If you're breastfeeding your baby, then you already know your breasts are pretty amazing. Filled with the world's most nutritious food as if by magic, your breasts are, in fact, one of your super powers as a mom. But just because they can hold your baby's food supply doesn't mean there isn't a lot of work on your part. For parents pumping or doing a combo of pumping and breastfeeding, concerns about breast milk spoiling inside your boobs can be a little confusing. Is there an expiration date for your body's handmade liquid gold?
"Breast milk is a living organism, unlike the pasteurized cow's milk that we purchase at the store. The living components in breast milk are constantly changing based on your baby's needs and the lactating parent's microbiome," Heather O'Neal, a certified nurse-midwife and lactation consultant in West Virginia, tells Romper. These dynamic properties serve to protect the breast milk, as well as optimize the health of the infant eating the milk. "Good bacteria in the breast milk eliminates bad bacteria within the breast as well as outside of the breast in the form of pumped milk," O'Neal adds. Well that's a relief.
Another reason that moms sometimes worry about the freshness of breast milk is if they've pumped at some point and witnessed the separation of "foremilk and hindmilk" after it sits in the refrigerator for a few days, according to O'Neal. Not to worry, she says. "As your baby gets older and the time between feeds extends, there will be a separation of the components of breast milk within the breast, much like unpasteurized milk that sits in the refrigerator. This separation is completely normal and expected for milk that sits for a period of time. A gentle 'swirl' of the milk after heating will reconstitute the milky elements and make it look normal again."