How long can breastmilk be stored?

Breastmilk can be kept at room temperature, in the refrigerator or in the freezer, depending on the need. Per these CDC guidelines and Women’shealth, breastmilk can be stored:

Location of storage Temperature Maximum recommended
storage time
Notes
Room temperature 16-29ºC (60-85ºF) 3-4 hours optimal
6-8 hours acceptable under very clean conditions1
Covered containers
Insulated cooler bag2 15ºC (59ºF) 24 hours Keep ice packs in contact with milk container
Refrigerator ≤4ºC (39ºF) 72 hours optimal
5-8 days under very clean conditions
Store milk in the back of the main body of the refrigerator
Freezer compartment inside refrigerator -15ºC (5ºF) 2 weeks
Freezer with separate doors from refrigerator ≤-17ºC (0ºF) 6 to 12 months These recommendations are for quality only. Foods are kept safe almost indefinitely in the freezer.34 Store milk toward the back of the freezer.

Next: How can breastmilk be shipped or transported?

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  1. “Breastmilk can safely stand at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours and need not be discarded if the first feeding attempt is incomplete. In contrast, formula must be refrigerated and discarded after the first feeding attempt because it contains no antibodies or infection protection factors”. Lawrence, Ruth. Breastfeeding, A Guide for the Medical Profession. P. 438. Print. []
  2. According to the ABM: “Very few studies have evaluated milk storage safety at 15ºC (59ºF), which would be equivalent to a blue-ice pack in a small cooler. Hamosh et al. suggested that human milk is safe at 158C for 24 hours, based on minimal bacterial growth noted in the samples from their study.” []
  3. USDA freezing information []
  4. In ABM Clinical Protocol #8, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee writes: “The basic principles of freezing dictate that frozen foods at -18C (0F) are indefinitely safe from bacterial contamination, although enzymatic processes inherent in food could persist, with possible changes in milk quality.” []

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