When you're a nursing mom, you do everything you can to make sure your milk supply is as healthy and fresh as possible. You cut back on caffeine, alcohol, and anything else you think could make your milk less than the best. After all, it is usually your baby's only source of nutrition for the first few months of his life. So it's only natural to be curious about exactly how long you can save your expressed milk before it goes bad. If you've ever looked at your expressed milk and scratched your head, you may have wondered can breast milk curdle?
Breast milk has some qualities that make it different from the milk you find in a carton at your local grocery store. The color, consistency, and even the flavor of breast milk can vary depending on the mom's diet, according to Medela. So you shouldn't be surprised if your milk looks different from that of one of your nursing mom friends.
As the State of New Jersey's Department of Health mentioned, a mother's milk is always fresh while it is inside of her breast and cannot spoil. However, once it is expressed, you will need to take special precautions to keep it fresh. According to Baby Center, breast milk can generally remain fresh at room temperature for up to four hours. It can be stored in the refrigerator safely for up to five days, and frozen for up to six months — even though your baby will most likely have gobbled it up long before then.
Because it isn't homogenized, when stored in the refrigerator, expressed breast milk will separate into layers — a cream layer at the top and a watery layer at the bottom, according to Kelly Mom. The cream layer contains all of the fat and proteins. You may even notice that the milk takes on a clumpy consistency. At first glance you may think that this milk needs to be tossed, but a simple swirl of the storage container will bring the two layers back together again.
If you're unsure about whether or not your expressed breast milk is still fresh enough to serve to your baby, you can use your nose to help you figure it out. As The Bump mentioned, like cow's milk, spoiled breast milk will have a pretty distinct odor. If you're still questioning the freshness of your stored milk, it's best to be on the safe side and toss it.