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Can You Reheat Breast Milk (Pros and Cons)

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As a first-time-mom, do you have concerns on how to continue breastfeeding your baby after returning to work? You need not be agitated or stressed because at the end of this article – you would be able to find answers to the questions, “can you reheat breast milk”?

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Breast milk is best for your little one. If you’re returning to work, dashing out for some groceries or simply want your partner/caregiver to give a feed so you can catch up on some sleep, you can express your breast milk and store it for your baby to have when you’re not available. 

Pumping and storing breast milk affords some level of flexibility in your baby’s feeding schedule. Breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 12 months. 

Good hygiene, proper storage and knowledge of reheating requirements are vital to ensure that your stored milk is safe for your baby.

Expressed milk can either be used immediately at room temperature, frozen, or stored in the refrigerator. The freshly pumped milk can be kept at room temperature for up to 4 hours.

Therefore, breast milk can be frozen, refrigerated, and reheated. However, there is always some loss of nutritional value every time the milk is reheated. Here are the answers to some of your questions;

Benefits Of Breast Milk

Photo of a woman holding a feeding bottle wondering; can you reheat breast milk?

It is no news that breast milk is of tremendous benefit to the growth of the child. Perhaps the expression ‘breast is best’ is not new to you. Breast milk offers a perfect blend of vitamins, antibodies, and nutrients to the total well-being of your baby. Also, with proper breastfeeding, the baby is less susceptible to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Other benefits of breastfeeding are;

  • Fewer visits to the hospital
  • Proteins in breast milk are easily digestible
  • Baby is prevented from pneumonia, respiratory infections, and ear infections

Can You Reheat Breast Milk If Not Used?

Yes! Unused (untouched) breast milk can be reheated just once even if the baby does not directly drink from the bottle and it was never exposed. Therefore, it should only be reheated once. The reheating is only once to prevent the destruction of vitamins and nutrients by heat.

Don’t forget that you are breastfeeding so that your baby can have access to all the needed nutrients. So, you should not destroy the good bacteria and nutrients in it.

Also, you should note that heating at a very high temperature will damage the necessary nutrients in the milk. So, you must keep a tab on the heating temperature.

Can You Reheat Leftover Breast Milk?

Yes you can but it should only be done once – if the reheating is done within four hours. Breast milk can be refrigerated once the baby has taken part in a milk bottle. And it can be reheated once more but within four hours.

However, if the breast milk is stored at room temperature, it is advisable not to reheat it again but discard it. This is because harmful bacteria can proliferate in the leftover milk bottle.

So, giving your baby a milk bottle that has been left for over 30 minutes is not healthy for the baby. It is strongly recommended that such milk should be discarded and fresh breast milk given.

How Can You Reheat Breast Milk?

There are healthy and unhealthy ways of reheating breast milk. It is good you take note of these so that it doesn’t pose any health challenges to the baby. The heating temperature should be closely monitored because nutrients and vitamins get destroyed when the temperature is too high.

Therefore, the following are ways to properly reheat breast milk;

The use of bottle warmers – you can buy the Eccomum fast breast milk warmer that comes with a timer. It can be used for heating food, defrosting, steam sterilization at up to 2120F, and for warming milk and formula. Also, it can be used with bottles of all sizes via steam and bath.

With the LED screen and touch button, you can monitor the temperature and preset feeding time in the early morning and late nights. This helps you adjust the heating temperature to one minute. The temperature ranges from 350C to 850C (950F to 1850F).

Using a bowl of hot water – this is a good alternative if you don’t have a bottle warmer. The idea behind this is to make use of a bowl of warm water to reheat the milk. It reduces the risk of making the milk too hot. 

Do not place the breast milk in a bowl of hot water directly from the stove. A bowl of warm water is preferable.  

Can You Reheat Breast Milk After It Has Been Heated?

Yes, but you must know that whenever you heat breast milk, you lose some of its vitamins and beneficial properties. However, it is recommended to heat only the quantity that the baby can finish at a go.

Besides, unfinished milk should be refrigerated and should only be reheated once. So, fresh breast milk is the best for fighting bacteria, followed by refrigerated milk, and then frozen milk.

Can You Reheat Breast Milk In The Microwave?

Here is the kicker; you must desist from making use of the microwave in reheating the breast milk. The microwave makes the food too hot – though you might wait for it to get cool, the vitamins and beneficial bacteria would have been destroyed and cannot be returned.

Besides, with the microwave, hot spots can be created in the milk which can burn the mouth of the little one. The burn can range from mild to severe depending on the hotness of the breast milk.

