milk sit out after being refrigerated? Once you take out the milk, you can keep it out for 4-5 hours. The milk should be back to room temperature in just 30-40 minutes but make sure you feed it to the baby within 4 hours. Most sources say that it needs to be used within 4 hours but some would also mention that it should be taken within 1 hour else the baby can get sick.

What should you do? Do not let it sit out for long and once it is back to the normal temperature, you must feed it to your baby. Do not let it sit out for more than 2 hours. Check the smell of the milk! Does it smell bad? If not, then it is safe for consumption.

Do note that you should never reheat the breast milk. Once you have brought it to normal room temperature, you must feed the baby and toss it. Do not reheat and feed the same milk again! Once the refrigerated milk is out and heated, you must let it come to room temperature and feed the baby. Milk is good in the fridge for about 3-5 days. If you wish to store it for long, you must freeze it.  Make sure you are refrigerating it once. If it has been refrigerated before, it will stay good for 24 hours.

Just a tip from our side – keep the breast milk at the back of the fridge. Whenever you open the fridge, it should not be exposed to the warm air outside. Keep it inside and let it stay cool!

What if you are pumping while you are on the go?

Most women worry about pumping while they are travelling with the baby. You do not have a refrigerator to keep the milk good for feeding. You do not have to worry about that! There is a solution for that as well! You can keep ice packs with you. Carry a cooler with you which have ice packs. It will stay good for 24 hours.

Another thing that you need to keep in mind is that the longer the milk is in the freezer, there are more chances of it going bad when it kept out for too long. If you have stored the milk for 5 days, you should not expect it to sit out for 7 hours and not go bad. Be careful!

How long can breast milk sit out after being warmed?

Many mommas wonder whether they can keep warmed milk outside for long. Most mothers’ advice that heated milk cannot be put in the fridge after it has been heated. Why waste the milk? You must not waste all the breast milk! Once you warm the breast milk, it can sit out for 1 hour. If you ask the doctor, she/he would tell you that it is just good for an hour.  Do note that if it sits out for too long, the bacteria will multiply and it is not good for your baby.  If the baby falls asleep, keep the milk inside and store it.

When you research, different websites will tell you differently but you need to be practical here. If it stays out for too long, the bacteria in the baby’s mouth goes into the milk. The bacteria multiply as it sits in milk for too long. You would find misleading information everywhere but you must think logically that if the milk is out for too long, it will go bad.

In a nutshell, the reheated milk should be consumed within an hour. Don’t panic! The breast milk can stay out for a while till it goes bad. In case your baby does not finish it within an hour, you can refrigerate it within 30 minutes. Truth is, it can be reheated one more time!

How to tell if the milk is bad?

Breast milk is best but fresh milk is THE best! Would you eat leftovers or something that smells bad? You wouldn’t! You wouldn’t even want to give your little baby bad milk! What to do?

How to tell if the milk has gone bad? You need to understand that there are two phases – usable milk and fresh milk. Fresh milk is ideal for the baby. It is freshly pumped and the baby loves it, enjoys it. It is full of nutrients and the freshness is there!

The usable milk is the way it sounds! It has passed the fresh phase! It is stored in the freezer or the refrigerator. It is free from bacteria and will not be harmful for the baby. Do note that the ideal stage is gone! The bacteria are not there but it has lost most of its benefits.

Here is a little guide for you. How long does the milk stay usable?

Refrigerator – it will stay good for 3-5 days

Freezer – 3-6 months

Deep Freeze – 7-12 months

Room temperature – 4 hours

What are the things that can affect the smell of the milk? There are several things such as food, medications, storage containers, and freezing process. You can do a sniff test before giving it to the baby. If the smell is not normal then there is something wrong with it.

When food goes bad, you do not taste it. You smell it and throw it away. If the milk does not smell normal then it has gone bad.

how long can breast milk sit out

If a woman eats too much spice and pungent flavours then it can affect the taste of the milk as well. The mother should have an ideal diet which should not include overly spicy food or pungent foods.

