How to Heat Up Breast Milk

The Safest Way to Warm Baby's Food

Babies are not known for their flexibility and openness to change. So while cold milk may seem tasty to you, your infant is used to enjoying milk straight from your warm body and may not be willing to drink anything else. Expressed milk that you've stored in the fridge or freezer won't please that picky eater until you heat it up. Using a stove or microwave heats milk unevenly and may make it dangerously hot, so turn to other methods to warm your baby's food.

In Hot Water

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How to Warm Up Breast Milk

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The easiest way to safely heat breast milk is to use warm water. Fill a small bowl or large mug with warm (not boiling) water. The water should be warm enough that you can put your fingers in it without discomfort; think warm shower water. Running the container of milk under a running stream of warm water works too, but wastes a lot of water.

Place a capped bottle of breast milk in the water and swirl it gently for 30 seconds or so. Depending on how cold the milk is and how warm the water is, it may take as long as a few minutes to heat the milk adequately.

The swirling motion will heat the milk evenly. If any fat has risen to the top of the milk, swirling the bottle will evenly mix the milk so it's even in consistency. It's also safe to use this method to warm milk that has been stored in a plastic bag, provided it's a bag that was designed especially to store breast milk.

Use the same method to thaw and heat frozen milk, but first let the container of frozen milk sit in the warm water for a few minutes. Once it starts thawing, the swirling movement should help it liquefy fairly quickly.

Temperature and Testing

The ideal temperature for breast milk is around body temperature. After all, that's what your baby is used to. When your baby's hungry, don't bother messing around with thermometers. Use the time-honored method of testing milk's temperature: dribble a few drops onto your wrist. The skin there is thin and sensitive, so milk that feels hot on your wrist is too hot for your baby. If it's the right temperature, it will feel neither hot nor cold on your skin.

Be careful to wash your hands with warm soapy water before handling the milk and bottle. Don't put a nipple on the bottle until you're ready to feed the baby, to keep this mouthpiece clean until it enters her mouth.

Other Heating Methods

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How to Store Breast Milk

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If you have the counter space to spare, you may want to invest in a bottle warmer that's safe for use with breast milk. A travel bottle warmer may also be a smart investment, depending on how much time you spend on the go. Some varieties plug into a car adapter. Others work like thermoses. Before you leave home, you can fill an outer chamber with hot water. A bottle should stay warm for hours in the inner chamber.

Other methods of heating breast milk aren't ideal. High heat may destroy some of the nutrients in the milk. Heating a bottle in the microwave may also cause it to explode, which is both dangerous and a tragic waste of that hard-earned milk.