How to Thaw Breast Milk: What You Need to Know

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
February 4, 2024
Baby formula with mom and baby in the background

It’s official, your milk supply is coming in full swing, and you have to start freezing your breast milk. Freezing the milk is the simple part. However, you also need to know how to thaw breast milk before giving it to your baby.

Knowing the best way to defrost your breast milk can help save you time and headaches later. We all know how demanding a hungry baby can be, and you want to keep as much of your sanity as possible!

How to Thaw Breast Milk Properly

We all want what’s best for our baby, and feeding them is one of the essential parts of taking care of them. Knowing the do’s and don’t’s will make this an easy process.

Use up the oldest milk first

You always want to use up the oldest milk first. It’s just like food at a grocery store, first in, first out. A great tip to help with this, make sure you label each bottle or storage container with a date.

Use lukewarm water

The temperature of the water you are using to thaw your frozen breast milk is essential. If the water is too cold, it won’t defrost. If the water is too hot, it can spoil the milk. Worse, it can cause it to be too hot for the baby to drink.

Test the temperature before giving it to baby

Just like anything you feed to your baby that you have warmed, you are going to want to test the milk. You don’t want to hand over a bottle that you have heated and potentially burn your precious baby’s mouth.

Different Ways to Thaw out Breast Milk

How To Defrost Breast Milk 431752 V3 01 F85080184f374a759b2c1106681e7cce
Image source: verywellfamily

Using a bowl of water

If you choose to warm the milk this way, it can take around 20 minutes to liquify completely.

  1. Fill a bowl with warm water.
  2. Put the frozen breast milk into the water.
  3. If your water cools down, replace the water with fresh warm water.
  4. Repeat until the liquid thaws completely.

In the fridge

Using the fridge is going to take the longest. It could take up to 12 hours to fully thaw out the breast milk.

  1. Take the frozen milk out of the freezer.
  2. Place the bag in the refrigerator.
  3.  Allow the frozen milk to turn back to liquid.

Running water

Defrosting under running water is the fastest way to turn that frozen milk into drinkable milk. If your baby is ready to eat, this could be one of the quickest ways to get them what they want.

  1. Hold the bag under the running faucet.
  2. Make sure you are using warm water, not hot water.
  3. Keep holding the bag under the warm water until it is liquid.

With a bottle warmer

Philips Avent Fast Baby Bottle Warmer

Bottle warmers can be a lifesaver for a mom that needs to multitask. You can put the milk in the warmer and let it do the work while you are busy changing a diaper.

  1. Turn on the bottle warmer to allow the water to start heating up.
  2. Place the milk in the bottle warmer.
  3. Monitor the beast milk as it heats up to ensure it’s not getting too hot.

How Long Can You Keep Breast Milk in the Freezer?

If you need to store your breast milk in the freezer, you must know how long you can allow it to stay frozen. It’s best to use frozen milk within six months. However, your milk can be safe in the freezer for up to 12 months.

How Long Can You Store Thawed Breast Milk?

After you have defrosted your milk, you can use it right away. Thawed breast milk can sit out for up to four hours or place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. You are going to want to toss previously frozen milk instead of re-freezing.

Can You Use a Microwave or Stove?

You never want to use the microwave or stovetop to heat frozen breast milk. The milk could become too hot and cause the milk to spoil. No one wants to give their baby spoiled milk to drink.

Not to mention, the milk could be scalding, and your baby would have to wait to drink it. We all know how demanding a hungry baby can be.

Freezing Tips

When freezing your breast milk, freeze it in batches of 2-4 ounces or single feeding amounts. It will vary depending on how much your baby eats in one sitting. If you are freezing your breast milk in too large of quantities, it could go to waste if the baby doesn't drink it all.

Also, make sure you chill the breast milk before you place it in the freezer. The liquid will expand when it freezes, so leaving some space in your bottle or freezing bag, will help give it some much-needed room to grow.

Store your frozen milk in the back of the freezer where the temperature is the most consistent and never store your milk in the door of the freezer. When you open and close your freezer door, it can fluctuate the core temperature in the freezer. Keeping the frozen milk in the back of the freezer keeps it in the coldest area.

It’s Feeding Time

Woman Bottle Feeding
Image source: freepik

It’s time to tell us what you think! Did you already know how to thaw breast milk? Do you have any other tips that you used?

Image source: freepik

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