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How to Thaw Breast Milk the Right Way

How to Thaw Breast Milk the Right Way

Expressed breast milk is one of the best ways for moms to provide food for their babies when they are not around. 

Whether you are back at work or just getting the most out of your supply, learning how to thaw breast milk correctly can go a long way in keeping your baby safe and protected.

The only problem is that not many moms know how to thaw breast milk correctly, which may give your baby a bad taste because they drank spoilt milk. To avoid spoiled milk, storing your breast milk correctly is important. 

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know on how to thaw breast milk correctly and other important information that will help you have a wonderful time storing your breast milk safely.

How to Defrost Breast Milk

How to Defrost Breast Milk

Based on my observations, my baby would always get the benefits breast milk could give them while apart. And when I say storing breast milk, it is either fresh or frozen for my babies to consume later, which most mothers usually do. 

Defrosting breast milk is important and should be done properly. However, as far as I know, some parents do it incorrectly, which could negatively affect the milk’s nutritional properties. It could be unsafe for the babies, which I always want to avoid. 

Either way, I do many things to keep my milk safe for my baby, especially when thawing my frozen breast milk. There are many benefits of breastfeeding, which makes it hard not to express breast milk when you’re out for work. 
So, let me help you if you store fresh breast milk. Check out these guidelines I do on how to warm up breast milk.

With a Bottle Warmer

After putting it to the test, bottle warmers can easily defrost breast milk. But note that traditional bottle warmers only use steam heat, which could be too hot, possibly destroying breast milk’s important proteins. 

As a meticulous mom, I would look for a bottle warmer to preserve my breast milk’s nutrients. I prefer having a bottle warmer with 2 settings – one for baby formula and another for breast milk. 

I want to ensure that both kinds of milk are heated safely and at the right temperature. I use the steady warm setting with a warm water bath to defrost the breast milk safely. 

For the formula milk, I use the quick warm setting that uses steam heat to safely and rapidly warm the formula and the baby food.

With Warm Water

Another option I tried was thawing my breastmilk with warm water. 

This method helps defrost my breast milk quickly, and what I like is that it only takes about 20 minutes to do it, as long as you keep an eye on the water and change it once it cools down. 

Check out the step-by-step process when thawing my breast milk with warm water: 

1. Fill a pan or bowl with warm water. 

2. Put the frozen breast milk container into the water. I always see that the water level doesn’t go over the cap to ensure it won’t be contaminated, as leaks happen occasionally. 

3. Once the water cools down, I would empty it and replace it with warm water. 

4. I continue doing it until my breast milk is no longer frozen. 

5. Finally, when I noticed it was already defrosted, I put the milk in the fridge or warmed it up, ready to feed my baby.

In the Fridge

Another way to defrost breast milk is by putting it in the fridge. 

Based on my firsthand experience, thawing my breast milk in the fridge could take about 12 hours and may even reach up to 24 hours – truly the slowest way of thawing my breast milk. 

Knowing how long it could take the defrosting varies on many factors, such as the temperature, the food in the fridge, and how much breast milk is in the bag.

That’s why I always plan ahead of time. Every night, I would put a full day’s worth of frozen breast milk in our fridge to prepare my baby to consume the next day. 

You may check how I defrost my breast milk in our fridge:

1. First, I remove the bottle or bag of frozen breast milk from the freezer. 

2. I put it into the fridge and wait until the solid frozen breast milk turns liquid. 

3. When the milk thaws already, I use it within 24 hours. 

4. I don’t recommend freezing the thawed breast milk left for more than 24 hours again.

Don’t Use the Microwave or Stove

If you’re used to warming food or drinks using a stove or a microwave, remember that thawing breast milk is another story. 

My research indicates that thawing or warming a bag or a container of frozen milk is unsafe when using a microwave oven. It’s because of the high heat from the stove or microwave that could destroy some beneficial properties in breast milk. 

Either way, using a microwave or stove is not recommended. Overheating could destroy the milk nutrients and make it very dangerous for my baby.

How Soon Should You Use Frozen Breast Milk?

How Soon Should You Use Frozen Breast Milk?

Perhaps, this is a common question for first-time breastfeeding moms out there, as I was eager to know the answer. 

So, did you know that pumped or freshly expressed milk can be stored for up to 4 hours? It could even last ideally up to 6 months, and even 12 months is acceptable as long as the temperature is 0°F (-18°C) or colder.
Here are common concerns about how long breast milk is good for.

