Can you thaw breastmilk at room temperature?

I have a hard time breastfeeding at some public places, so I've been taking a frozen bottle of my expressed milk (around three ounces) out with me and letting it defrost on its own, just sitting in the diaper bag. When I start feed it to my four-month-old baby, it usually still has a chunk of frozen milk in it and as it defrosts further, I feed her more. Is this unhealthy?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Breastmilk should not be thawed at room temperature.

Conditions within a diaper bag can vary considerably. The temperature of your expressed milk will depend on outside temperature, as well as how long your milk remains within the bag, unrefrigerated.

I would recommend thawing you milk gradually under cool running water. Shake occasionally while thawing. You can pack bottles that still have some ice crystals remaining.

When offering your expressed milk to your little one, it is fine for it to be a bit icy -- as long as your baby seems to happily accept your milk chilled.

You can help to keep your milk well chilled while you're away from home by using an insulated carrier, and tucking in an ice pack or two along with the bottles.

Once your baby has taken a sip from the bottle of expressed milk it should not be offered again at another feed. It will need to be discarded. Your baby's saliva can enter the bottle and may cause an increase in bacterial levels in your milk. Be sure to bring along enough bottles for the anticipated number of feedings.

If your milk is still well chilled, has never been warmed, and has not been offered to your baby, you can safely refrigerate when you return home.

You may also find that as time goes on you become more comfortable nursing in public. Nursing can be done so discreetly that even if someone comes in close to admire your baby, they will often think she is just peacefully sleeping in your arms. You might want to try practicing discreet nursing in front of family, friends or a mirror before venturing out in public. My very best wishes in mothering!

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