How to Warm Up Breast Milk

baby drinking out of bottle

It’s nearly impossible to feed Baby straight from the boob at every single meal. Your job, social obligations, sleep schedules, and plenty of other things will inevitably get in the way. The solution? If you don’t want to stop breastfeeding, you can pump and store your breast milk.

Pumped milk will stay good for 3 to 5 days in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer, although it may lose some nutritional and antioxidant properties. (Baby will still get plenty of benefits, though!)

Before serving stored milk to your little one, you’ll probably warm it somewhere between room temperature and body temperature. Aim for around 99 degrees Fahrenheit as a guideline. Here’s how to warm up breast milk safely and effectively. 

Why Should You Warm Breast Milk?

There’s no harm in giving your baby cold milk. But breast milk is warm when babies nurse, so they'll prefer the familiarity of the temperature. Warming the milk also helps mix everything together (fat tends to separate when milk is cooled down in the fridge or freezer). 

Be careful not to go overboard, though: Too much heat can destroy the milk's enzymes and immunizing properties. Plus, warming milk above 104 °F might scald your baby.  

How to Warm Breast Milk

There are several effective methods for warming breast milk. Make sure you follow the instructions properly so you don't scald your little one. 

Use warm water. Get a bowl of warm water; you can gently heat the water on the stove or source it directly from the faucet. Place a tightly-sealed bag or bottle of breast milk into the water. Let the milk sit for a few minutes until it reaches body temperature. If the water cools too much, replace it with more warm water until the milk is warmed properly. Swirl the milk to incorporate the separated fat.  

Run under the tap. As another method, you can run tightly-sealed breast milk directly under the faucet. Make sure the tap water is warm (not hot) and swirl the bottle before feeding it to your baby. This method works well, but it wastes plenty of water. Therefore the first method is preferred when warming breast milk. 

Invest in a bottle warmer. This is probably the easiest way to heat up a bottle of breast milk, especially for middle-of-the-night feedings when you don't want to wait long. You can buy a warmer at stores like Buy Buy Baby, and be sure to follow the directions closely to avoid overheating.

Test the temperature. Never feed Baby without checking the temperature of the milk. To do this, shake a few drops onto your wrist. The liquid should feel neutral—not too hot or cold.

You can heat frozen breast milk. Defrost frozen breast milk in the refrigerator before warming it. Use defrosted milk within 24 to 48 hours, advises says Kelly A. Hightower, R.N., a certified lactation counselor. You can also heat frozen breast milk with the warm water method outlined above; however, it will take significantly more time.

Use within two hours. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should use warmed breast milk within two hours. Never refreeze breast milk that’s been thawed.

What Not to Do

Want to avoid burning your baby or putting her health in danger? Avoid these methods of warming your breast milk.

Skip the microwave. This appliance will distribute heat unevenly, increase the chances of burns, and also deplete the nutrients in the formula. What’s more, a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the August 2018 edition of Pediatric says this practice isn’t best. “Since heat can cause plastics to leak BPA and phthalates into food, avoid microwaving food or beverages (including infant formula and pumped human milk) in plastic when possible,” says an accompanying report, adding that these chemicals have been linked to health problems.

Never use the stovetop. Never place your bottle in boiling water on the stovetop. You can easily overheat the formula this way, and it's not safe with plastic bottles, which can melt in the extreme heat

By Linda DiProperzio and Nicole Harris


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