Learning how to safely express, store and feed breast milk can be a little confusing for a new mom. Keeping breast milk at room temperature might be easiest, but there are some things you should remember before going this route. A few simple considerations can make using expressed milk less stressful for you and safer for baby.
How Often to Express Milk
There is no one answer to the question of how often to express breast milk. The timing varies depending on how often your baby eats, whether you are spending blocks of time away from your baby and how much milk you are producing. Your body meets the demand that you and your baby set for milk: the more you feed and pump, the more you produce. So if you are in a situation where you need to store milk for feeding while you are away, you should be pumping as often as you can.
Shelf Life of Breast Milk
Freshly expressed milk can be kept at room temperature for up to six hours, according to MayoClinic.com. If you know you will be using the milk within this time, keeping it at room temperature is easier for feeding, as you don't have to worry about refrigerating and reheating. Make sure to keep freshly expressed milk in a sealed container, and if you realize you will not be feeding your baby within that time frame, get it into the refrigerator as soon as possible.
The Benefits of Refrigeration
Freshly expressed milk can be stored in the refrigerator for five to eight days, according to MayoClinic.com, and can be a safer bet than keeping the milk at room temperature. If you find yourself suffering from "mom" brain -- the forgetfulness that often befalls new moms due to lack of sleep -- then put the milk in the fridge. It's easy to forget that you have left it out, and if left out too long, it needs to be discarded. When storing milk in refrigerator, make sure to store it in the back of the refrigerator and never on the door.
If you decide not to store milk at room temperature, it should be reheated before feeding. Milk should be heated to barely lukewarm, resembling the temperature that it is when it leaves the body. Never heat milk in the microwave, as this type of heating is uneven and can create pockets of very hot milk that can burn your baby's mouth. It's best to put the milk in a bottle or breast milk storage bag and submerge in hot water until it reaches the right temperature.