While mammals have fed their babies breast milk for millions of years, there still is relatively little data on how to store, heat or reuse leftover breast milk. Despite the lack of research, most doctors and experts generally believe that it is safe to store and reheat leftover breast milk. Like any type of milk product, it is important to take certain precautions beforehand. It is also important to consider the types of breast milk that you are using. If you have breast milk leftover from a feeding, the feeding and the child’s saliva could lead to extra bacteria growth.
The ideal way to reheat breast milk is to use the stove. You generally do not want to use the microwave. Instead, start by heating some water on the stove until it is hot, but not boiling. Afterward, insert the sealed container of breast milk. By doing this, the water will heat up the breast milk to the right temperature.
Basic common sense can be used on how long and how often you should reheat breast milk. As a rule, you should only reheat breast milk a maximum of one time before you end up throwing it out. You should also sniff the breast milk to make sure that it has not gone bad. Like any milk, it is possible for breast milk to spoil if it is too old. You should also ideally feed your child fresh breast milk since some of the beneficial properties of breast milk will go away when it is older and has been reheated. In at least one study, researchers found that there was no difference between bottled and previously used breast milk in terms of bacteria. As long as you are not storing it for too long, it should not be a problem.
Once you have released fresh milk, it actually contains certain cells that can kill off bacteria. This continues to happen even after the milk has been allowed to sit in the fridge for several days. As long as you are storing the milk safely, it should not be harmful for your child. Over time though, breast milk loses its ability to kill off “bad” bacteria. Your best option is to refrigerate your breast milk if you plan to use it within the week. If you need to store the milk for longer, freezing it will prevent any bacteria from remaining in the breast milk.
Of course, the safety of the stored breast milk depends on how clean the bottles or containers are that you use. If the containers are dirty, the milk will be exposed to bacteria that can quickly begin to flourish. You should make sure that your milk pump and any containers that come in contact with the milk are as clean as possible. At the very least, these items should be washed in hot, soapy water according to the manufacturer’s directions.
You should also remember that the health of your child may determine whether he or she can handle stored breast milk. If your child is ill or has an immune problem, then their bodies are unable to handle the same amount of bacteria as other babies. To keep your child safe, you may need to store and reheat only freshly expressed milk or stick to just providing your baby with fresh breast milk.