Breast Milk At Room Temperature

Recommendations For Thawing and Storing Breast Milk At Room Temperature
How long can you leave breast milk out at room temperature?. Image Source/Getty Images

How Long Can Breast Milk Stay Out At Room Temperature?

For healthy, full-term infants, freshly expressed breast milk can stay out at room temperature (Up To 77 degrees F or 25 degrees C) for approximately 5 to 8 hours.

Bacteria is all around.  It can be on your hands, on the skin of your breasts, or on the parts of your breast pump. When you express your breast milk, some bacteria gets into the milk.

 But, don't worry, when you store your breast milk safely, this small amount of bacteria will not harm a healthy, full term baby.

Breast milk contains antibacterial and immune properties that can prevent bacteria from growing inside of it for many hours. However, the longer it is left out, the more time the bacteria has to multiply. Temperature also plays a significant role in the growth of bacteria. The higher the temperature of the room, the faster the bacteria can grow. So, to be safe, you should ideally use room temperature breast milk within 4 to 5 hours. But, if necessary, you could extend that time up to about 8 hours (preferably in a cooler room). After 8 hours out at room temperature, the bacteria can grow to unsafe levels.

While I have seen some sources state that due to the antibacterial properties found in human milk, it can remain at room temperature for as long as 10 to 12 hours, that is generally not the accepted recommendation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) recommend that breast milk should not stay out at room temperature for longer than 6 to 8 hours. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no longer than 4 hours.

These guidelines do not apply to premature infants or children that do not have healthy immune systems.

The bacterial growth that occurs in breast milk that is left out at room temperature can be dangerous to children who at a higher risk of infection. In general, breast milk expressed for premature or hospitalized infants should be used within one hour or refrigerated. Discuss the recommended storage guidelines for your situation with your child's health care providers.

Tips For Storing Breast Milk At Room Temperature

  • The temperature of the room should not be over 77 degrees F or 25 degrees C. The cooler the room, the better.
  • If the room temperature is greater than 77 degrees F (25 degrees C), do not leave your breast milk out all. Place it in the refrigerator or an insulated cooler with ice packs immediately.
  • Once you collect your breast milk into the storage container, put a top or cap onto the breast milk storage bottle or seal the storage bag.
  • Place a cold towel over the storage container to keep the milk cooler.
  • Keep your breast milk away heat, windows, or areas where it may be exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Breast milk that has been in the refrigerator can be placed at room temperature for up to 4 hours.
  • Frozen breast milk should NOT be stored or defrosted at room temperature.
  • Frozen breast milk that has been thawed in the refrigerator, but NOT warmed up, can remain at room temperature for up to 4 hours.
  • Frozen breast milk that has been defrosted AND warmed up should be used immediately or placed in the refrigerator. It should NOT be stored at room temperature for any length of time.


See Also: The Quick Reference Guide To Breast Milk Storage



Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information For Home Use For Healthy Full Term Infants. 2004. Princeton Junction, New Jersey

American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding Initiatives. FAQs. Accessed March 15, 2015:

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Proper Handling and Storage of Human Milk. 2010. Accessed March 1, 2015:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

Riordan, J., Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2010.

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