A common concern among new parents when it comes to feeding their baby is temperature. Parents may worry that their milk is too hot or too cold for their baby, and that the wrong temperature breast milk could hurt them. A common question parents may have is if giving their baby cold breast milk will cause gas.
Cold breast milk typically does not cause babies gas or any other sort of discomfort. Barring certain medical conditions and pediatrician recommendations, most babies will drink room temperature or even cold breast milk just fine. It usually all comes down to personal preference and convenience.
For many busy parents, having pumped and frozen-thawed pre-portioned breast milk ready to go in a bottle is the easiest way to feed a baby. This article will explain the relationship between cold temperatures and gas, as well as provide some tips on milk temperatures when feeding babies.
Cold Breast Milk and Gas
Does cold breast milk cause gas? The short answer is no. Feeding your baby cold breast milk will not give them gas. Gas is caused by ingesting excess air or by sensitivities to compounds in the food or liquid, not by drinking cold breast milk.
However, while cold milk technically does not cause gas, warm milk is slightly easier for babies to digest, as they do not need to expend energy to warm it up in their stomach. As such, it may reduce the amount of gas produced during the digestion process.
It is fairly common and quite normal for babies to have some amount of gas after they feed, and it usually goes away on its own or with the help of some simple home remedies such as frequent burping and moving their legs in a cycling motion while they are lying supine.
If your baby is having gas during and after their feedings, there may be other reasons other than cold breast milk that are worth exploring.
Reasons For Excess Gas After Feeding
Babies may swallow excess air while feeding if they have a poor latch or eat too fast. A fast let-down can also contribute to gassiness. Certain nipple and bottle shapes may also cause a baby to swallow too much air while feeding.
Babies also tend to swallow excess air while crying. This can be especially true for babies who fuss and cry during feedings. It can be difficult to know whether a baby is crying due to discomfort from excess gas or if crying is causing them to have gas.
Difficulty with digesting certain foods in a breastfeeding parent’s diet can cause bloating and excess gas. Their immature digestive system may make it more difficult for them to break down certain food components that show up in breast milk.
The introduction of new foods may also cause gas in babies who have already started solids. This type of gas caused by the introduction of new foods should go away as their bodies get better at digesting foods other than milk.
Babies may also become gassier than usual if they get sick. A stomach virus or a cold may cause babies to develop gas, in addition to other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Is Warming Breast Milk Important?
Providing nutrition and sustenance for a new baby may seem simple. After all, they get all their nutrients from just one food source – milk. But it can get complicated once you look into the actual process that goes into feeding a baby.
Temperature does not affect nutritional composition, and most healthy full-term babies do fine regardless of whether their milk is served warm, room-temperature, or cool, provided the temperatures remain within a reasonable range.
Cold breast milk may even be beneficial in some cases. For example, frozen breast milk popsicles are often used as a homemade remedy to teething soreness.
More important than milk temperature is making sure that the milk, be it breast milk or formula, has been prepared safely with clean water, sterilized bottles, and properly stored and handled milk.
Warming breast milk can be helpful for several reasons. Some babies may prefer drinking their milk when it is warmed to body temperature, as it is more like what they would get at the breast. Warm milk may also help babies sleep faster and deeper, which makes it preferable for night feeds.
Cold breast milk may also be more difficult to reconstitute, as the fat component tends to separate and floats above the waterier component of the breast milk. For the same reason, cold breast milk may have a different consistency which some babies might not enjoy.
There are, however, certain circumstances which may make warming milk necessary. Premature babies and babies who are at risk of gastrointestinal issues such as necrotizing enterocolitis should be given warm milk.
What Temperature Should Breast Milk Be Warmed To?
While there is no exact recommendation on what temperature breast milk should be warmed to, 98°F-99°F (37°C) or around body temperature is generally accepted. Another good rule of thumb is to aim for somewhere between room temperature and body temperature.
Breast milk can be thawed in the refrigerator, then warmed under running water, a hot water bath, or with a bottle warmer.
Microwaving breast milk is not recommended, as the microwave’s heating may create hot pockets in the bottle which may burn or scald your baby. Warming milk in a saucepan or pot is not recommended for the same reasons.
Breast milk should not be heated above 100.4°F (38°C) as its proteins and other nutritional components start to break down as this temperature. Milk that is too warm also runs the risk of scalding the inside of your baby’s mouth.
The best temperature for breast milk is the one at which your baby will readily accept feedings at. Babies will all have different preferences for their breast milk temperature, and it may take some experimenting to find what temperature works best for you and your baby.
Feeding your baby cold breast milk will not give them gas. Gas is caused by excess air in the digestive system, due to swallowing excess air while feeding or sensitivity to components of breast milk, such as certain proteins and sugars or traces of foods from the breastfeeding parent’s diet.
If your baby is bothered by excess gas and home remedies such as burping and massaging do not relieve it, reach out to your pediatrician or lactation consultant for feeding techniques that help reduce air intake, as well as to rule out any digestive or gastrointestinal issues that may be causing gas.