How should I warm and thaw my milk?

One of the most common questions mothers ask me is: "What is the best way to warm or thaw expressed milk?"
An older, larger baby can handle drinking chilled milk. But milk needs to be warm for a tiny baby. If a newborn is fed cold milk, it can bring down the baby's body temperature. The milk should be given when it is between room temperature and body temperature.

Whether warming chilled milk or thawing frozen milk, keep the heat low. High heat destroys the parts of the milk that keep your baby healthy.

The recommended way to warm mother's milk is to run warm water over the sides of the bottle. Keep the warm water away from the lid so that it doesn't mix with the milk. One way to do this is to put the bottle in a bowl with sides lower than the bottle's lid. Run warm water in the bowl. The warm water against the bottle warms the milk. The milk is ready when it is between room and body temperature.

Here are some "don'ts" to keep in mind:

  • Don't warm milk in the microwave. It changes the milk and causes hot spots that can burn your baby's throat.
  • Don't heat the milk in a pot on the stove. High heat can make the milk too hot for your baby, and it destroys the antibodies your baby needs.

This is general information and does not replace the advice of your physician or healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away.

Every baby is different, and your baby may not be average.
If in doubt, contact your physician or other healthcare provider.

Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers