Best Practices for Warming Breast Milk

Best Practices for Warming Breast Milk: Everything You Need to Know

As a parent, you may have experienced the challenge of quickly feeding a crying baby in the middle of the night or during a fussy episode. In these situations, having a ready-to-go bottle of breast milk can be a lifesaver. However, you may wonder if the milk needs to be warmed up before giving it to your baby. In this article, we will explore why warming up breast milk is important and provide tips on how to safely and efficiently warm up breast milk for your baby.

Why warm breast milk?

Breast milk does not necessarily have to be warmed before feeding it to your baby, but many babies prefer it to be warmed to a comfortable temperature. When babies drink milk directly from the breast, it is naturally warm, so warming breast milk can be soothing and comforting for them. Additionally, warm milk can preserve breast milk's nutritional value and consistency, which can be affected if it is heated too quickly or unevenly. Finally, cold milk can be uncomfortable for babies to drink and even cause digestive problems.

Ultimately, whether or not you warm up your breast milk is a personal choice that depends on your baby's preferences and your feeding routine. If you do choose to warm up your breast milk, it's important to do so safely and gradually. Here is everything you need to know about warming breast milk.

Recommended temperature range

When warming up breast milk, it's crucial to do so within a safe temperature range. The best temperature for warming frozen breast milk is 35-40°C (95-104°F). If the milk is too hot, it can destroy vital nutrients and burn your baby's mouth, throat, and esophagus. On the other hand, if the milk is too cold, it can cause discomfort and digestive issues.

Safe methods to warm breast milk

1. Bowl of Warm Water

One of the simplest ways to warm up breastmilk is to place the bottle or bag in a bowl of warm water. Fill a bowl with warm (not hot) water and place the bottle or bag in the water. Be sure to stir the milk occasionally to ensure that it heats evenly. This method can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the temperature of the water and the size of the bottle or bag.

2. Running Warm Water

If you're short on time, you can also try holding the bottle or bag under running warm water. This method can be faster than using a bowl of water, but it can be difficult to control the temperature of the water and ensure that the milk heats evenly.

3. Bottle Warmer

The best way to warm up breastmilk is to use a bottle warmer. A bottle warmer is a device designed specifically to heat up bottles of breastmilk or formula to a safe and consistent temperature.

One great option for moms is the Papablic 5-in-1 Ultra-Fast Baby Bottle Warmer. This versatile machine can warm up breastmilk, formula, and even baby food quickly and easily. It features five different settings for different types of bottles and materials, so moms can customize the warming process to their specific needs. And because it uses gentle, low-temperature warming, it won't damage the milk or harm the baby in any way.

If you're on the go, consider using a portable bottle warmer.

4. Let it come to room temperature

This method is also convenient and does not require any special equipment or preparation. Simply remove the bottle or storage container from the fridge and place it on a countertop or table at room temperature. Depending on the temperature of your room, it may take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for the milk to come to room temperature.

Please Note:

  • Only for breast milk that has NOT been frozen
  • You should not leave breast milk out at room temperature for more than two hours, as this can increase the risk of bacterial growth and contamination.

Safety Tips

  • Store breast milk in clean, sterilized, BPA-free bottles or breast milk storage bags.; follow CDC guidelines for storage times and temperatures.
  • Be sure to check the temperature of the liquid before feeding it to the baby. Put a few drops of breast milk on the inside of your wrist, and it should feel comfortably warm, not hot.

Warm breast milk from the freezer

Remove the breast milk from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. It takes about 12 hours for frozen breast milk to thaw in the fridge (depending on how much you have). Once the milk has thawed, you can warm it by the ways list above, similar to warming from the refrigerator. Just be sure to use the breast milk within 24 hours once it’s been thawed in the refrigerator.

Can you microwave breast milk?

It is not recommended to microwave breast milk because it can cause hot spots to form, which can burn your baby's mouth and throat. In addition, microwaving can also destroy some of the beneficial nutrients and antibodies present in breast milk.

If you must use a microwave, there are some precautions you can take to reduce the risk of hot spots. First, make sure to stir the milk thoroughly after heating to distribute any hot spots. Also, test the temperature of the milk before feeding it to your baby by placing a few drops on the inside of your wrist. The milk should feel lukewarm, not hot.

Can you reheat the breastmilk that already be warmed?

Yes, you can reheat breast milk that has been previously warmed, as long as you follow some guidelines.

If you have warmed the breast milk and your baby does not finish the bottle, you can store the remaining milk in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours. When you are ready to use the milk again, you can gently reheat it.

Please note: you should not reheat breast milk more than ONCE.

Can you refreeze the breastmilk that already be thew or warmed?

It's not safe to refreeze the breastmilk that already be warmed. 

When breast milk is frozen and then thawed, its quality begins to degrade due to the breakdown of certain components within the milk. When you refreeze previously thawed breast milk, the degradation process continues, and the quality of the milk further deteriorates. Additionally, refreezing breast milk can also increase the risk of bacterial growth. Once a baby sucks on the bottle, it’s contaminated with saliva and is a breeding ground for bacteria. 

Try to only use the amount of breast milk that you need for one feeding and discard any leftovers. This will help to ensure that your baby is receiving the best possible nutrition and minimize the risk of any harmful bacteria.

Warming breast milk on the go

Warming breast milk on the go can be a bit more challenging, but there are several ways to do it safely:

Bring a portable warmer: Fill a thermos with warm water and place the bottle of breast milk in the water. This will help to warm the milk gradually and evenly. Make sure the water is not too hot, as this can damage the nutrients in the breast milk.

Use body heat: Place the bottle of breast milk in your pocket or between your shirt and your skin to warm it with your body heat. This method may take longer, but it can be a convenient option when you're on the go.

Plan ahead: If you know you'll be out and about with your baby, consider bringing a bottle of pre-warmed breast milk with you. You can warm the milk before you leave and then store it in an insulated bottle carrier to keep it warm until it's time to feed your baby.

Regardless of the method you choose, always test the temperature of the breast milk before feeding it to your baby. Drop a few drops on your wrist to ensure that it is at a safe and comfortable temperature.