Can Babies Drink Cold Breast Milk?

Not all mothers can directly feed their babies from the breast through skin to skin contact. Sometimes your busy schedule makes it impossible for you, while other times you might have a condition that requires you not to directly breastfeed but pump breast milk instead.

Even though you might want to with all your heart, it’s something you’ll have to learn to accept and live with at times.

So, you’ve pumped enough breast milk that should cover your baby’s needs for the near future.

All that’s left for you to do is take a bottle out of the fridge and give it to baby to feed. But wait a second, don’t you actually have to warm it first? Or can babies drink cold breast milk without you having to spend time on heating each bottle during every one of your baby’s feeding sessions?

Can I Give My Baby A Cold Bottle Of Breast Milk? Or Is That Bad For Them?

The short answer to this question is YES – you can safely give your baby a bottle of cold breast milk to drink without anything bad happening to them, as long as they prefer having it that way.

There’s no scientific data or research that proves warm milk is superior to cold milk in terms of nutritional properties and benefits for babies.

The temperature of milk your baby gets when directly breastfeeding is already warm enough – just how a baby likes it best, actually.

But when you’re pumping and storing breast milk or just mixing a bottle of formula, it eventually becomes cold after it’s prepared and stored away for future use.

On the other hand, if your baby doesn’t really appreciate drinking cold breast milk and prefers having it warmed up beforehand, you’re unlikely to be able to coax them to take cold milk.

Just like you might have your preferences about eating food when it’s hot or cold, the same holds true for little baby, both for expressed breast milk and formula milk alike.

It’s Burning Hot Outside

The first reason that comes to mind (the most common one as well) is due to high temperatures outside.

You and I would hate drinking something warm when it’s already boiling hot outside and we’re struggling to stay cool as it is, so it’s only normal for us to feel like our babies need a cold bottle in these circumstances.

An Important Note About Fat Layers

After expressing breast milk and storing it away in bags, a container or a bottle, you can see the layer of fat visibly separates from the rest of the milk after some time.

When giving your baby cold breast milk to drink, it’s difficult to get this layer of fat to mix back in with the rest.

What ends up happening in most cases is the baby drinks the actual milk but leaves the fat content behind, which later gets disposed of during the bottle cleaning process.

This layer of fat is very beneficial to babies from a nutritional standpoint, so you must make sure they’re taking it in along with the rest of the milk they’re drinking. Fat also tends to keep babies satiated for longer, so they’re not always constantly feeling hungry and crying.

No Frozen Chunks

While you can give your baby a cold bottle of milk to drink from, make sure it doesn’t contain any frozen pieces or chunks first.

A bottle that’s been placed in the fridge for enough time to thaw properly is good to go – but a bottle that’s been taken out of the freezer, placed in the refrigerator but still hasn’t thawed properly is not good to go.

In The End, It’s All About Personal Preference

The majority of babies prefer drinking milk (whether that be expressed breast milk or formula) that’s as close as possible to body temperature.

So, most of them will be picky about it if you don’t properly warm their bottle beforehand.

With that being said, a small percentage of babies are fine with whatever you throw their way, cold milk or warm milk alike.

The only way for you to know what your baby is like is to try giving them a bottle of cold milk and see how they react to it.

If they refuse to have it that way and you don’t want to spend too much time on warming it up, try running the bottle under warm water for around 60 seconds and then see if their reaction changes.

Note from Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC: “Even just running the bottle nipple under hot water briefly may help.”

If they accept it that way, then congratulations! Problem solved. If they still give you a hard time and make a fuss about it, though, you’re out of luck – there really is no other option for you than to spend the necessary time to adequately warm up your baby’s bottle before offering it to them.

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Medically Reviewed By: Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC

Medically Reviewed By: Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC

Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC is a board-certified lactation consultant for two busy pediatric practices. She is a former La Leche League Leader, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and Certified Infant Massage Instructor. She has taught classes ranging from healthy pregnancy, to childbirth preparation, to parenting, and more.

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