How to defrost/unfreeze breast milk safely?
There are four correct/proper ways to thaw”unfreeze” the expressed breast milk safely “means with keeping its components intact”:
- Thaw in the refrigerator
- Unfreeze using bottle warmer
- Thaw under tap water
- Use a warm to hot water bath “Bowel contains warm to hot water.”
And four main cautions to consider while breast milk unfreezing:
- Don’t thaw in a microwave
- Breast milk defrosting shouldn’t be done on the counter ” left at room temperature to thaw”
- Never to thaw the breast milk using direct heat “stove.”
- It is preferred not to shake breast milk
Let’s answer the frequently asked questions about unfreezing/defrosting breast milk process
Is using the microwave a fast and safe way to thaw breast milk?
I wish to say yes but it is competely wrong way to thaw the frozen breast milk. You would hear something like:
- Using microwave to thaw breast milk may scald your baby
- Microwave would ruin the breast milk component while thawing
I would go further on that by referring to an American Academy of Pediatrics report about the using of microwave on melting breast milk and how could this destroy important ingredients in your breast milk.
Using the microwave to unfreeze breast milk has been used by intensive care unit staff to dissolve the frozen milk quickly.
But it was found that the thawed breast milk by a microwave affected regarding two main anti-infective components of human milk:
These vital components decreased massively when using a microwave for only 30 sec either on low or high power.
As a result, the growth of harmful bacteria was 5-18 times more than the normal sample of breast milk. Source
How to tell if thawed breast milk is bad?
Although the thawed breast milk may smell and taste sour or rancid, it still ok and your baby can drink it. Even if your baby refuses to take it, it doesn’t mean that the breast milk is bad or spoiled.
Discard the breast milk in 2 cases:
- After 48 hours of thawing process
- If there is some milk remained after single feeding session ” this remaining breast milk may be contaminated with bacteria from baby’s mouth”
How do you unfreeze breast milk quickly “ex: for daycare”?
The fastest way to unfreeze breast milk is to freeze it in small size portions. Apply the next breast milk storage tricks:
- Pour the milk into clean Ice cube tray to get portions from 0.5 to 1 oz.
- Fill the breast milk storage bag with 1-2 oz only of milk
- Make the breast milk bag stay flat ” lying down” to get long, thin layer of milk
- Also, you can thaw using bottle warmer or hot water bath “not very hot.”
Always, date every single bag or bottle before freezing the breast milk. When thawing, consume the oldest first.
How to freeze breast milk in ice cube trays?
The same way you freeze the water to get the ice cubes.
- Wash the tray with warm water and soap
- Pour the extracted breast milk slowly into each opening till fullness.
- Put in the freezer in horizontal, straightway to avoid any waste.
How to freeze breast milk flat?
The best way to keep your breast milk flat is to use breast milk storage bags. Those bags are flexible, and the milk takes the shape of container whatever the position is.
How does thawed breast milk smell?
Thawed breast milk smell may have:
- Fresh smell
- Bad smell
This bad/unpleasant/rancid/soapy smell is due to the lipase enzyme found in your breast milk. Lipase breaks down the fats in the breast milk and hence affects the scent.
The human milk lipase action is enhanced by freezing “cooling” and decreased by heating.
To stop the breast milk lipase activity, scald your breast milk before freezing to decrease or prevent the breast milk lipase.
Another tip is to add some freshly expressed breast milk to the thawed one to decrease the metallic taste of lipase.Example Add 1 oz. Fresh to 3 oz. thawed.
In most cases, this change of thawed breast milk smell is accepted by your baby.
Why does my thawed breast milk look blue or yellow?
Thawed breast milk color varies from blue to green to yellow to brown. Generally, color change is fine and is due to:
- The foremilk is the watery layer of your thawed milk which contributes to the blue to green color.
- The hindmilk which is the fat/creamy layer (responsible for the yellow to brown color.)
Besides, the colostrum that you produce within the early days after birth is characterized by its yellowish color as it is rich in fats.
How to heat/warm thawed breast milk?
For warming the milk after melting, you may use a bottle warmer to do the job. Also, you can use a hot water bath to warm the breast milk if your baby doesn’t prefer the cold milk.
Most babies have no problem with cold breast milk. But they may have a problem with cold bottle nipple.
How long can thawed breastmilk sit out “thawed breast milk expiry”? or how long does thawed breast milk last?
You should consider that freezing process doesn’t kill bacteria within your breast milk. Thus, your defrosted breast milk should be used within 24-48 hours after thawing while been kept in the refrigerator.
It is recommended to discard any remaining/used expressed breast milk after that period.
Generally, don’t refreeze any type of food after thawing. And that is applicable to the human breast milk “don’t refreeze thawed breast milk.”
How long is thawed breast milk good for at room temp?
Most of the expert recommends that thawed breast milk should be used within 1 hour at room temperature.
How to deal with thawed milk with chunks/particles/lumpy? Is it still ok or not?
It is so reasonable to have your thawed breast milk:
- Has chunks “chunky appearance.”
- Looks grainy or has particles.
- Is lumpy or clumpy.
- Even looks curdled or separated.
That is because your thawed breast milk is not the same as cow milk regarding consistency. Breast milk consisted of 88% water and 4% fats.
Fats are not soluble in water and tend to separate from the water forming a floating creamy layer. And that doesn’t mean your breast milk is bad or rotten.
Here are some breast milk thawing tips to lower the chances of any shape changes:
- Use breast milk bags rather than bottles. Bags are thinner and take lesser time to thaw. Also, temperature distribution when melting the milk would be equally spreading through the bag rather than the bottle.
- Store and thaw breast milk in bags in horizontal position. “flat.”
- Swirl milk while melting process to dissolve any particles or chunks.
Can I use thawed breast milk after 24 hours?
No, for a premature baby “in the intensive care unit.”
Yes for up to 48 hours in the case of normal, healthy baby. Source
How long does it take to thaw breast milk on the counter “at room temperature”?
Although it is not recommended to thaw breast milk at room temperature, it may take one full day to melt depending on two main factors:
- The room temperature itself may vary from 25° C to 32° C
- The temperature of the frozen breast milk 0° to -20° C
Usually, it is preferred to thaw breast milk in the refrigerator.