Can You Reheat Breast Milk?

Experts still haven’t done a great deal of research on reusing leftover breast milk. Despite this, the general consensus is that storing leftover milk and reheating it can be fairly safe as long as you take the proper precautions. The important thing to remember is that choosing to reheat pumped but fresh milk and leftover milk are two different matters. The leftover milk will contain more bacteria because it has come in contact with your child’s saliva.

Can You Reheat Breast Milk?

If you are looking to safely reheat your breast milk, you should never use the microwave to reheat it. Instead put some water on the stove and once it warms up (but isn’t boiling) put the container of breast milk inside of it. In general you should only reheat leftover breast milk once before throwing it out.

You should also rely on common sense when reheating breast milk. You can smell and see if it is bad and then should not use it. It is also crucial to remember that every time you reheat breast milk it will lose some of its helpful properties, which is why you should limit the amount of times you reheat it. Despite that, one study showed that there was no significant difference between bottled breast milk that was partially used and unused, indicating it should be safe as long as you don’t store it too long or reheat it too many times.

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How to Better Store Breast Milk

When milk is freshly expressed, it will have certain live cells that are known to kill bacteria. There was actually a study that found that milk which was refrigerated for a total of 8 days had lower levels of bacteria than freshly expressed milk. In addition, many babies whose parents store leftover milk for 2 to 48 hours are completely healthy and the milk they ingest is safe.

The main consideration on whether the milk is safe when you store it for reheating has to do with several important factors:

  • When it comes to the ability of the breast milk to fight bacteria, it reduces over time. In most cases fresh breast milk will have the best ability to fight bacteria. Refrigerated milk has the next best ability and previously frozen milk has the least ability. It is also true that the amount of time the milk is frozen for affects its ability to fight bacteria; if it has been frozen for a longer time, then it will not have as many anti-infective properties. No matter the storage method, however, bacteria will grow slower in breast milk than it would in formula.
  • The safety of stored and reheated breast milk also depends on how clean your methods are, including expressing and storing it. In order to make the milk safest, you should use freshly pumped as opposed to leftover milk, be sure to hand wash your milk pump, closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions when cleaning it and completely wash any storage containers for the milk using hot soapy water.
  • It is important to remember that babies with immune issues or who are sick can’t handle the “normal” quantities of bacteria as well. If your baby falls into one of these categories, you should take more care with cleanliness and bacteria and probably avoid saving leftover milk; instead only store and reheat freshly expressed milk.
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