How to Warm Up Breast Milk

Taking the Chill Off Stored Breast Milk

All that pumping pays off when you see the stockpiles of breast milk in your refrigerator or freezer. But how do you safely warm that milk so your little one wants to drink it? The best approach is to thaw and warm stored breast milk gently to keep as many nutrients intact as possible.

How Not to Warm Breast Milk

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How to Heat Up Breast Milk

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If you're thinking about zapping it in the microwave, stop right now. Microwaves are notorious for uneven heating. Even if you swirl the milk in the bottle, it may have hot spots that can burn your baby's delicate mouth. Plus, microwaves can zap some of the immunity-boosting factors in the breast milk, so your little one misses out on some of the key nutrients.

Warming milk directly on the stove is another method to avoid. It's easy to overheat the milk in a pan of water that's directly on the stove burner. The excess heat can scald the milk or ruin some of the nutrients.

Does Milk Need to Be Warmed?

Breast milk is fine for your baby straight from the refrigerator, no warming required. It is perfectly safe to feed your baby cold milk. But some babies prefer their milk a little warmer. Room-temperature breast milk satisfies the preferences of some babies, while others like their milk a few degrees warmer. Try cold or room temperature milk in your baby's bottle. If she doesn't seem to mind, you can save yourself some time on warming the milk.

Warming Refrigerated Milk

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How to Defrost Breast Milk

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If your little one refuses a bottle of breast milk straight from the refrigerator, you can heat it gently with a little water. Fill a bowl with warm water. Put the sealed storage bag or bottle into the bowl, letting it sit for 20 minutes or so. Add more warm water as needed. You can also safely use a bottle warmer to bring the milk to an appealing temperature. After the milk is warm, swirl the bottle gently to mix in the fats, which can separate during storage. Don't shake or stir the milk.

Thawing Frozen Milk

Excess breast milk safely lasts in the freezer for about six months. If you have a separate deep freeze, the milk should still be good at 12 months, but it's best by the six-month mark.

When you're ready to serve up the frozen milk, you need to thaw it before warming. The safest way to thaw the milk is by putting it in the refrigerator, where it can gradually turn back into liquid. A small portion of breast milk should thaw in the refrigerator in about 12 hours. Switch it from the freezer to the fridge at night to have thawed milk ready the next day. Once it's completely thawed, use the milk within 24 hours. Don't have 12 hours to wait for the fridge-thaw method? Warm water works for thawing, as well. Hold the container under running water, starting with cool water and gradually working up to a warmer temperature. Once it's thawed, you can leave it in warm water a little longer to reach the desired feeding temperature.

Testing Breast Milk Temperatures

How do you know when the breast milk is the right temperature? The old milk-on-the-wrist trick still works today. After you swirl the bottle of milk to disperse the heat evenly, squeeze a few drops onto your inner wrist area. If it feels hot to you, it's way too hot for your baby's mouth. If it feels cold, you can put it back in a fresh bowl of warm water to raise the temperature a little.