Warming baby’s milk does not have any proven medical benefits, nor safety and sanitary issues for healthy term infants. It is essentially done as a traditional practice believing that it is more comforting and can prevent upset stomachs, but there are no studies to prove it yet. Thus, it is harmless for babies to take milk coming straight from the fridge. Cold milk is sometimes even beneficial for teething babies or during the hot days of summer.
However, warming milk close to body temperature is encouraged for preterm infants.
They can better tolerate warm enteral feeds to help manage a decrease in gastric residual frequency, newborn apnea, and reflux.
Benefits of giving warm milk to babies
Warming baby’s milk is a personal preference, although it is not really necessary.
There are no nutritional benefits or health advantages to it. Babies fed with cold milk have no growth difference from the warm-fed ones.
There is also little evidence to prove that warm milk prevents gas and aids in digestion.
What is proven though, is that breastmilk is easier to digest than formula milk and may help prevent digestive upsets.
And yes, it is safe to give thawed frozen breastmilk without necessarily heating it.
Logically speaking, however, there can be good reasons why most parents choose to give warm milk to babies.
For once, breastmilk fat contents tend to get separated when chilled. You can see it as distinctive layers forming in the packets.
Thawing it may not evenly reincorporate the contents. Thus, you will need heat to easily and successfully mix them.
Similarly, formula milk is also harder to dissolve in cold water or at room temperature than in warm.
Shaking the bottle may only incorporate more air bubbles into the mixture and increase the baby’s gassiness.
Others give newborn infants warm milk because they cannot regulate their body temperatures just yet.
Other such reasons parents warm their baby’s milk is when:
- Babies are acclimated to drinking only warm milk
- The weather is cold
- They want to thaw frozen breastmilk quickly
Some concerns about heating baby’s milk
Most of us have this preconceived notion that warm baby’s milk is more relaxing and soothing. It is similar to us adults not drinking cold coffee on cold mornings.
It can be true, but some studies show that taking in liquid, whether warm or cold, will still raise the body’s temperature anyhow.
Many parents may have ditched warming their baby’s milk for convenience. Warming milk may not take much longer with the help of bottle warmers. But, it is still more convenient to pour the milk straight out of the fridge or dilute formula at room temp.
It is also more ideal during travels when parents have no access to a warming source.
While it is a customary practice, warming milk may have slight concerns such as:
- Risk of overheating
- Microwaves may not heat the contents properly
- Overheating can destroy the immune building and other key nutrients in breastmilk
- Some plastic baby bottles are unsafe when heated
- Improper heating can risk bacterial contamination
How to safely warm baby’s milk
Giving babies warm milk may have a little downside and inconvenience to it. But since many babies may prefer it that way, knowing how to heat milk properly and safely is necessary.
It will prevent scalding your baby’s mouth with the liquid and avoid breaking down the enzymes in breastmilk.
Microwave ovens may be the easiest way of heating milk, but it is not the best choice. A microwave heats things unevenly and may continue heating liquids for a few minutes after removing it from the microwave.
If you are not careful, microwaved milk can burn your baby’s mouth. Remember that the goal is only to warm the milk and not necessarily heat it to a boil.
There are different ways you can offer warm milk to your baby; may it be a bag of breastmilk or prepared formula.
1. Run it under hot water
Run the hot water from the tap and put the bag or bottle under it. If it feels like the content is heated, transfer the breastmilk to a bottle.
Test the temperature of the contents by squeezing it into your wrist before giving it to your baby.
2. Soak the bottle
Heat some water in the pan until it is warm but not boiling. Turn off the heat or transfer the warm water into another container.
Place the bottle into the water and swirl it occasionally for a few minutes until the content is heated through.
Do not shake the bottle vigorously while soaking to make sure there are no hot spots.
Let it sit for about five minutes and test the temperature before giving the bottle.
3. Prepare formula milk with warm water
To prepare the formula using hot water, simply boil the water for no more than 30 minutes.
Allow it to cool to about 98.6⁰F and prepare the formula as directed in the package.
Remember that formula milk is prone to bacterial growth and should be prepared using sterilized bottles and their appendages.
4. Use a bottle warmer
A bottle warmer is a sound investment if you have a baby. Not only is it convenient to use, but it also reduces the guesswork in the temperature and duration of warming milk.
Simply put the bottle into the warmer and set it at the right temperature according to the device instructions.
A bottle warmer does not even cost a fortune. There are good finds in most online stores like this The First Years 2-in-1 Bottle Warmer.
What is the ideal temperature for a baby’s milk?
Babies mostly prefer their milk at a temperature closer to fresh breastmilk at 98.6⁰F (37⁰C).
Can I use bottled water for feeds?
According to National Health Services, bottled water is not recommended for making formula. It may contain too much salt or sulfate and may not be sterile. It is necessary to boil bottled water other than those labeled distilled and purified.
Is it necessary to use BPA-free bottles?
Yes. Containers with BPA (bisphenol A) risk transferring traces of the said chemical into food or formula when heated.
Always check the bottle and make sure they are labeled BPA-free or with recycling codes 1, 2, 4, or 5.
Warming baby’s milk all boils down to a matter of personal preference of both parents and the baby.
Warm milk is imperative only for a couple of weeks after birth or if your little one is a preemie.
If you desire, you can transition to giving milk at a lower temperature. Your baby can get accustomed to it and may enjoy being served cold milk thereafter.