What would be the colour of the milk? It comes in a rainbow of colours! It can be off-white, yellow, a little towards orange, or blue tinged. The consistency of the milk can be thick and creamy or thin and watery. You do not need to panic as breast milk is different for different women.

Your diet should be good! You are feeding a child and what you eat can affect the taste and look of the milk! The colour does not indicate that the milk has gone bad.

Check the consistency

You do not need to panic if the fat sits on top as it separates from the milk. If the milk has not gone bad, it will easily mix up. However, if it does not mix easily and there are chunks on the top after mixing it then it has gone bad. You need to toss it!

Smell it

It is time to smell the milk! Doing a sniff test will give you the answer! Do note that when the milk is frozen, it is not the best time to do a sniff test. Thawed milk gives a sour smell which may not be a bad thing! It is still safe for your baby but the only thing is that it has high level of enzymes. If your baby does not drink the milk then discard it.

However, the sour milk may be bad. You can do a quick test! Try to freeze some of the breast milk and then check the smell. Milk starts tasting sour after freezing. This is due to high lipase.

Taste it

If it starts tasting sour and you find that your milk does not have the tendency to stay sour then discard it. The milk has probably gone bad! Taste it and if it is sour, then discard it.

What did you learn from this? You need to check the consistency, smell it and taste it. Try these three steps and you would know whether the milk has gone bad.

Since you work extremely hard to pump the milk, you must not waste even a single drop of it. Most women do have any idea about how to check the milk that they pumped. Do the above mentioned steps and you would know!

How long can breast milk stay in the freezer?

Let’s freeze it up!

Mommies face the most pressing question of how long they can store breast milk in the freezer! You have pumped it up and now you want to store it. The American Academy of Paediatrics has recommended that deeply frozen breast milk can be stored for six months. Yes! You can breathe peacefully because the breast milk can be easily kept in your freezers for really long!

However, you must keep it for 3 months. The ideal duration is 3 months and not longer than that. You must keep the milk directly in the freezer. If you keep it in the refrigerator before keeping it in the freezer, it will not last very long!

We would suggest you to throw away the milk in case it has been stored for longer than 8 months. Also, fresh milk is the best milk! You must not keep it away from the baby for too long! It loses all the nutrients after it has been frozen for too long!

What can you do to keep the milk fresh for long?

Here are some of the ways you can keep the milk fresh and good for long! The bacteria present in the baby’s mouth multiply and spoil the milk. However, you can slow down the process by taking care of few things.

  • You must keep it in the refrigerator or freezer. This will inhibit the growth of bacteria. Make sure you keep the milk deep inside the fridge so that it does not get affected by the warm air as you open the fridge again and again! The temperature stays constant inside the fridge.
  • In case you are using a cooler, you must make sure it is clean from the inside. Since you would be using ice packs inside the cooler, you must keep the breast milk close to them. You must buy a cooler to store the breast milk! There are times when you are on the go and you need to feed your baby. How to store it? You would need a cooler and some ice packs. It is advisable to transfer the milk to the freezer or the refrigerator.
  • It is advisable for you to always clean your hands while pumping or storing milk. You do not want bacteria to go inside your baby’s mouth. If there would be bacteria on your hands and it goes inside the milk, there are chances that it will go bad. How are you storing the milk? You can use bottles or bags. The choice is yours! Wash your hands properly before pumping. Do not let the bacteria go inside the bottles or bags.

Also Have a look on: Baby Proofing Doors

Can breast milk be refrigerated after warming up?

Do not try to search the internet for the answer to this question as you will get different variations. Most of the women would reuse it. However, you need to keep it in your mind that your baby should not drink milk which has been spoiled.

Once the milk has been out in the open and baby has had some of it then it should be discarded. Try to feed your baby small amounts and try to avoid wastage! Do note that fresh milk has bacteria-fighting power and so does the refrigerated milk! After you take out the milk, try to use it soonest. If you do not want to waste it, then give small amounts to the baby. Most women store a lot and they waste a lot as well!