How Long Does Frozen Breast Milk Last?

Freezing my breast milk has allowed me to keep it for a longer time. However, it’s very important to consider the type of freezer you use. 

The same goes for where in the freezer you will store your breastmilk. Plenty of options are available for the best freezer for breast milk in the market today if you’re looking for one. 

I have tried having a compartment in my freezer with a separate door. With that, I can just store my frozen milk there. It lasted for about 3-4 months. 

However, if the freezer door is contained within the refrigerator space, I could only keep my frozen breast milk for up to 2 weeks. 

I also discovered that a separate deep freezer could help store breast milk for 6 months or longer. I always ensure that I place the milk containers in my freezer.

I don’t even store my breast milk in the freezer door racks. 

Why? Because after putting it to the test, I found out that milk stored in the freezer door is potentially exposed to various changes in the temperature when you close or open the door. 
With that, it’s always best to place the milk toward the back, and it should be away from the door to prevent temperature changes.

Can I Refreeze Thawed Breast Milk?

Can I Refreeze Thawed Breast Milk?

Can you refreeze breast milk? I asked the same question because I was curious about refreezing breast milk. The thing here is that many mothers out there believe that under the right conditions, refreezing breast milk should be done safely. 

But now, finally understand that once the breast milk has been thawed fully, it can no longer be refrozen safely. When milk is still partially frozen, it can still contain ice crystals, which are considered not fully liquid. 

However, if you see that the milk is partially frozen, then you can still refreeze it. 

Breastfeeding mothers should know that leftover milk from the last feeding can’t be frozen. 

Once the baby was fed from the bottle, the leftover breast milk would contain contaminants that could cause the growth of bacteria. Be aware that even refreezing will prevent it from spoiling. 
But if you’re on the go and can’t pack plenty of breast milk bags, you can always rely on milk banks to buy breast milk.

Why Does My Thawed Breast Milk Smell Odd?

Why Does My Thawed Breast Milk Smell Odd?

Ever wonder why your thawed breast milk smells odd? Drawing from my experience, I find the smell a little “off.” 

Human milk varies in smell, taste, and appearance. It all depends on your diet, storage techniques, and medications. 

But despite the differences, I believe my breast milk will always be the best food for my baby. Our milk is sweet, pure, unique, and powerful, and it could vary based on the following:

1. Storage Techniques

My firsthand experience shows how I store my milk could impact its smell. It separates into layers when my milk is left at room temperature or in the fridge. 
However, this means that it has gone alright. The cream will just rise to the top. With that, I simply swirl the container and mix the milk gently, and it’s ready to feed my baby.

2. Food Medications

It makes a lot of sense that what breastfeeding mothers eat could change the smell of the milk. 

After putting it to the test, my milk could take on different subtle changes in flavor, depending on the meals. 

This is one of the reasons why breastfed babies enjoy a greater variety of flavors and food compared to babies who are formula fed. 

Therefore, it’s safe to say that certain medications could affect the way our breast milk smells.

3. Lipase and Freezing Habits

Breast milk’s freezing and defrosting could greatly impact the smell and taste. Like most mothers, I also noticed that the smells become soapy, sour, and even unpleasant after I defrost my milk. 

Later on, I found out that it was normal. Breast milk even contains lipase, the enzyme that is present in human milk, which comes with a lot of benefits. 

It could help break down fats in breast milk so my baby could get the fatty acids and fat-soluble nutrients when fed.
Ultimately, you should also learn how to tell if breast milk is bad to ensure your baby won’t consume it!

Other Tips for Thawing and Freezing Breast Milk

Other Tips for Thawing and Freezing Breast Milk

Thawing and freezing breast milk is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it. After doing it several times, you will know which works best for you and your baby.

On top of learning how to thaw breast milk correctly, I can also recommend some important considerations to give your baby the best breast milk experience possible. 

  • One of the best ways to store your breast milk is through breast milk storage bags. As the name suggests, these are the best to store breast milk and are often made with puncture-proof materials.
  • Freeze in small portions. When you do this, you reduce wasted milk. Some experienced mommies recommend freezing breast milk in ice cube trays to make it more convenient for your baby to consume.
  • Do a swirl. Before you give your thawed breast milk to your baby, it is important to give it a few swirls, as most breast milk separates when stored. Giving it a few swirls should help it return to normal proportions.
  • First in and first out. Like most parents, you should give your baby the oldest milk first, not the new ones. This is one of the reasons why you can see breast milk bags with written names or dates on them. Using the oldest milk in your storage avoids being close to the breast milk’s expiration date. 
  • As mentioned, breast milk that is stored or frozen might smell weird, but this is because of the enzyme lipase that can change the milk’s smell and taste.
  • For mommies, breast milk is considered liquid gold, so if you’re thawing your breast milk in a bowl of warm water, placing your breast milk bag inside a Ziploc bag is highly recommended, as leaks can happen occasionally. 

