How to Defrost Breast Milk

Are you breastfeeding and going back to work or are you looking for a more flexibility? Then you should consider using a good breast pump.  If you are already pumping or just getting started, it’s important to know how you can safely store your precious milk. 

How can I thaw breast milk?

Thawing breast milk according to the recommended safety guidelines ensures that the milk maintains its nutrients. Here are some of important tips that you can use to safely thaw your breast milk.

Never use the microwave or place the breast milk in a container of boiling water. 

Always ensure that your frozen breast milk is dated so that you’ll be able to defrost the oldest milk first

Once the breast milk is defrosted, you can warm and feed it to your baby.

You should not thaw the breast milk at room temperatures. Instead, you should defrost it by placing it in the refrigerator or placing it under warm running tap water.

How to thaw breast milk in the refrigerator

Defrosting your breast milk in the refrigerator can take up to 12 hours- so be sure to plan in advance. You can place the breast milk in the refrigerator each night so that it’ll be ready the next day.
How to thaw breast milk under running tap water

The fast way you can thaw the breast milk is by holding it under warm running tap water. You can start out with cold tap water and then switch to warm tap water. But remember to keep the water warm and not hot.

How to defrost breast milk in a pot of warm water

If you need to defrost your breast milk faster, you can use a pot of warm water and not hot water. This will take approximately 20-30 minutes but remember to keep an eye on the water and replace it as soon as it cools down.

First fill a pot, pan or a bowl with warm water

Secondly, place the frozen container of breast milk into the water and ensure that you keep the water level just below the container cap level to avoid the possibility of contamination

If the water temperatures go down, empty the pot and replace with more warm water.
Rinse and repeat until the milk is no longer frozen.

Once the breast milk is thawed, you can warm it and feed to your child or you can place it in the fridge for later use.

Can I use microwave to defrost my breast milk?

It’s never recommended and we never recommend you to use a microwave to defrost breast milk. This is because, the high temps from the microwave can destroy important nutrients found in breast milk.

Microwaves have also been known to cause uneven eating in foods and the same can happen with your precious breast milk. These hot areas in the breast milk can burn your baby’s mouth.
How to warm breast milk from fridge

You can give your little one thawed breast milk directly from the fridge or you can warm it up to body or room temperature. 

However if you choose to warm your breast milk, you can start by placing it on a pan or bowl of warm water for a few minutes. You can alternatively use a bottle warmer of hold it under warm tap water. As aforementioned, you should never warm the breast milk using a stove or microwave.

Once in storage, the breast milk often separates into different layers. Therefore it’s important to gently shake or swirl the container to mix the breast milk before you can feed it to your baby.

 Never feed your baby the breast milk before checking the temperature. To check the temperatures, pour a few drops of the breast milk on your wrist- it should feel lukewarm and it shouldn’t be cold or hot.

How to tell if breast milk is bad

Your breast milk contains various live properties like antibodies that protect your baby’s immune system. The vital role these components play the storage of your expressed breast milk is very important.

Breast milk storage chart
Deep Freezer (0 degrees F): 
6 months
Self-contained freezer (below 32 degrees):
3-4 months
Refrigerator (32-39 degrees F): 
 5-7 days
Cooler with frozen ice packs (59 degrees F):
24 hours
Room Temperature(66-72 degrees F): 
4 hours
Data chart courtesy of

Defrosted breast milk can be stored in the refrigerator for only 24 hours and it should never be stored at room temperatures. Also never refreeze thawed breast milk.

To check whether breast milk is bad, first swirl the breast milk in its container. Fresh breast milk will separate into two layers after you leave it to sit for a while and these layers disappear when you swirl the container.

If the milk remains separated even after swirling, it’s probably spoiled. Curdling is also another good indicator that the breast milk is bad. If the milk smells rancid consider the milk spoiled. But always remember, even if your breast isn’t smelly but shows one either of the spoil indicator stated above, it’s safe to discard it.

You can also taste the breast milk. I discovered that spoilt breast milk will have a sour taste similar to a cow’s fermented milk. 

If your breast milk passes all these tests, it’s safe to feed it to your baby.


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