If you’re a breastfeeding, breast milk pumping mama, you’ll eventually run questions like, “can breast milk be reheated?” Because, as all mama’s know, there will be times when you prepare a bottle for your little one, and then they flat out refuse to take it! They may have cried and fussed and seemed like they really needed a bottle, but babies are experts at changing their minds.
As a mother, you know just how hard it is to pump the breast milk or gain access to donated or purchased breast milk. So, when the above scenario plays out, you’re left with a perfectly good bottle of breast milk. At the same time, you want to make sure you only feed your child safe milk. So, what can you do?
It’s definitely important to know the basic guidelines about storing and using breast milk so that you can both minimize waste and keep your baby safe. If you’re ready to learn these guidelines, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I’ll outline the basic breast milk safety guidelines so that you can confidently handle any situation that comes up.
Can Breast Milk Be Reheated?…And Other Questions
Safe use of breast milk, whether it’s been stored or was freshly pumped, starts with a few basic rules. All of the rules about reheating and storing breast milk start from the premise that the milk has been properly pumped in the first place. Not sure what that means? It’s a relatively simple process:
Pumping Breast Milk Safely
To store milk safely, you have to pump it in a sanitary and hygienic way. This will help you make sure that your little one’s milk reaches their mouth uncontaminated, whether you store it or not. Here are our tips:
- Wash your hands before expressing or pumping
- Make sure all containers and pumping equipment are clean and sterilized (including breast shields if you’re using them)
- Use small containers for storing breast milk (or about the amount your child will consume in one feeding)
- Label all containers with the date and your child’s name if you give milk to a child care provider
These easy to follow tips will make it easier to make sure the milk you give your child is safe. By labeling the containers with dates, you can always use the oldest milk first.
This is probably the easiest part of the process as well because it’s the most straightforward. Then, you have to make sure that you follow guidelines for safe storage and use of the breast milk. But, don’t worry! In the following sections, we’ll go through all of the possible scenarios you’ll face as a breast milk pumping and storing mama.
Storing Breast Milk Safely
There are several different ways that you can save breast milk. Whether you will use the milk later the same day, in a few days or in a few weeks, there’s a safe method of storage. However, before we get into the details, you should know that over time, breast milk’s vitamin C content decreases. So, the longer you store your milk, the less vitamin C your child will receive. You may want to give your child milk that hasn’t been stored on a regular basis to avoid a vitamin C deficiency.
Mothers of newborns should be aware that their breast milk is specially formulated for the baby’s needs at this stage of life. So if you pump breast milk when your baby is just a week or two old, it will no longer meet your child’s nutritional needs when they are a few months old. Later on, this isn’t quite as problematic, although breast milk does continue to mature and change as the child grows.
With these crucial points in mind, let’s consider the various ways you can store breast milk.
- Room Temperature: If you are using the breast milk within 4-6 hours, you can leave it out on the counter, as long as it’s covered. Ideally, breast milk should be stored or used within 4 hours of pumping.
- A Cooler: Sometimes you might not have access to a refrigerator or freezer. In these cases, you can store the breast milk in a cooler with an ice pack. You can store the milk this way for up to a day.
- Refrigerator: Safely store your breast milk in the fridge for 3-5 days. However, it’s best to move it to the freezer after 3 days if it hasn’t been used yet. Remember, this is only safe if your refrigerator is relatively clean and the milk is appropriately covered. Heat refrigerated milk by running warm water over it or in a saucepan, but don’t make it too hot! Avoid using a microwave as this can cause hot spots that can burn your baby.
- Freezer: You can store milk in the freezer for a maximum of 12 months, although it’s best if you can use it within 6 months. Keep in mind that if you’ve pumped milk for a newborn, you should use it within a few weeks. Otherwise, the milk won’t meet your growing baby’s nutritional needs. When you’re ready to use the breast milk, move it to the refrigerator for about 24 hours to thaw it.
This clears up the majority of questions about storing breast milk, but there are a few scenarios that you may still be wondering about. Parenthood is never cut, and dry is it? Doctors and researchers have some recommendations about using breast milk after storage. Read on to find the answers to any additional questions you may have:
How long can breast milk sit out after pumping?
After pumping, milk should be used or stored in the refrigerator or freezer within about 4 hours. You can leave milk out for 6 hours tops.
How long can breast milk be left out after refrigerated?
There’s a bit of variation regarding answers to this question. It’s probably best to go by the most conservative recommendations, which suggest that milk should be used within an hour after it’s removed from the refrigerator.
Once breast milk is heated, can it be refrigerated?
Once breast milk is heated (no matter how it was stored), it should be used within about an hour, according to the most conservative recommendations. Anything left over must be poured out. Remember, any time you or your baby touch a bottle, it can transfer germs to the bottle and the milk. For that reason, it’s best if it can be used right away.
If you heated up breast milk that had been frozen, you must use it within 24 hours, and it should be refrigerated up until you use it. Don’t refreeze it.
Can breast milk be reheated?
It can be hard to part with your breast milk when your baby doesn’t want it. You worked hard to pump, purchase or get it donated, so to see it go to waste is tough. But, it’s also not very safe to reheat breast milk that your child has refused. Breast milk that you’ve already given to your baby once should be used within an hour. You should pour out anything that your baby doesn’t drink after an hour.
Can breast milk be reheated more than once?
Unfortunately, it’s not very safe to reheat breast milk once, so it’s certainly not recommended to reheat it more than once.
Now, you’re ready to handle breast milk with confidence! Breast milk is a wonderful way to feed your baby. But, no one wants to see your baby sick, so make sure you follow proper storage and use recommendations. As a rule of thumb, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. When in doubt, toss breast milk you’re not sure about. If you have additional questions about pumping and breast milk storage, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider.
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