How To Warm Breast Milk To Keep Its Nutrients Intact

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Though formula feeding is an option most new mums have, many of them choose to breastfeed their baby for reasons they deem fit. If you’ve decided to breastfeed your baby too, you might be wondering about the best ways to reheat bottled breast milk so that none of its nutritional value is lost.

Well, we’re here to help! In this article, we’ll give you the low-down on heating bottled breast milk so you have all the information you need on this ‘hot’ topic.

Why It’s Best To Warm Bottled Breast Milk

Although there’s no real harm in giving your little one cold breast milk, it’s not ideal. Breast milk’s natural temperature is lukewarm, and that’s what babies prefer. Besides, babies also find it easier to digest warm milk, especially if they’re premature (1). Moreover, in frozen milk, the fat generally separates, leading to uneven consistency, which can be solved by warming and swirling the milk (2).

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Ideal Temperature For Warming Breast Milk

Typically, breast milk should neither be too hot nor too cold. The objective is to bring the milk to your normal body temperature i.e. 98.6° Fahrenheit, as that’s the natural temperature of breast milk (3).

You can try giving your baby breast milk between the temperature range of 99° and 105° Fahrenheit, as it’s still lukewarm at this temperature with all the nutrients intact.

Avoid giving your baby breast milk at a temperature of 106° Fahrenheit and higher. The milk becomes too hot to consume at this range, causing ulcers in the mouth and loses its nutritional value.

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The Best Way To Reheat Breast Milk

The best way to warm up breast milk depends on how and where it was stored. Let us explain.

  • Warming Refrigerated Breast Milk

To warm refrigerated breast milk, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  1. Take out bottled breast milk from the fridge.
  2. Warm some water on a stove or microwave and pour it into a bowl. Ensure the water’s warm, not hot.
  3. Put the bottled breast milk in the bowl, ensuring that the bottle is tightly sealed.
  4. Leave the bottle in the bowl for a few minutes or until it feels warm in the hands.
  5. Gently swirl the breast milk to achieve an even consistency.
  • Warming Frozen Breast Milk

Warming frozen breast milk takes one extra step as compared to the refrigerated one. You have to thaw the milk in the refrigerator overnight first (4). Or put it in warm water for 15-20 minutes. You can also hold the bottle under running lukewarm water to thaw it out and then follow the warming steps given above. Just be sure to use the oldest bottled breast milk first. And don’t forget to use the thawed milk within 24 hours of thawing it in the refrigerator. Also, thawed milk that has been brought to room temperature should be given to the baby within 2 hours of warming.

Should You Microwave Breast Milk?

The short answer is no. You should never warm breast milk in a microwave (5). Microwaves are unable to heat consumables evenly, resulting in hot spots that will likely burn your little one’s mouth. Besides, microwaves also kill the antibodies and nutrients present in breast milk, thereby robbing it of its nutritive value.

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Using A Bottle Warmer For Breast Milk

Many parents use a bottle warmer to heat breast milk. The best way to use one is to religiously follow the instructions given on the manual. Be sure to check up on the warmer from time to time so that the milk doesn’t overheat. Lastly, unplug the warmer once you’re done using it.

Should You Use A Bottle Warmer?

Though a bottle warmer is one way to go, it should not be your preference. Research shows that bottle warmers tend to overheat breast milk, which can damage its nutritional content (6). Though the study doesn’t mention the specific brand of bottle warmer they used for testing, it’ll be safer to use a thermometer to test the temperature of the milk heated in a bottle warmer before giving it to your baby.

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How Long Can You Use Reheated Breast Milk?

You can safely use reheated breast milk for up to 2 hours after reheating. Once 2 hours are up, it’s best to discard the milk. You should not reheat the milk you’ve warmed previously. Neither should you refreeze milk that was previously frozen and thawed. That said, freshly expressed breast milk can be used for up to 4 hours, post which it should be either refrigerated or discarded (7). The best practice is to heat only as much milk as you require.

We hope we cleared some of the confusion you may have had concerning the warming of breast milk. But as long as you follow these safe storage and warming practices, you have nothing to worry about.