There is a lot of confusion about proper breast milk storage. That is because it seems like every source is giving us conflicting information on this topic! Some moms go by “the rule of 8″: 8 hours at room temperature, 8 days in the refrigerator, 8 months in the freezer. I’ve also heard this as the rule of 6 or the rule of 10 though. Which is right? Here is a compilation of the guidelines from a variety of sources. It is interesting to note how the guidelines differ based on the interests of the source.

Let’s start with some breastfeeding advocates:

Source Room Temp Refrigerator Freezer Deep Freezer
Kellymom 10 hours 8 days 3-6 months 6-12 months
Dr. Sears 10 hours 8 days 3-4 months 6+ months
LLL 4 hours (ideal);
up to 6 hours (acceptable);
(Some sources use 8 hours)
72 hours (ideal);
up to 8 days (acceptable)
6 months (ideal);
up to 12 months (acceptable)
*

Now let’s look at the guidelines from medical sources:

Source Room Temp Refrigerator Freezer Deep Freezer
CDC 6-8 hours 5 days 3-6 months 6-12 months
ABM 6-8 hours 5 days 3-6 months 6-12 months
AAFP 6-8 hours 5 days 3-6 months 6-12 months
AAP 4 hours 48 hours 3-6 months *

Now let’s look at the guidelines from companies who make breast pumps and accessories:

Source Room Temp Refrigerator Freezer Deep Freezer
Lansinoh 4 hours (ideal);
up to 6 hours (acceptable);
(Some sources use 8 hours)
72 hours (ideal);
up to 8 days (acceptable)
6 months (ideal);
up to 12 months (acceptable)
*
Ameda 6-10 hours 8 days 3-4 months 12 months
Medela 4-6 hours 3-8 days 6-12 months *
Hygeia 6-8 hours 5-7 days 3-6 months 6-12 months
Simplisse 6-8 hours 5 days 3-6 months 6-12 months

And finally, let’s look at the guidelines given by formula companies:

Source Room Temp Refrigerator Freezer Deep Freezer
Enfamil * 48 hours 3-4 months *
Nestle/
Gerber
* 24-48 hours up to 3 months *
Similac 3-4 hours 5 days * *

I’m not going to tell you which of these are the “right” guidelines, but after seeing the commonalities and differences, you can make a more informed decision for yourself.

*Note that cells are blank where I could find no recommendation for this condition from this source