Breastfeeding is a natural way to give your child the healthiest start possible. It’s also very convenient and easy. However, you might be wondering: can I reheat breast milk? If so, how do I do it safely?
It is not recommended to reheat breastmilk twice. While you can freeze and thaw breastmilk, reheating breastmilk twice can already destroy the nutrients found in breastmilk. It also removes the beneficial bacteria that you would want to flourish inside the baby’s body.
This article will go over why you should avoid reheating breastmilk twice, safety facts about reheating breastmilk, and what you should know before doing so.
Can You Reheat Breastmilk?
The simple answer is yes, you can reheat breastmilk – once. You should be able to do it safely as long as you use a safe method and follow the steps below exactly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that there are three ways of safely thawing frozen breastmilk:
- Putting the milk in the refrigerator overnight.
- Setting the milk in warm or lukewarm water.
- Running the milk under warm or lukewarm water.
In addition, the CDC states that you should never use a microwave to thaw your breastmilk. Microwaves heat unevenly and can cause hot spots in the milk which may scald your child’s mouth or throat when they drink it. Additionally, microwaving breastmilk can decrease its nutritional content.
However, there may be situations where reheated breastmilk is not ideal. For example, it is not recommended to feed a sick or premature baby with reheated breastmilk.
This is because the baby will heavily require breastmilk’s immunological properties. Unfortunately, these properties are among the first to go because of how the proteins respond to heat.
It should also be noted that breastmilk coming from long-term storage that will be thawed or reheated should always be inspected first. If the breastmilk has a strong smell or chunks of fat on the surface, then the breastmilk has probably gone bad.
On the other hand, it is relatively normal to see a separation of fat and water layers when storing milk – though it shouldn’t look like chunks. Simply mix the layers together before serving.
Can You Reheat Breastmilk Twice?
The CDC highly recommends against reheating breastmilk twice. The reason for this is because some of the nutrients in your milk may be lost or reduced after being reheated multiple times.
If you use a bottle to feed your child and they only drink half of it, don’t pour the remaining milk into another container or back into the bottle for them to finish later on. Your baby might not be hungry again so soon after their last feeding. If you do feed them again, they might not finish the milk and it could spoil.
Reheating breastmilk twice can also lead to the significant reduction of beneficial bacteria found in breastmilk. Breastmilk is not sterile, however, the bacteria in breastmilk are not the causative agents of spoilage. In fact, these are highly beneficial bacteria that develop a baby’s gut microbiota.
How Should You Store Breastmilk?
Storing breastmilk is a great way to make sure you have enough on hand for your baby if they refuse to eat or are sick and need to be fed by a bottle. Although raw breastmilk has benefits over frozen and thawed breastmilk, storing breastmilk for the long term still has its benefits.
It is important to note that the key to storing breastmilk begins before expressing or handling the breastmilk. Hands should be washed with water and soap. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be used in the absence of water and soap.
The breastmilk can then be expressed by hand or with a pump. It is crucial that equipment used for collecting breastmilk is sterile, minimizing contamination from bacteria that can lead to spoilage.
The expressed breastmilk should be placed inside sterile, food-grade containers. Made of either plastic or glass, these containers should have an airtight seal. It is recommended to avoid plastic containers that contain the recycle symbol number 7 as these plastics contain BPA.
Special containers are designed to specifically contain breastmilk. It is advised to only use such containers.
At room temperature, breastmilk can be stored for up to four hours. Breastmilk can last up to four days in the refrigerator. For longer storage, it is advised to keep breastmilk in the freezer as this method can keep breastmilk viable for up to nine months without losing nutrients.
Instead of storing breastmilk in individual bottles and bags, breastmilk expressed within 24 hours can also be pooled together in a large container. This is also known as the pitcher method.
The pitcher method can simplify breastmilk storage and make it more systematic. It is also good for saving space inside the refrigerator. However, storing breastmilk in a larger container also makes it more prone to accidents or contamination, resulting in a loss of a large amount of breastmilk.
Feeding the Baby Reheated Breastmilk
Reheating breastmilk and then feeding it to your baby can be done safely as long as you do it in a safe manner.
First, the milk should be placed in a container that is free of contaminants.
If you used glass bottles for formula or expressed breastmilk previously, these are not recommended for reheating because they could cause the milk to spoil. You should always work with sterile containers.
While frozen breastmilk has to be thawed, you don’t have to heat the breastmilk until warm. Breastmilk can be served cold or at room temperature.
You should only give the baby an hour or two to feed. Unfinished breastmilk in the bottle should be discarded because the baby has already introduced bacteria into the milk from their mouth when they sucked on the bottle.
On the other hand, if the baby did not touch the reheated breastmilk, it can sit out for up to four hours at room temperature.
Breastmilk is the best thing for your baby. It provides them with many essential nutrients and antibodies that can help protect against illness.
However, it is important to understand the safety facts of reheating breastmilk. While there are safe ways of doing so, you should never overheat your milk and always follow the proper protocol for storing and feeding the baby with breastmilk. You should also avoid reheating breastmilk twice to preserve its nutritional value and for the baby’s safety.
Always remember that when in doubt about whether or not you can reuse your expressed breastmilk, the best option is to be safe and throw it out.