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How to Tell If Your Breast Milk Has Gone Bad (3 Quick Tips)

Breast milk is quite a bit different from any other milk, and from any baby formula. You can easily tell whether these have gone bad by taking a quick whiff.

Breast milk doesn’t quite work that way, though. Instead, you’ll need to follow these tips to make sure that it is still good. 

Quick Tips To Tell If Breast Milk Is Bad

There are some obvious ways to tell if breast milk is bad. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when using each of these methods. We’ll go over what you need to know to tell if your milk is safe to feed your little one. 

1. Follow Standard Storage Guidelines

One of the easiest ways to tell if your breast milk is bad is by looking at the date. If you freeze your milk in advance, you should write the date that it was pumped and stored.

As a general rule of thumb, breast milk will only be good if used within six months. If it’s been six months, toss it to be on the safe side. Make sure you’re also using proper breast milk storage.

Some breast milk will expire at three months, though. Because of this, make sure that you double-check the milk before feeding it to your little one if it’s been past the three-month mark. 

When storing breast milk at room temperature, the longest it is good for will be 6 hours. If it’s been longer than six hours, throw it out.

It’s recommended that you use it within four hours though. That means that if you can’t use it within four hours, it’s okay until six, but that is the longest you can leave it to sit out and it still is good. 

In the refrigerator, breast milk will last a bit longer than it will at room temperature. You can store breast milk in the fridge for 3-8 days. Most people toss it on day 7 just to make sure.

cold breastmilk

Remember That Switching Storage Methods Doesn’t Always Make It Last Longer

If breast milk has been in the fridge for 6 days, moving it to the freezer won’t instantly buy you another six months. This makes sense, but it doesn’t work that way.

Your breast milk will be frozen in the same state it was in, so it will already be almost expired when it is frozen. This means that it will only be good for 1-2 months in the freezer.

Once you thaw it out, it needs to be fed to your baby immediately instead of waiting. This is why it’s a great idea to freeze fresh breast milk.

If Your Baby Has Drank From A Bottle, It’s Only Good For Two Hours

If you’re feeding your little one breast milk from a bottle, it’s important to follow those guidelines as well. Once your baby drinks from a bottle, the milk can only be used within two hours.

In this period of time, bacteria grows both on the nipple and in the breast milk. If it’s been more than a couple of hours, it can make your baby sick from the bacteria growth. 

2. Double Check The Appearance To Tell If Breast Milk Is Good

Once you pump breast milk, it begins to separate. You’ll see this if you pump breast milk and leave it to sit out for a few hours.

Once you freeze breast milk, you’ll see it when it is frozen as well as after you thaw it out. The fat will be on top while the watery part will be at the bottom. This is perfectly normal. 

Once you stir or shake the breast milk, it should mix back together. That only happens if the breast milk is not bad, though.

If it’s bad, it won’t mix back together properly. Instead, you’ll notice that it doesn’t mix at all or there are still chunks in the milk. If this happens, toss it. 

breastmilk difference

The Color Will Not Tell You If Breast Milk Has Gone Bad

Breast milk color varies, and yours will the entire time that you’re breastfeeding. It can range in colors from white to yellow.

If your nipples were cracked at the time you pumped the milk, this can result in small traces of blood making it’s way to the milk. Then, the breast milk will appear pink.

Because there are so many variations in color, it’s best not to rely on this to determine whether the milk is bad. 

3. Smelling Your Breast Milk Can Tell You If It’s Bad

What storage method you’re using will determine if this actually works. If the breast milk has been stored in the refrigerator or was left sitting out, smell it. If it smells sour, it’s more than likely bad. 

However, if you stored breast milk in the freezer the smell test doesn’t necessarily apply. Some women have more Lipase than other women.

This results in their breast milk smelling sour or having a soap smell after it’s been placed in the freezer anyway. 

Most moms don’t realize that they have a high amount of Lipase until they realize that their breast milk smells sour. This is why it’s helpful to do a test. Store some fresh breast milk in the freezer.

Smell it after six days. The time limit is long enough that your milk will smell sour from the Lipase, but short enough that you know it is still safe for your baby. 

Some Babies Will Reject High Lipase Milk

If you notice that your milk smells sour even though it’s still good, it is still safe to feed to your baby. However, some babies will refuse to drink it. If you run into this problem, you can scald your breast milk before freezing it.

To do this, simply heat up your breast milk in a pan until you can see bubbles around the edges of the pan. Make sure not to boil it. Then, remove the pan and quickly cool the milk in an ice bath before storing it.

baby and mother after breastfeeding

Another wonderful solution is to mix this milk with fresh milk. It can even out the taste to encourage babies to drink it. You might find that your little one will drink the milk without you having to scald it if it tastes just a little bit sweeter. 

Last, try lowering the setting on your breast pump. If you can, pump on the lowest setting available. This will take longer, but some moms report that their milk does not smell or taste as sour when there is less pressure used while pumping. 

In Conclusion

Pumping breast milk is a task in itself, so you want to make sure that you’re not wasting your time, your effort, or your breast milk.

Use proper storage methods to make sure that your breast milk is good. Then, use these methods to double-check so your little one doesn’t get sick.