I liked breastfeeding my babies, and I feel grateful that I had enough milk supply to not had to supplement them with formula. I also loved a break once in a while and not have to rush back home. I started expressing and freezing my breast milk so that they are not 100% depended on me to nourish them. It was such a relief to know that my babies are not starving when my grocery store trip longer than I expected.

For many of you, you might be building freezer stash because you will be returning to work.

Whatever the case may be having a freezer full of liquid gold is such a relief. And by safely thawing and warming it up your babies can benefit from all the nourishment.

Although defrosting breast milk seems like a no-brainer there are certain things to keep in mind to make sure you are doing it the best way to preserve all the nutrients in them.

How To Thaw Frozen Breast Milk:

Frozen breast milk has to be defrosted into the liquid state before you can feed the baby. There are a few ways to thaw breast milk.

1.In Refrigerator:

Frozen breast milk has to be defrosted into the liquid state before you can feed the baby. There are a few ways to thaw breast milk.
Defrosting milk in the refrigerator takes the longest time, usually about 12 hours to completely thaw. You can move your breast milk stash from the freezer to the fridge every night if you need it for the next day.

Do remember to keep the milk at the back of the fridge and not near the front door. The front side of the fridge can have temperature fluctuations as you will be opening them often. The back of the door will have a more constant temperature and is best suited to thaw breast milk faster.

Once the breast milk defrosts, you can warm it up before feeding your baby. I always make sure that there are no chunks of ice floating after emptying the milk in the bottle. Give it a swirl to ensure all the milk is completely thawed, if not put it back in the fridge and let it sit there for some time.

When it is feeding time, take out what you need for a single feeding and store the rest of the thawed milk in the fridge. Defrosted milk can stay in the refrigerator for 24 after its completely thaw. Please note that you can use them within 24 hours after its fully thaw not after you moved it to the fridge. BIG difference!

After the 24 hours time frame, thawed breast milk will start to lose essential nutrients, and there are higher chances of bacterial growth.

Since you only have a small window to use up all the milk, only defrost what you need. Since you cannot re-freeze thawed milk, you will end up dumping it if you have lots of thawed milk on hand.

2.Running Water:

If you are in a hurry or forgot to transfer the frozen milk to the fridge, then you can thaw breast milk quickly by running it under warm or cold water. I usually run the breast milk bag under warm/hot water so that it thaws the milk and brings it to the room temperature at the same time. I can then directly feed it to my baby and skip the ‘warming up’ step.

If you think you would use the entire bottle or bag, then run it under the cold water. Once the bag is thawed, you can take what you need for the next feed and put the milk back in the fridge.(and use it within 24 hours, source).

3. In a Bowl Of Water:

Another easy way to thaw breast milk is by placing the bags/bottle in a bowl of hot or cold water. If you are using hot water, you can replace the water as it gets cold with fresh hot water to thaw the frozen milk faster.

Breast milk that has been thawed can remain outside in the room temperature for around two hours. Anything more than there is a greater of breast milk going bad and you should it before feeding the baby.

How NOT To Thaw Breast Milk:

You can use any of these three ways to thaw breast milk.  Also, please keep in mind that it is NOT recommended to thaw breast milk in the microwave. Another NO-NO is thawing breast milk by leaving it outside in the room temperature.

How To Warm Up Breast Milk:

Now that you have successfully defrosted breast milk, the next step is to warm up breast milk for the baby.

Did you know that you don’t have to feed baby warm breast milk? Some babies actually don’t mind eating cold breast milk, but many do resist. If you are bottle-feeding regularly, it may be worth-while to try giving your baby cold milk to see if he eats it. If he does, then you can skip warming breast milk altogether.

But there are benefits to serving warmed up milk to your baby. Firstly, warmed breast milk is more soothing and comforting to drink. Secondly, heating breast milk will help melt the fats that get stuck to the sides of the bottle.

If you have ever noticed thawed breast milk, the fattier layer tends to separate to the top (hindmilk ), and the foremilk settles at the bottom. You can mix them by giving it a swirl, but you can still notice some fat at the sides of the bottle. Warming up the milk melts the fats from the sides, and you will be serving your baby fattier milk.

There are three ways to warm breast milk.

1.Running Water:

Just like thawing breast milk, you can warm up breast milk by running it under warm water. I used these steel bottles for my babies, and this was the easiest way to heat breast milk. I would just open the kitchen tap and hold the bottle under the running water for a few minutes.

2.Bowl Of Water:

Alternatively, you can fill up a bowl of hot water and put the bottle inside a bowl. Don’t fill the container full with water, because it will overflow once you insert the bottle.

3.Bottle Warmer:

If I were exclusively pumping, I would have definitely invested in a bottle warmer. Did you know that there are bottle warmers that can thaw breast milk? Incredible, right? Just put the frozen bags inside, turn it on, and the milk is all thawed and warmed up, ready to serve. Easy Peasy!

You can see why I am biased towards using bottle warmers; they are so convenient. Most bottle warmers are very similar to use, although make sure to read the manual to familiarize on how to use them.

Most of them are pretty simple to use. You will have to fill the water in the water tank, select the temperature option and turn it on. Some machines have an auto shut down once the desired temperature is reached and will also let you know with an alarm. Bottle warmers can be multi-functional and can be used to thaw breast milk or warm food jars.

Practical Tips While Thawing & Warming Breast Milk:

After all the effort you put into pumping, freezing, thawing breast milk, it can be heart breaking if the breast milk turns bad under some circumstance. To avoid this, I want to share with you some practical tips that you can use to make sure you are not wasting your ‘liquid gold’ and saving your time while thawing breast milk.

1. Save Time:

If you are in a hurry and want to thaw milk quickly, then hold the frozen bag/bottle under warm/hot running water. It usually takes about 5 – 10 minutes to fully thaw with this method. Or, if you are like me and don’t trust your memory, then invest in a bottle warmer like this one, which can thaw frozen storage bags.

2. Save Milk:

If you have noticed you the storage bags breaking while defrosting, I suggest you put the milk storage bag inside a ziploc bag and let it thaw. This way you catch any breast milk if the bag happens to leak.

3. Warm Milk On The Go:

If you are on the road often, then you might want to check out this non electric portable bottle warmer which can warm breast milk on the go. If you don’t want to spend money, then you can use a thermos, fill it up with hot water. Most thermos are built to hold hot for 15 hours and you can use it everytime you want to warm milk.

4. Serve It Cold:

You don’t have to warm breast milk, do you know that? It is safe to give your baby cold breast milk, although many babies would hesitate. Some don’t mind though. So don’t be afraid to try giving your baby cold milk and see if he would take it.

5. Don’t Microwave:

No matter how quickly you want to thaw or warm breast milk, don’t use the microwave. Heating in microwave can over-heat the breast milk and can destroy the important nutrients in the milk. Warming breast milk in the microwave can also result in uneven heat distribution, create hot spots that can injure your baby.

6. Right Temperature:

It is always a good practice to check the temperature of the breast milk before serving it to the baby. You can pour a few drops on your wrist. If it’s too hot, let it sit out for while to cool down.

7.Rotate Freezer Stash:

What this means is that you want to use up the oldest breast milk first and save the newly frozen milk for latter use. Breast milk can stay good in the regular freezer for 6 months and it stay good in the deep freezer for 9 to 12 months. You would want to use up your breast milk stash before they go bad.

What is your preferred way to warm up breast milk? Do you have any handy tips on how to thaw breast milk? Share it with me in the comments.

 

 

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