Before feeding with expressed mothers’ milk, there are several safeguards to understand when storing and providing stored breast milk. Most assuredly, breast pumps have added flexibility for new mothers who travel or go back to work, but there are limitations without careful planning and an understanding of how to store and use expressed mothers’ milk.
Research shows that freshly-expressed breast milk is best because breast milk can lose some of its vitamin C when refrigerated or frozen. In most cases, the storage method used for extending the life of breast milk determines how long expressed breast milk will safely keep.
Fresh breast milk will keep up to six hours at room temperature. When using an insulated cooler with ice packs, expressed breast milk will keep up to 24-hours. It’s okay to refrigerate fresh breast milk for up to four days when kept in the coldest regions of a refrigerator. When freezing breast milk, it is best to use it within six months.
The Mayo Clinic recommends storing breast milk in a food-grade glass or hard-plastic container made without bisphenol A (BPA) chemicals. And it’s widely known not to store breast milk in disposable baby bottles or general household plastic bags. When properly storing mothers’ breast milk, label each container with the date it was expressed and with the baby’s name when other babies receive similarly contained breast milk.
Discarding unused or stored expressed breast milk is always recommended when unsure of its age, source, or possible contamination.