While some babies can drink cold milk straight out of the fridge, others won’t. So, it is advisable to check your baby first if they are willing to drink straight from the fridge. But if not, it would be best to warm it up a little before letting them have it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

You might find some valuable answers below if you have additional questions about thawing breast milk correctly.

Can Babies Drink Cold Breast Milk?

Yes! It is safe for our babies to consume cold breast milk. However, many parents choose to warm their breast milk because it is one of the more traditional ways here in the Philippines. 

One of the reasons why most mommies out there love to warm their breast milk is that their babies usually consume breast milk at body temperature. 

In contrast, formula-fed babies are commonly fed with formulas at room temperature or straight out of the fridge.

More importantly, you must store your breast milk appropriately before your baby consumes it. 

Beyond that, your babies can enjoy one or two things, consuming slightly warmed breast milk straight from your nipples or having it served straight from the fridge for an added convenience during middle-of-the-night feeds for your little one.

How Long Does It Take To Thaw Breast Milk?

It depends on what method you are trying to use. 

If you want to do it naturally, you can thaw it for around 12 hours inside the fridge. I do not usually recommend you do it this way, as it takes longer to thaw your breast milk. 

However, it might not be the best idea because your baby might be fussy when they have already waited this long, which is why having a couple of breast milk already stored is highly recommended.

Based on my experience, the best way to thaw your breast milk is to let warm water run through cold breast milk.
Can warmed breast milk be refrigerated again? As mentioned, NEVER leave your breast milk to thaw at room temperature!

How Do You Warm Up Breast Milk Fast?

One of the easiest and fastest ways to warm breast milk is by placing your baby bottle or bag into a bowl of warm water. However, the temperature should not exceed more than 40 Celsius. 

Also, while some think warming your breast milk inside the microwave is a good idea, I suggest you stop. Warming your breast milk inside the microwave can overheat your milk, which is not ideal for babies. 
Do not reheat breast milk if it was previously warmed or thawed.

Is It Safe to Feed Babies Cold Milk?

Can babies drink cold breast milk? Of course! It is safe when bottle-feeding breast milk, even if it is cold. 

Before thawing your frozen breast milk, you can use it to soothe your teething baby’s gums by placing the frozen bag or bottle directly onto their gums. 
While many parents choose to warm their breast milk, it may pose more risks of overheating than your babies drinking them cold. Be sure to have the best mini fridge for breast milk to ensure it won’t go to waste!

How Long Can Cold Breast Milk Sit Out?

For how long does breast milk last after warming? Newly expressed breast milk can sit out for a maximum of four hours at room temperature or colder. 

But if you keep it inside the fridge, it will be okay for more than 24 hours. However, once thawed, the breast milk should be taken no more than 2 hours. 

In general, babies can either have warm or cold milk. But some babies aren’t as accepting as others, so monitoring them to see if they accept cold breast milk is important. 

It is a trial and error process, and if you happen to be out for work every day, it would be beneficial to introduce them slowly.


Whether you need a few bags to get to work or have a huge stockpile for emergencies, it is nice to know that our babies can still have breast milk even from afar. 

However, there are certain things you must do to prevent spoiling your precious breast milk. How you use and thaw your frozen breast milk is as important as how you would store and collect it. 

Regardless, it is important to ensure that our babies get the nutrition they need, even if we’re out for work. 

Our babies must also be safe and protected from all the harmful effects of consuming mishandled breast milk.

Nayna Llenos
Nayna Llenos

Hi, I’m Nayna!
I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and I’m lucky and blessed to have two wonderful children to care for and love.
Despite this blessing, there are times wherein I do wonder if I truly am the mother my children need. Am I giving them the right food, care, and discipline to them?
But that is the beauty of parenting — you grow along with your children as they flourish to be their wonderful selves!
I wish to share my experiences with motherhood and how these tips can help you in your parenting journey.
I hope my advices and experiences will prove useful to you and that you have a smooth and wonderful journey as a mother!