So you’ve built up a freezer stash – awesome! You might be wondering how to thaw breastmilk from the freezer safely, and without damaging it. Here are several methods you can use to thaw breastmilk from the freezer.
Thaw breastmilk overnight in the refrigerator
If you know in advanced when you’ll be using frozen breastmilk, you can put it in the refrigerator 24 hours ahead of time and thaw it overnight. Set the bags you wish to thaw in a clean food-safe container just in case there are any leaks. 24 hours should be sufficient to completely thaw your breastmilk; however, if you find it’s still frozen in the morning you can use one of the following methods to speed up the thawing process.
Thaw breastmilk in a bowl of warm water
You can thaw breastmilk from the freezer using a bowl of warm water. Place the frozen breastmilk container into the bowl, and then fill with warm water. Your frozen container will float at the top of the water so you should plan to rotate it every so often. You will also need to periodically refresh the water. The water will cool down less quickly as the milk thaws more.
Thaw breastmilk under warm running water
Rather than refreshing warm water in a bowl, you can thaw breastmilk from the freezer by holding it under a continuous stream of warm tap water. Make sure the water you use is warm – not hot – to avoid scalding the breastmilk; or worse, melting the freezer bag!
You can use any combination of the methods mentioned to safely thaw breastmilk from the freezer. Just be careful not to overheat the breastmilk because that can damage the nutritional content and flavour.
Special tips when using freezer bags
If you’re using freezer bags to store your breastmilk there are some precautions you can take to make thawing easier. No matter what type of freezer bag you use you run the risk of tearing or holes during the freezing and thawing processes. There are things you can do to protect against this.
Freeze your breastmilk storage bags flat
Freezing your breastmilk storage bags flat will decrease the amount of corners and crinkles your frozen breastmilk storage bags have. Crinkles and corners make bags more prone to tearing and holes during storage and the thawing process. Plus, it’s a lot easier to stack and store them! You can freeze them flat on a cookie sheet or directly on your freezer shelf. Then, once frozen you can stack and store them how you wish.
Thaw your breastmilk storage bags in a food safe container
Just in case there has been any tearing of the bag you should thaw your breastmilk in a food safe container. You’ll keep any spilled milk contained in one spot avoiding a huge mess in the refrigerator – and, more importantly, your liquid gold won’t go to waste!
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Do not thaw breastmilk in the microwave
Never thaw or heat breastmilk in the microwave! Heating breastmilk in the microwave is very unsafe for your baby. Have you ever noticed that most microwavable meals ask you to stir them during the heating process? This is because microwave heating, although fast, is not very efficient. You get hot spots – very hot spots – in the same container as ice. When you heat breastmilk, you risk scalding the milk and even bringing portions of the milk to the boil – all the while some areas can still remain frozen. This can burn your baby’s mouth and throat! l It also risks burning the milk or melting the container. You should never thaw or heat breastmilk in the microwave.
Do not thaw breastmilk on the counter
It is unsafe to thaw breastmilk on the counter. This is because during the thawing process portions of the breastmilk will thaw to room temperature, and remain at room temperature for an unsafe amount of time while the rest of the container thaws. You should always thaw breastmilk in the refrigerator, or under warm water if you need to do it more quickly.
Do not put frozen breastmilk into a bottle warmer
A bottle warmer is not a safe way to thaw breastmilk from the freezer, even if you freeze your breastmilk in a bottle. With a bottle warmer you risk having a layer of hot milk surrounding an interior core of ice. This is an inefficient way to thaw breastmilk because it will take a very long time, and you risk having hot pockets in the milk making it unsafe for your baby to drink.