Children's Health and Wellness

Thawing Breast Milk

General guidelines for thawing frozen breast milk

The following are general guidelines for thawing frozen breast milk:

  • The oldest milk should be used first, unless recently expressed milk is recommended.

  • Thaw breast milk by placing the collection container in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

To thaw more quickly or to heat refrigerated milk, hold the container of milk under warm running water or place it in a cup, pot, bowl, or basin of warm water. Do not thaw milk in very hot water or in the microwave. This decreases some of the healthy properties of the milk. It can also create hot spots that may burn your child's mouth. 

It is normal for your milk to separate during storage. You will see a layer of cream (fat) that has risen to the top. To recombine the cream with the rest of the milk, gently swirl the bottle. Avoid vigorous shaking.

Using thawed breast milk

Tips for using thawed breast milk include the following:

  • Milk thawed in the refrigerator must be used within 24 hours.

  • Milk thawed to room temperature or warmer should ideally be used in 1 to 2 hours, but may be used up to 4 hours.

  • Unfinished milk that has touched the baby's mouth (bottle, supplemental nursing system, cup) should not be saved for the next feeding.

  • Do not refreeze milk once it has been thawed. 

Online Source: Proper Handling and Storage of Human Milk, CDChttp://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm
Online Source: Pumping and breastmilk storage, Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Serviceshttp://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/pumping-and-breastmilk-storage.html
Online Editor: Geller, Arlene
Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: Rosen-Carole, Casey, MD, MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.