Is it safe to reuse expressed breast milk?

Many women tend to conserve their expressed milk for as long as it lasts. They value the milk so much that throwing it out makes them feel guilty of wasting a very precious substance. Unwittingly, though, they are putting child’s safety at risk every time they reuse leftover expressed breast milk.

How long does expressed breast milk last?

At present, no guideline is formulated for reusing expressed breast milk. In this case, it is best that one’s decision on whether reusing milk is safe or not be based on the knowledge. Although breast milk spoils slower than formula milk, it undergoes the same mechanism. Keeping it safe for infant consumption requires certain strategies. Scalding or boiling, refrigeration and freezing are some recommended ways for storing freshly expressed milk.

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Left-over breast milk may be refrigerated for one to two hours. If unused after the stated time, there is a possibility of spoilage.  It is therefore advisable not to use it. For formula milk, any unused solution needs to be discarded just after feeding, as the possibility of contamination is high. During feeding, the infant’s saliva may be transported into the bottle and mix with the milk formula.

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How to tell if expressed breast milk is still good

Listed below are things to consider in assessing the safety level of breast milk for infant consumption.

  • Appearance. Breast milk looks like a thin, nonfat milk and has a blue-tinged appearance. Reassurance is needed for some women, who may think the milk is not fit for consumption.
  • Smell. The presence of a rancid odor may indicate spoilage. The smell is produced as a result of the toxins generated as bacteria accumulate, fermenting the milk.
  • Taste. Milk may taste soapy due to the reaction of lipase to milk fat. The milk can still be used but some infants may not like the taste. If the milk becomes sour, it is best not use it, as it may indicate spoilage.
  • Method of storing. Breast milk left unrefrigerated has the fastest spoilage time compared to refrigerated or frozen milk.
  • Hygiene Breast milk having the characteristic of a good medium for bacterial growth, can easily be contaminated while manually expressing the milk and storing it. The cleanliness of the hands, storage bottle and facility must be observed to prevent contamination.
  • The duration of storage Refrigerated left-over breast milk needs to be consumed within one to two hours. Extended storage time increases the chances of contamination, resulting in milk spoilage. Left-over formula milk, on the other hand, should not be stored. The lack of antibodies that help fight bacterial contamination plus the possibility of saliva contamination makes it unfit for reusing.


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Reusing expressed breastmilk, even without refrigeration, is just fine for some women. With the lack of proper guidelines for reusing milk, they tend to formulate their own method of recycling milk like boiling or scalding just to keep it fit for reuse. They probably adopt the idea that as long as the baby seems to be satisfied and stays healthy, reusing breast milk presents no problem.

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