Can Babies Drink Cold Breastmilk?

There is a myriad of health benefits for your baby when you are able to breastfeed them. An unassailable bond develops between mother and baby during this special time. Of course, this bond is also strong with bottle-fed babies whether that’s with breastmilk or formula. There are many benefits to breastmilk and/or formula depending on your situation. The most important thing is the baby is fed properly, and your health care professionals can help you figure out what is best for you and your baby.

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With regards to breastmilk, you can pump or express breastmilk to top-up your supply, or fill a bottle for someone else to feed to your baby. When giving your baby a bottle of breastmilk, you’ll probably wonder if it needs to be heated up, or if your baby can drink cold breastmilk.

When nursing, the milk is obviously at body temperature. While you can technically feed your baby a bottle of cold breastmilk, they’ll probably prefer milk closer to the natural body temperature.

There are several reasons you should make sure the breastmilk is warmed before feeding your baby—we’ll take a quick look at them here.

Temperature Shock

Have you ever been expecting one kind of drink and then been completely surprised by a different one? This is the type of shock your baby will experience when you give them cold milk.

If your baby is used to getting warm breastmilk – whether straight from your breast or in a warmed bottle – giving them a bottle of cold breastmilk can provoke quite a reaction.

This startling experience can upset your baby and might cause them to refuse to eat altogether. Since babies need all the nourishment that comes from their milk, this could be disadvantageous.

Baby Might Not Drink Enough

When your baby is not used to the colder temperature of the breastmilk, they might simply reject it. This can be due to the temperature shock or because they just don’t fancy their meal cold. Would you want a cold dinner?

If your baby doesn’t like cold milk, they probably won’t drink enough, resulting in hunger and a potential lack of nutrients.

Most babies prefer breastmilk at body temperature, but you can give them cooler milk over time to help them get used to it, if necessary.

Fat Layer Won’t Mix Well

One other problem with feeding your baby breastmilk straight from the refrigerator is that the natural fat layer in the milk won’t be able to mix in properly.

The fat layer content in breastmilk is vital to your baby, as this is what helps them to gain weight and satisfies their hunger.

If the fat layer is separated, your baby won’t get this nutritious part of their meal and they won’t gain weight or stay full and happy.

How To Safely Warm Cold Breastmilk

Though you might want to warm breastmilk for your baby, please be aware that you should never use the microwave to do so. Microwaves tend to heat milk unevenly which results in hot spots that can easily burn your baby. Also, the high heat inside the microwave destroys many of the natural nutrients found in breastmilk.

When faced with a hungry crying baby at 4am, you might well be slightly disoriented. Make sure you run through the process of warming the milk at some point during the day, so you know what to do in the middle of the night.

There are a few different ways you can safely warm cold breastmilk for your baby. All are relatively simple, but they can be time-consuming.

If you freeze your breastmilk for future use, take some out and place it in the fridge to thaw. Once thawed, you can proceed with warming it for your baby.

One option is to simply place the cold bottle of breastmilk under warm running water. To do this, turn on the tap and place the chilled bottle of breastmilk under it. Slowly rotate the breastmilk to evenly warm it for your baby.

Another way to warm your baby’s bottle of breastmilk is to place it in a bowl of hot water. Simply fill a bowl with hot water and place the bottle of cold breastmilk in it. Let the breastmilk warm up naturally.

To test the warmth of the breastmilk, thoroughly shake up the bottle and then squeeze a little bit onto your wrist. If it’s warm on your wrist, it’s safe for your baby. If it’s still cool, you can warm it up some more. 

If it feels hot on your wrist, however, it is likely too hot for your baby. Allow it to cool slightly, and then retest.

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