As a newbie-mommy, there may be different reasons for you to opt to pump and feed breast milk to your munchkin. However, if you are storing the expressed milk in the freezer or refrigerator for using it subsequently, it is important to learn how to warm it up so that its nutrients remain intact! If you think that what is the big deal with warming up, well, it is trickier than you think. If you wish to learn different ways to warm up breast milk and other important aspects related to the topic, we suggest you read the following to get more information on the topic!
Why You Should Warm Breast Milk Before Feeding
If you wish to give cold breast milk to your baby, you can do that, and there is no harm in doing so. However, the milk that babies feed directly from the breast is lukewarm; this means babies may prefer warm milk than cold milk. Another important reason to warm up the milk is to make it more digestible and nourishing for the babies because warmer foods are easier to digest than colder ones. Also, when the milk is refrigerated or frozen, the fat usually separates, and by warming it up or even bringing it to the room temperature helps in restoring the consistency of the milk.
Preferable Temperature Range for Warming up Breast Milk
After you warm up the milk, you can gently mix or swirl the breast milk and squeeze a few drops on your inner wrist or elbow to check the temperature. The milk should feel neither too hot nor cold; it should feel just warm enough or neutral to your skin. However, if that may not work as a parameter for you, here are the temperature ranges that can help you guide better about the preferred temperature range of warming up breast milk:
1. 32 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit
You can feed your baby breast milk at this temperature range. However, sometimes babies may refuse to simply consume milk at this temperature because they may prefer warm milk. Also, this temperature may not be suitable for your baby’s digestion.
2. 98.6 Degrees Fahrenheit
This is normal body temperature and in sync with the actual temperature of breast milk. Warming milk up to this temperature also keeps all the nutrients intact too.
3. 99 to 105 Degrees Fahrenheit
Though this temperature is a bit higher than the regular body temperature, however, it is still lukewarm. This means you can feed breast milk warmed up at this temperature, and it will also not destroy any important nutritional contents of the milk.
4. 106 Degrees Fahrenheit And More
Warming up breast milk at this temperature or higher than this temperature is not recommended as the breast milk will no longer remain in the lukewarm stage. Milk warmed up at this temperature may not only lose its nutritional quotient, but it may also burn your baby’s mouth.
How to Warm up Breast Milk
You can warm breast milk with running water and various other ways. Here are some easy ways to warm up breast milk:
How to Warm Refrigerated Breast Milk
Follow these easy steps to warm refrigerated breast milk:
- First of all, take the breast milk out from the refrigerator.
- Use microwave, gas stove, or tea kettle to heat some water. Make sure the water is warm and not very hot. Pour the water in a bowl.
- Place the breast milk bottle or bag in the warm water. Make sure the bottle or bag is nicely sealed.
- You can leave the breast milk in warm water for a couple of minutes or until it is warm enough.
- Take out the bottle, screw it with the nipple, or if it is in a bag, transfer the contents in the bottle.
- If the milk fat seems to be separated, gently swirl breast milk. Refrain from shaking the warm breast milk bottle!
How to Warm Breast Milk From Freezer
If the breast milk is in a frozen state, you should thaw it overnight by placing it in the refrigerator. Follow the same process of warming up as done with the refrigerated breast milk. However, if you need the milk to feed the baby right away, you can use the same process of warming up the milk as you did with refrigerated milk. But you will have to place the milk in water for 15 to 20 minutes or more, depending on its volume and state.
Can You Microwave Breast Milk?
Do not use a microwave oven or put breastmilk directly into a pan to heat. Because doing so may kill the nutritional content and antibodies present in the milk. Also, heating is not evenly done in a microwave, which means it may leave hot spots that may burn your baby’s mouth. However, microwaves can be used for warming up water that is used for warming breast milk.
How to Heat up Breast Milk in a Bottle Warmer
You can simply place the bottle with breast milk in a bottle warmer and use the instructions given in the user’s manual to heat the bottle. Make sure you keep a close eye at all times to refrain the bottle from overheating. It may take a few minutes to achieve the desired warmth.
Is Bottle Warmer Safe To Warm Up The Breast Milk?
Most bottle warmer manufacturers claim that bottle warmers provide even heating in comparison to microwave ovens. Also, there are quite a few parents who swear by bottle warmers for heating formula as well as breast milk. However, the potential risk of overheating breast milk cannot be undermined. Rather a study published in 2015 states that using a bottle warmer may result in uneven heating or overheating of breast milk, which may also impact the nutritional value of breast milk.
How Long Is Warmed Breast Milk Good For?
Freshly pumped or expressed breast milk can stay good for approximately 6 to 8 hours, when kept at room temperature. However, the limit may reduce for approximately 4 hours in a comparatively warmer room or environment. If you are wondering how long does breast milk last after warming, well, breast milk that is warmed up has a shorter shelf life as compared to freshly pumped milk. This means that if you have warmed up the milk, you should use it within two hours of heating. And if you are planning to store larger quantities, then store them in smaller batches, which can be thawed and warmed separately. Storing two to four ounces for single use will be a viable thing to do, and if the need may arise, you can heat more milk as per requirement.
However, some women let the milk sit out for longer and are extremely comfortable with feeding the same to their babies too. But it always good to be safe and keep in mind the suggested time frames of storing the warmed-up breast milk, especially if your baby has compromised or weakened immunity.
Can You Reheat Breast Milk More Than Once?
Most mothers do not want to waste breast milk and store every ounce of it. However, if you have any leftover breast milk left, it is best to discard it. This is because when your baby is feeding on the bottle, the bacteria may enter the milk through the nipple, which may affect the nutritional content. However, some experts believe that any bacteria from the baby’s saliva may not make it bad because the antibodies from the breast milk fight such bacteria.
It is best to store breast milk in smaller batches that your baby usually consumes, ideally in 2 to 6 ounces bags. Doing so can prevent in reducing the chances of wastage. Also, make sure you label the bags with the date of packing and use the older ones first. You can safely store the breast milk in the refrigerator for up to four days and up to twelve months in the freezer.
Breast milk is a boon for your baby and can be stored for a considerable time under favourable conditions. However, if you let it sit out for long, it can spoil. If the milk smells, tastes, or looks strange, it is better not to use it.