Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How long does breastmilk last

It seems there are a lot of differences in how long people recommend storing breastmilk. Sure, it is going to differ depending on how you store the milk. I've pulled some recommendations from multiple sources to show the variety of opinions. It is interesting as most of these recommendations are based upon different studies. I haven't had the time to dig in and understand the methods and details behind each of the recommendations.

From Kelly Mom -

 TemperatureStorage Time
Freshly expressed milk
Warm room 79°F / 25°C 4-6 hours
Room temperature 66-72°F / 19-22°C 10 hours
Insulated cooler /icepacks 60°F / 15°C 24 hours

Refrigerated Milk (Store at back, away from door)
Refrigerator (fresh milk) 32-39°F / 0-4°C 8 days
Refrigerator (thawed milk) 32-39°F / 0-4°C 24 hours
Frozen Milk
(Do not refreeze! Store at back, away from door/sides)
Freezer compartment inside refrigerator (older-style) Varies2 weeks
Self-contained freezer unit of a refrigerator/freezer Varies3-6 months
Separate deep freeze 0°F / 19°C 6-12 months
Source: Kelly Mom -

From CDC -

Countertop, table Room temperature (up to 77°F or 25°C) 6–8 hours Containers should be covered and kept as cool as possible; covering the container with a cool towel may keep milk cooler.
Insulated cooler bag 5-39°F or -15-4°C24 hours Keep ice packs in contact with milk containers at all times, limit opening cooler bag.
Refrigerator 39°F or 4°C5 days Store milk in the back of the main body of the refrigerator.
FreezerStore milk toward the back of the freezer, where temperature is most constant.  Milk stored for longer durations in the ranges listed is safe, but some of the lipids in the milk undergo degradation resulting in lower quality.
Freezer compartment of a refrigerator 5°F or -15°C2 weeks
Freezer compartment of refrigerator with separate doors0°F or -18°C 3–6 months
Chest or upright deep freezer -4°F or -20°C 6–12 months

Reference: Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. (2004)
Clinical Protocol Number #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Healthy Full Term Infants.


From La Leche League -

Preferably, human milk should be refrigerated or chilled right after it is expressed. Acceptable guidelines for storing human milk are as follows. Store milk:
Room temperature (66-78°F, 19-26°C)
4 hours (ideal), up to 6 hours (acceptable) (Some sources use 8 hours)
Refrigerator (<39°F, <4°C)72 hours (ideal); up to 8 days (acceptable)
Freezer (-0.4 to -4°F, -18 to -20°C)
6 months (ideal) up to 12 months (acceptable)


From Abbott Nutrition (makers of Similac) -

Refrigerator Use within 24 hours if possible. Discard after 72 hours.
Freezer Up to one month in freezer compartment of refrigerator. Do not store in door of freezer.
Deep Freezer 3 - 6 months (0 F or less); store at back of freezer. Best if used within 3 months.


So from these and other sources it seems that there is a range of acceptable storage times. It is interesting that a major manufacturer of formula bases their numbers on a study with some of the shortest storage times. One other good thing I've picked up is milk is probably not bad unless it smells bad or tastes sour.

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