Thawing and Heating Mother’s Milk: What’s the Matter?

With Heather Townsend


We’ve all warmed up milk, right? Our elementary kids make snowmen outside and, after peeling off their snowsuits, what do we do? We warm up some milk, make some hot chocolate, and tell them to drink up. So warming up milk can’t be all that complicated, right? And, we’ve all thawed food or liquid of some kind, yes? Surely, you’ve come home from work late, found nothing in your refrigerator or pantry that qualifies as a meal, and what do you do? You drag something out of the freezer and determine how to get it quickly thawed and on the table. Thaw it out, heat it up, serve it up, chow it down. It all seems so simple.


It’s not that simple where it comes to thawing and heating human milk. But people don’t realize that it’s not that simple.

Before we did the radio show together, my guest, Heather Townsend told me a horrifying story about a nurse in a very large, well-known Children’s hospital who heated up the mother’s milk in the microwave before giving it to the mother’s baby. I was so stunned by this that I could scarcely speak. I thought we all knew, decades ago, that milk heated in the microwave can cause burns to the baby’s palate, as Hibbard showed in 19881. I thought we all knew that the enzymes in the milk are affected by microwave heating, as Quan showed us in 1992.2 No, apparently these unsafe practices are still happening. 

But Heather didn’t stop there. She told me about parents as well as professionals heating milk in all sorts of containers and in all sorts of ways that just plain shouldn’t be done. If you’re wondering if thawing and heating mother’s milk matters, the answer is, yes. 

Don’t miss this show that talks about the heat of the matter.

  1. Hibbard RA, Blevins R. Palatal burn due to bottle warming in a microwave oven. Pediatrics. Sep 1988;82(3):382-384.

  2. Quan R, Yang C, Rubinstein S, et al. Effects of microwave radiation on anti-infective factors in human milk. Pediatrics. 1992;89(4 Pt 1):667-669.

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