• How Long Does Breast Milk Last in Room Temp, Ref, and Freezer?

    The guidelines you need for expressing, storing, and thawing breast milk.
    by Rachel Perez .
  • How Long Does Breast Milk Last in Room Temp, Ref, and Freezer?
    IMAGE iStock
  • People call breast milk "liquid gold" for a good reason. It's simply the best milk your baby can receive. You know the benefits: Antibodies that protect newborns from illnesses and cash savings that could have been spent on formula and sterilizer. And moms get a lot of perks from breastfeeding, too (read what they are here).

    Because every single drop counts, so moms who can't do a direct latch are recommended to express milk, which helps to relieve the pain of engorged breasts. Many working moms do this to bank breast milk.

    Expressing and storing milk does take a little bit of work, but once you have the basics and routine down, your baby gets to have every drop of that precious liquid gold. 

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    How to express breast milk
    Expressing breast milk by hand is the least likely way to contaminate breast milk. If you're using a manual or electric pump, make sure your breast pump, milk containers, and other nursing paraphernalia are clean and dry before every single pumping session. 

    Try to empty both breasts when expressing milk. But keep in mind that your milk container or bag should only contain what your little one consumes in one feeding. And leave your container some room for the milk to expand when frozen, shares L.A.T.C.H. breastfeeding peer counselor Jenny Ong on her blog

    Seal the bag and label with the date and time you expressed the milk. When you take the milk bags out of storage, you need to use the "first-in, first out" rule: Consume first the milk bag labeled with oldest date and time expressed.  

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    How to store breast milk
    The Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Gabay sa Nanay sa Tamang Pagpapasuso state that breast milk must be in a sealed container and placed in a bowl of cold water at room temperature for 10 to 12 hours. If it's in an ice box cooler, it's good for 24 to 48 hours. If it is placed in a refrigerator, it's safe to store for three to five days. Breast milk in a freezer is good for three to six months, and in a chest freezer, it's good for a year.

    Dr. Teresa Maria Ribaño, pediatrician and lactation consultant at Makati Medical Center, shares her "Rule of Three's" when storing breast milk: Three hours, three days, three months.

    "If the milk stays in the room temperature up to 30 degrees, it’s good for three hours," she explained during Makati Medical Center's Pregnancy & Beyond, the first leg of the series held last February 24, 2018. "If you put it in the refrigerator, it’s good for three days. If you put it in the freezer, it’s good for three to six months," she added. 

    Place the milk in the ref or freezer in the far back where it's coldest. If you're using an ice box or insulated bag, make sure ice packs are always in contact with the milk and try not to open the bag often. Mom Rodessa Villanueva-Reyes, who donates breast milk, shares that she fills in the gaps in her insulated bag with a towel or crumpled paper to help maintain the cold temperature. 

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    How to thaw breast milk
    Just leave the frozen expressed milk in the refrigerator overnight or hold the milk container under running water. Once thawed, place it in a bowl of warm water. This process may take time, so it helps to plan. (Remember: first in, first out.) Never microwave breast milk!

    "Once you thaw a bag of breast milk, it needs to be used within 24 hours," Dr. Ribaño said. "Once the milk touches the lips or has the saliva of the baby, it needs to be used within one to two hours," she stressed.

    Don't re-freeze or re-thaw breast milk. It's the reason why you divided your breast milk into portions that your child usually consumes in one feeding.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's best not to mix freshly expressed milk with thawed or warmed milk. But if you're combining two bags of expressed milk, make sure first that both bags of milk are of the same temperature. Don't mix cold milk with warm milk or vice versa.

    Your milk does change over time to suit our growing baby. Don't be surprised if your breast milk also looks different when frozen and thawed. As long as you stick to the guidelines above, your liquid gold is still good for your baby to consume. 

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