Being able to pump your breast milk can be an amazing thing. It can free you up to have some much needed alone time, work a job (besides, you know, the full time job of motherhood), and make sure your baby still gets the full benefits of your breast milk even when you're away from them. But one of the most important parts of pumping is educating yourself about how to ensure your milk stays fresh, because, like any food, it's perishable. Researching how long breast milk lasts in the fridge can make the difference between fresh liquid gold and spoiled milk.
According to the Mayo Clinic, freshly expressed breast milk can sit at room temperature for a few hours (up to six). At this point, however, it's vital that it be moved to a refrigerator. After it's refrigerated, breast milk can last for three to eight days at temperatures of 39 degrees or lower, according to Medela.
Be sure to store your milk away from the door, where temperatures are lower, and instead opt for storing it in the coldest part of the fridge. Similarly, Medela, suggested labeling your milk with the date of expression, that way you can be sure to use the oldest milk first, or move it to the freezer before it passes the eight day mark.
If you're working to build a stockpile of your milk, it might be best to skip the fridge altogether and move it right to the freezer. However, if you're planning to feed it to your baby within the "freshness window," storing it in the fridge is both practical and the best way to ensure the vitamins and nutrients stay as fresh as possible.
Although pumping and storing your milk can seem like a hassle and a lot of extra work, when you're able to provide for your baby no matter where you're at, it's well worth the energy.