How To Warm Up Breast Milk

Breastmilk is the best milk for babies and breastfeeding is an important stage in the life of mother and child. Regular breastfeeding improves the immunity of the baby and keeps the baby healthy. Some mothers will have excess breast milk, which will be very stressful to manage. Expressing breast milk is the best way to eliminate the stressful situation. Extra care required to store the expressed milk, as the milk will quickly get contaminated. When you express breast milk, it is important to learn the safe storage practices and how to warm up breast milk.

Women and the role conflicts

Working mothers, especially those who have infants, always find themselves in a different situation when it comes to prioritizing between their child and their job. Neglecting the baby and its natural, biological need for mother's milk will be detrimental to its health and immune system.

Similarly, quitting the job to attend the infant will have an impact on her career as well as the financial situation at home. The practical solution to manage both - the child's biological needs and the mother's career aspirations - is to adopt a healthy practice of storing breast milk for the infant.

A supportive family can help nurse your baby with the stored breast milk and feed the warm up breast milk when you are at work. While this can be carried out by grandparents or relatives, it is very often tough to adapt to the challenging work environment and continue with the changes that your body demands.

Ideal containers for storing breast milk​

It is a predominant factor that the expressed milk required to store in safe and extremely hygienic conditions. It is ideal to use glass containers with tight fitting lids. Glass bottles are perfect as they are easier to wash and are cleaner and safer for storing. The containers have to be clean and dry before using them to store the expressed milk.

Brest milk can also store in individual container bags, which are specially made to store milk. BPA-free containers make the storage more hygienic and safe. Ensure to sterilize every container using for storing mother’s milk and also dried before using it. Do not use ordinary plastic containers or bags that we use as they are not fit for freezing and are prone to tear and contamination. Since milk shall expand while freezing, it is better to leave a little extra space in the container or bag.​

The optimum temperature to be maintained to safeguard breast milk

There is much more about storing milk than pumping. For instance, the setting of storage temperature varies as per the type of storage, i.e., whether keeping it refrigerated or storing at room temperature. If you use refrigeration, do not let the temperature go above 4 degrees Celsius. When it is being kept outside the refrigerator, in the chamber temperature, not differing from 25 degrees Celsius, it is always ideal to use it within 4 hours to 6 hours maximum. Freezing is perfect only if you are going out for more than 5 days as the process keep the milk alive for about 3- 6 months.

The best way to warm breast milk

The best practice to warm up the breast milk is to thaw the frozen milk in refrigerator compartments overnight. For that remove the breast milk from the freezer to refrigerator compartment. When you can keep the expressed milk in a deep freezer for six to twelve months, in an ordinary refrigerator freezer, you can keep it only three to six months. Similarly, if you keep the expressed milk in the fridge compartment, you can keep it only for two weeks. Keeping the breast milk container on the front door is also a good option while you let the milk thaw. Since the front door area is slightly warm than the back area, you can quickly thaw the milk.

To warm up the breast milk, hold the milk container under the running water little cooler than room temperature. Starting with cool water, we can gradually increase the temperature until it is warm enough for your baby to drink.

Overheating can cause loss of vital nutrients and vitamins that your breast milk contains. Always swirl the milk well before use, since the cream and milk layers get separated when stored for longer durations. Always check the temperature of milk by dropping on the back of your palm just before you feed. Heating your milk shouldn’t be directly on the stove and also prevent it from touching the boiling water’s bottom while heating.

Bottle warmers are also the best options to thaw breast milk. Once frozen can be refrigerated but not re-frozen. Thawed milk is best to use within the maximum period of 24 hours. Once refrigerated, it is best to use the milk within 5 days of expressed or sooner if possible. It is always advised to use the oldest milk first. It's a good practice to date the container and uses from the oldest first. To add freshly expressed milk to the half-filled bag, you can always open the bag later in the same day and insert the fresh milk and freeze it only after it had enough quantity. It is better not to mix the milk of different dates.

Image via Medela

Things to know when warming up breast milk

Human milk contains all the nutrients and is rich in vitamins and immunologically, protects the child from every disease and is the best for your infant survival. Doctors always recommend giving only mother's milk until 6 months of age and continue the milk along with other food for around 2 years of age, for this very reason. This same breast milk, when stored may get contaminated if not stored properly and will lose all the antibody properties and vitamins if not handled properly while making it ready for your baby to drink. Always be cautious of not overheating the milk so that not many antibodies and other nutrients get lost from the milk. Never heat the milk in a microwave oven as that produces hot spots and also cause nutrition loss and even destroy antibodies.

Always throw away the leftover milk in the feeder bag within 1or 2 hours of feeding. Or choosing not to reuse the leftover is best to avoid confusion while storing it again. Make sure that you do not store more than 2-4 ounces of milk which is what a baby can drink at one stretch, and that can save unnecessary wastage of the milk.

Tips for warming breast milk

Though there are many ways to warm up the frozen milk or the refrigerated milk, it’s always good to follow some guidelines for the easier and safer warm up.

  • Mother's milk when freshly extracted can keep at a room temperature for a maximum of 3-4 hours. However, the best practice would be to refrigerate it immediately.
  • The best place to store breast milk is at the back of the refrigerator. The maximum duration of refrigeration should not exceed 8 days, but the best practice would be to consume the milk within 4-5 days.
  • Remember, never warm breast milk in a microwave oven. It’s hard to control the temperature of the milk, and there is a danger of burning the infant's mouth.
  • It is recommended to keep the same schedule for pumping every day since your body gets conditioned to generate milk every time you pump for the baby. Giving a massage on the breast, even after the flow of milk has stopped will condition the body to produce more milk.

Final Thought

Working mothers with breastfeeding babies have to be assertive and efficient to plan and schedule their tasks and priorities optimally. It is best to start practicing pumping milk few weeks before the mother resumes work after her maternity leave. Moreover, it is important to understand the process of storage and subsequent warm-up of breast milk when feeding the infant. It is equally important to make the family members, playing a significantly supportive role, to understand the process. It will ensure a healthy child being brought up in your absence.

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