Can You Reheat Frozen Breast Milk More Than Once?

Reheating the breast milk once is advisable because even the freezing alone causes a drastic fall in the number of antioxidants present in milk, the same as keeping the milk in the refrigerator for days. So, reheating more than once will further breakdown the vitamins and nutrients in breast milk.

Can You Reheat Fresh Breast Milk?

No! You need not do this because it has not been scientifically proven that babies derive additional health benefits from either cold breast milk or warm breast milk.

So, if your baby enjoys it cold, it’s fine because this will eliminate the possibility of overheating the bottle or destroying the necessary vitamins and nutrients needed by your baby.

Besides, some babies might enjoy it warm – this you can do by warming the milk to body temperature by placing it in a container of warm water or having it under running warm water. Do not heat in the microwave or directly on the stove. Test the temperature of the milk by putting a few drops on your wrist before feeding the baby.

The leftover breast milk can still be used within 2 hours after the baby has left feeding but should be discarded once the breast milk has stayed beyond 2 hours.

Can You Refrigerate Reheated Breast Milk?

Yes, it can be refrigerated – it’s possible heating up the breast milk, the baby suddenly becomes tired of it, you can refrigerate the milk for up to 4 hours. However, it should be discarded after 4 hours. Do not store at room temperature or refreeze.

Can You Reheat Thawed Breast Milk?

Heating should be slow and evenly. It can be done by running it under running warm water, using a bottle warmer, or placing it in a container of warm water.

Breast milk must be used within 24 hours after thawing in the refrigerator – note here that the 24 hours start counting from when it is no longer frozen and not when it was taken from the freezer.

However, once it is completely brought to room temperature or warmed after taken from the refrigerator (or freezer as the case may be), it should be used within 2 hours and must not be frozen again.

The three ways of thawing your breast milk are;

  • Leaving in the refrigerator over the night
  • Putting in a container of warm water
  • Done under a lukewarm running water

Also, note that thawing your breast milk should be done based on first-in, first-out (FIFO) because the quality of breast milk depreciates with time.

How To Store Breast Milk After Expressing

  • It can be stored in clean food-grade containers or milk storage bags with tight lids of plastic or glass. You must desist from the use of bottles with recycling symbol number 3 or 7 – this means the plastic is made of BPA (bisphenol A) materials. You must look out for bottles made with propylene with recycling symbol 5 or PP in the recycling symbol
  • Do not use plastic bags or disposable bottle liners not designed for storing breast milk.
  • Freshly pumped or expressed breast milk can either be stored;
  1. Inside the refrigerator for up to 4 days
  2. Inside the freezer for between 3 months to 6 months (best) but it can be stored for up to 1 year (12 months). Though the freezing temperature can keep food safe for a long time the recommended storage times should be obeyed for better quality.
  3. Room temperature (770F or colder) for up to 4 hours
  • Leave a space at the top of the container when filling breast milk because it expands as it freezes, so, an inch at the top will accommodate this expansion.
  • Label the bag, put the date expressed, and the quantity – you might want to put your baby’s name if you are delivering to a child care provider.

Can The Breast Milk Go Bad?

Yes! It can go bad just like regular milk. So, as a mom, you should taste and smell it to ascertain whether it is good or bad. Though milk is not harmful to the child, it’s usually unpalatable and lacks the necessary nutritional components.

Here are a few ways of identifying spoilt breast milk;

  • A soapy smell
  • Sour taste
  • Bad odor and curdling

Healthy tips by United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on safe storage of breast milk:

  • Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored at 400F in a refrigerator for up to 4 days or at 00F in a freezer for up to 6 months.
  • Thawed breast milk can be placed back in the refrigerator for up to a day. You should not refreeze or reuse.
  • Unfinished baby milk should be used within 2 hours after feeding. However, it can be stored on the shelf or back in the refrigerator but should be discarded after 2 hours. The saliva from the baby’s mouth begins to break down enzymes in the breast milk which encourages the growth of bacteria.

Conclusion

As a first-time mom, you should look forward to feeding your little one with your breast milk as it builds a stronger bond between you and your baby. Besides, a lot goes into building a regular flow of breast milk – and your aim should be to preserve all the vitamins and immunity-boosting properties so that your little one can have access to it all.

Also, you must know that heat destroys the useful vitamins and nutrients in your breast milk, so you should heat only the quantity that your baby can finish at a go. 

Fresh breast milk is the best for your baby while in the absence of this, refrigerated milk can be used, and followed by frozen milk.

As a mom, you should always refrigerate every leftover bottle of breast milk and only reheat the milk once.

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