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Truth or Truth: Do You Reheat Breastmilk?

While I labored for 17 hours with my first child, I stared at an informational breastfeeding poster on the hospital wall with the words “Liquid Gold” written across the top in shiny gold lettering. I read that poster approximately 497 times while I waited to dilate.

Combined with all the first-time-parent reading I did the first time around, I knew at that point that breastmilk is valuable (invaluable?) stuff. It’s superfood, at its purest. I get that, and I think it’s awesome that I make it.

So why am I told that I must dump it after heating it up? Is my liquid gold really unable to withstand the heat?

Since I struggle with oversupply, I’m careful not to pump too much milk, because doing so would send my body the message to make even more. But I do have a few little vials-full stocked in the fridge and freezer. We’re trying to teach Baby Girl to take a bottle so I can have a little more freedom from time to time, but so far, she’ll only take about an ounce—maybe two—at a time. And that’s on a good night.

Of course, my milk is stored in increments of 2.5 ounces, which means that after thawing and warming the milk via hot water and trying to feed it to Baby Girl, there is always quite a bit left over—usually about 1.5 ounces. Would it really be so terrible to pop it back in the fridge at that point? I hate dumping it down the sink, and it would come in handy for the next bottle. Actually, it’s probably just the right amount.

I’ve read so many different opinions and accounts. Some professionals say it’s OK to be reheated just one time. Other moms like you and me say yes, but only if it’s re-used within four hours. Still others say not to risk it at all.

Here are some excerpts from my favorite go-to sites, on the matter:

KellyMom: “… If the milk is warmed up but not used, it is OK to reheat the milk once. But the more you reheat the more you decrease some of the valuable immunologic properties of the milk…” — Ruth Lawrence, M.D.

BabyCenter: “One small study of six women found no significant difference between partially consumed breast milk in bottles and unused milk. In the experiment, the milk was expressed, stored in a 4- to 6-degree Centigrade refrigerator for 12 to 36 hours, warmed to 37 degrees Centigrade, partially fed to an infant, and stored in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Clean, but not sterile, techniques were followed during the initial storage and feeding.” — Jan Barger, Lactation Consultant

WorkAndPump: “There is a small body of evidence demonstrating that this is OK – really just one unpublished thesis, and the experience of the many moms who have done it. If you’re not comfortable … don’t reheat bottles. However … I think it’s OK to do – once. When the bottle goes around for the second time, I would say toss it. And never reheat milk that was previously frozen. Thawed breastmilk has lost many of the living immune cells that prevent contamination, and should be treated more like formula in terms of preventing bacterial growth.” — Kirsten of Work and Pump

Do you or don’t you reheat your breastmilk? If so, what’s your method?

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