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How Long Should Breast Milk Be Heated?

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One of my favorite things about breastfeeding is that I never had to wonder about the temperature of my milk — it was always good to go. When I started pumping and offering my daughter bottles, however, I panicked a bit and Googled a lot about how long should breast milk be heated. I mean, nobody wants a cold drink when they've been chugging room temperature just fine, right? But I didn't want to scald my baby either. (Or have to heat up the bottle and then let it sit until it reached a cooler temperature while she screamed for it. That's always a fun game.)

Every movie or television show about making a baby a bottle shows the same thing — the caregiver shakes the bottle on their wrist to check the temperature of the milk and declares it perfect. It's a good strategy, especially with breast milk. According to the Mayo Clinic, if breast milk becomes too hot with rapid heating, like in a microwave, you could destroy the antibodies. No pressure, right?

Turns out, heating up a bottle of breast milk is not too difficult. According to Medela, if you have frozen breast milk, you can bring it to room temperature by popping it in a bowl of warm water for about 20 minutes. KellyMom also suggested using a container of warm water, but that you can also use a bottle warmer to warm your breast milk, especially for bottles from the fridge rather than the freezer. In those cases, you'll want to break out the old movie trick and test your baby's bottle on your wrist to be sure of the temperature. Some bottle warmers may be quicker to warm than others.

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If you're still uncertain of a time frame or how hot a bottle should actually be, Tommee Tippee noted that you really just want the breast milk to be at room temperature. Whether that takes 15 minutes of warming up or just a couple minutes in a bottle warmer, that's the goal you're looking towards. And finally, La Leche League International suggested that if you thaw the breast milk under running water, gradually increase the temperature of the water so that the milk can be heated as you're thawing, making for the perfect room temperature bottle.

Depending on if you're warming up frozen or thawed breast milk, these numbers can vary. So use your best judgment and keep an eye on your milk as you warm it up so it doesn't get too hot. KellyMom noted that you should also swirl the milk after warming to mix the cream back in, but it can also help even out any warmer spots. Don't forget to check the temperature before giving it to your baby.