How to Warm Breast Milk From Fridge : Do’s & Don’ts

Tips for Saving, Freezing, and Reusing Breast Milk

This is a frequent asked questing by pregnant women & others alike. Can you reheat breast milk? Read the guide & tips on how to safely reheat breast milk.

Situations can arise where a woman, after giving birth to a baby, struggles to find time to breastfeed the baby or becomes unavailable at times when the baby is hungry. Such situations call for the woman’s need to extract and preserve breast milk for the child in case the child gets hungry and needs to be fed. 

Newly expressed breast milk will normally survive standard temperature for up to 8 – 10 hours. Challenges come when you have to be away for longer periods, and there is the need to preserve the breast milk by refrigeration or freezing. When the baby is about to be fed, you have to reheat the breast milk to warm to a desirable temperature for the baby.

In essence, it is fair to say that breast milk can be refrigerated or frozen for preservation and then reheated for consumption. But it is pertinent to note that whenever it is reheated, there is a reduction in its nutrients.

Also, every time the breast milk is consumed by the baby and the remains are stored, there’s a likelihood that bacteria from the baby’s mouth has mixed with the breast milk during feeding. Such bacteria introduced into breast milk can cause the milk to go bad very soon. Hence, the need for proper storage to ensure breast milk is safe for future consumption.

How You Can Preserve Breast Milk in a Fridge?

The following steps will guide you on how to store breast milk by refrigeration;

  • Ensure to put the leftover breast milk in the fridge immediately after feeding or freshly expressed.
  • Place the milk in clean bottles or storage bags. Avoid containers that could contaminate the milk with BPA (toxic materials found in plastic) materials.   
  • Avoid adding any freshly expressed milk (with body temperature) to already refrigerated milk. You can only do this, only if you have cooled the milk a little and the quantity you are adding is considerably small.
  • Ensure to place the breast milk in a cold compartment of the fridge, with a consistent temperature.

Safe Ways to Reheat Refrigerated Breast Milk

Breast milk can safely be stored in a refrigerator without worrying for up to 7 – 8 days. But during the process of reheating, ensure you apply mild and even heat so as to avoid losing some of the vital nutrients to heat.

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Safe ways to warm milk involve using a bottle warmer, placing the milk in a container of warm water, or even placing the container of breast milk under warm water that is running. Ensure to stir evenly and gently to distribute the fat that was separated in the process of freezing. 

The goal is basically to avoid direct heating of the breast milk so as not to lose some of the nutrients.

How you Can Preserve Breast Milk in Freezer

The following steps will guide you on how to store breast milk by freezing; 

  • Ensure to place the freshly expressed breast milk in the freezer immediately.
  •  Avoid adding any freshly expressed milk (with body temperature) to already frozen milk. You can only do this if you have cooled the freshly expressed milk a little, and the quantity is small.
  • Use small containers of about 60ml to store your milk. It reduces wastage and makes it easy to defrost.
  • Always ensure that you use containers that can withstand very low temperatures that are found in freezers. Quite a lot of containers crack when subjected to these low temperatures in freezers.
  • Breast milk has the capacity to expand during freezing. Ensure to fill only three-quarters of the container’s capacity with breast milk.
  • Ensure to place the breast milk in a compartment of the freezer with a consistent temperature. 

Safe Ways to Defrost Breast Milk

Much like refrigeration, freezing breast milk is another way to store it. But depending on the freezing capacity of the freezer, it takes a longer time than refrigeration. After freezing, a day or two before you use the frozen milk, you can place it in the refrigerator to enable it to unfreeze steadily.   

For situations where there’s an urgent need for the milk, you can place the container under warm running water or on top of warm water in a bowl to unfreeze it. If placed in a warm water bowl, check and change the warm water intermittently because the warm water gets cool gradually with time as the milk unfreezes.

The primary reason why we avoid direct heating of breast milk during thawing is to avoid overheating the breast milk to higher temperatures. If properly monitored and regulated, breast milk can be unfrozen on the stove. 

Follow these Guidelines to Use Stored Breast Milk

When breast milk is stored, the fats separate and rise to the top. This makes the breast milk solution to form different layers. It is required that you shake the breast milk gently to allow for proper mixture before the baby is fed. If you shake with too much force, the breast milk might lose some of its vital nutrients in the process. 

As said earlier, it is best to store leftover breast milk in small amounts. To avoid wasting breast milk or exposing the milk to saliva from the baby’s mouth.  

We conclude by emphasizing that no research has concluded if unfinished milk is safe or unsafe. But based on experience, most researchers tend to agree that breast milk should normally be disposed of within two hours after feeding the baby.

All milk tends to go bad once exposed to bacteria, breast milk inclusive. But their useful life can be prolonged by refrigeration or freezing in order to sustain their basic nutrients. Then they can be reheated or defrost to a suitable temperature and fed to babies.

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Breast milk is the major food given to babies, and most parents are willing to find several means to make this milk available. Thus, several parents keep asking if they can reheat an expressed breast milk.

Frequently Asked Questions on Reheat Breast Milk

What is the ideal Temperature for Breast Milk?

If breast milk is too warm, it should be allowed to cool, while if it is too cold, it should be made to warm a little. It makes it fair to say that some babies prefer unheated breast milk while others would prefer it warm. The majority of babies prefer warm milk because it has a more refreshing and soothing taste. 

When warming the milk for babies, always be mindful of the temperature. You can always carry out checks on the breast milk temperature during warming by applying it on the inside of your palm.

Are there any Limits to the Number of Times You Can Reheat Breast Milk?

During the feeding process, bacteria are introduced into the breast milk as it mixes with the saliva from a baby’s mouth. This is the reason we refrigerate to preserve it. Then reheat it before consumption to make it soothing for the baby. But the cycle of refrigerating and reheating doesn’t make it everlasting. 

As said earlier, every time breast milk is reheated, it loses vital nutrients. It is usually recommended to heat up only what the baby can consume each time. But this is highly impossible, as there’s always the likelihood of leftovers. Fresh breast milk is regarded as the best, but properly and timely refrigeration and freezing are ways to preserve it against bacteria. 

What Can Make Breast Milk Go Bad?

After feeding the baby, that is to say, after exposing the breast milk to bacteria, how long the breast milk can be kept at standard temperature depends on the initial temperature and the bacteria load or count.

What Could Cause Stored Breast Milk to Smell Odd?

You might be wondering why your stored breast milk smells different sometimes. It does smell different because of the breakdown of fats by a certain enzyme called lipase. This process releases fatty acids that help fight the growth of toxic bacteria in breast milk.

As long as you have followed all the procedures for storing breast milk as listed in this article, don’t worry whenever you perceive that your milk stored in your refrigerator or freezer has a soap-like or rancid smell. It is completely fit for use. 

There are only calls for worry if you’ve missed out on one or two of the steps listed above for safe storage. In that case, you are advised to dispose of such breast milk.

Which is the Best Way to Store Breast Milk?

For feeding babies, breast milk is always preferred to any formula. Freshly expressed breast milk is better when compared to refrigeration. While on the other hand, refrigerated breast milk is better than a frozen one. 

Not only does freshly expressed breast milk contain the least bacteria, but they also possess the greatest ability to fight bacteria and have a higher concentration of fats, vitamins, and antioxidants. 

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