What if the baby does not finish the bottle of breast milk?

This is a valid question and you must know that your baby’s mouth contains bacteria. When the milk bottle comes in contact with the baby’s mouth, the bacteria go inside the milk. It spoils the milk and you have no idea how quickly it happens!

Can you store it for later?

Your baby has two hours to finish the milk and if he does not do it, then you have the option of throwing it. Yes, you would need to discard it. If you do not want to waste the milk, you can prepare small bottles. You would know about your baby’s appetite!

Prepare small quantities and give your baby as much milk as he/she drinks! It can be depressing to waste a lot of breast milk. You put a lot of effort to make the milk and it should not go wasted!

Did this post help you? Here is a small tip from us! You must store small quantity of milk as there are chances that the baby will not drink it all! It is best to feed the baby small amounts of milk. This will prevent wastage and you would not feel bad about throwing the milk away! It is best to store the milk in freezer milk bags and glass containers. Also, never bring the milk to boiling point. Another thing you need to keep in mind is to never keep the milk in the microwave oven. It can spoil the milk!

Do remember that it is human milk and a woman has produced it. It is not the usual cow milk! Take care of all the advices and suggestions that we made in this article! Your baby’s health is in your hands. Before you feed the baby, check the taste and smell. Be careful of what you give to the little one!
Breast milk is ideal for your baby! It is important to feed your baby your milk as it helps them grow big and stronger! Your little one can fight any disease in this world by having breast milk! It is full of nutrients and goodness. So, make sure you do not waste the precious milk and give small amounts to the little one. Store it, save it, cherish it and feed it to your baby!

Benefits of feeding breast milk

Breast milk protects your baby from a list of illnesses. According to several studies done around the world, it has been proved that diseases such as stomach viruses, respiratory diseases, and ear infections occur less on those, who have had had their mother’s milk. If the baby just drinks breast milk for 6 months and that does not include water, food and other solids then the baby will be free from diseases. For 6 months, the baby should only have breast milk. It is good for their health! Studies show that if the infant is given breast milk, it reduces the risk of cancer.

  • When you feed your baby breast milk, there are less chances of developing allergic reactions. Giving cow’s milk to infants is not a wise idea. The child would get allergic reactions which is not favourable! Secretory IgA is only present in breast milk. It helps in preventing allergic reactions. It protects the baby’s intestinal tract. The infants, who are not fed breast milk, would not get the protection and would be prone to allergic reactions.
  • Did you know that breast milk can reduce the risk of obesity? If you start with breast milk, your child will not be obese in the later stage. Feeding them cow’s milk or other solid foods is not wise. Feed them your own milk and they would be healthy and happy babies. The milk does not contain a high amount of insulin. Insulin stimulates the formation of fat which is not desirable.
  • Well, your baby benefits from your milk but you would enjoy it too! Some women experienced utter bliss after breast feeding. It relaxes the woman and you may also reduce some extra weight. Nursing your child triggers the release hormone oxytocin. Studies show that breast feeding is one of the ways to treat depression efficiently.
  • Once the baby starts having their mother’s milk, they will get stronger bones. As for the mothers, their bones get stronger once they start nursing. The mother’s body absorbs calcium at a faster speed. The bones in the spine and hips would be much denser after the mother starts nursing.
  • Breast feeding means delay ovulation! Your menstruation will be delayed and you can feel relaxed.
  • What more? You can learn a lot about your baby while you are nursing him. You develop a stronger bond with your little one. It is a great way to stay close to your angel.

In a nutshell, breast milk is great for your baby and you! Now let us cut to the chase and answer all your queries. Now that you have started creating milk, you need to know the basics whether it can sit out or not. How to tell if it is bad milk? We will cover all that and more in this post.


Hi there, I am Monica mother of one and this is my blog. I share some useful tips about pregnancy and specially parenting. xoxo

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