Can babies drink cold milk? (And What to do if They Want it Warm)

Posted by Jane Springston on

As a parent of an infant, you spend a lot of time getting things just right for your little one. You want to give them the best loving care possible while making sure the choices you make for them are safe. Because you spend so much time feeding your new baby, you likely have many questions about this topic, including if it’s safe for your baby to drink cold milk.

Babies can safely drink cold breastmilk or formula. For healthy, full-term babies, you don’t need to be concerned about giving your baby a bottle straight from the refrigerator or mixing formula with cold water. However, you may find that your baby won’t take the cold bottle of milk if they are used to being fed warm milk.

Though a cold bottle of milk will not hurt your baby in any way, you many run into issues trying to get them to drink it. If you already gave your baby a cold bottle of milk and you’re now feeling worried about that choice, don’t be! Your baby will be just fine. But if you’re considering skipping the bottle warming process (anything to simplify your parenting, right?!), this may or may not be a good plan. Here we’ll cover the pros and cons of giving your baby cold breastmilk or formula, and the best ways to warm a bottle if you choose to go that route instead.

Babies Can Drink Cold Milk*, But They May Not Want To

When determining what is and what isn’t safe for a baby, consulting with your doctor, the CDC, and the AAP are great places to get those questions answered. These are trusted sources of reliable information that help parents make the best choices for their babies. Which is why we found it important to share this from the CDC

“Breast milk does not need to be warmed. It can be served at room temperature or cold.”

This statement makes it clear that cold temperature milk is fine to give to your baby and that safety is not a concern. However, that doesn’t mean that your baby will drink the cold milk that you try to give them. If you haven’t noticed yet, your baby has preferences and she will surely make these known!

So now that you know that giving your baby cold milk is safe (which is most important), let’s discuss what can be good about give your baby cold milk and what may make you reconsider that choice.

*Keep in mind that throughout this article that when we use the word “milk” it’s in reference to either breastmilk or formula. Infants cannot have regular milk until the age of one.

Pros of Giving Your Baby Cold Breastmilk or Formula

There are definitely some reasons why giving your baby a cold bottle of milk might be the choice you want to make. Here are the top 3 reasons you might give it a try.

1.) Giving cold milk is faster.

Even though warming milk really doesn’t take very long at all, when you multiply that by the number of feeds your baby has each day, the time adds up. Pouring milk into a bottle straight from the fridge means you have one less thing to do to get it ready.

2.) You don’t risk overheating the milk.

Coming up we’ll discuss the best ways to heat a bottle if you choose to go that route as well what you want to avoid in that process. Care needs to be taken when warming a bottle to do it safely while also preserving its nutrients if serving breastmilk. When done incorrectly, you can overheat the milk which can create dangerous hot spots and destroy the healing antibodies of breastmilk.

By choosing to give your baby a cold bottle of milk, you’ll always know that your baby is being fed in a safe manner.

It makes travel easier.

You probably already know that leaving the house with a baby can be quite the endeavor. Having to feed a baby on the go can make it even harder. You have to get your baby’s bottle(s) prepped and stored correctly before leaving the house and then you have to figure out when and how you’re going to feed your baby while out and about. Not having to heat a bottle can make things easier - especially if you’re planning to ask a server for a bowl of warm water or thinking you’ll just run the bottle under some warm water in the bathroom.

It can be messy and time-consuming (though we do have a much better portable warming solution which we’ll talk about below.) If your baby will take a cold bottle of milk on the go, this makes your life a lot easier while traveling.

Sounds great, right?! 

These pros might be enough to convince you to try to give your baby a cold bottle to see what happens. You may find that your baby takes it without a fuss and there’s no reason you wouldn’t go forward with cold bottles. Some babies are just more easy-going, and if this is the situation you’re in, that’s awesome!

But if your baby won’t take the cold milk, well then, none of these pros matters. When I had my first baby I definitely had the thought, “I don’t need to waste time warming milk. My baby will go with whatever I give her!” Well after breastfeeding exclusively for several months, I was in for a rude awakening when I tried to give her an unwarmed bottle of breastmilk. Even if the “ease factor” of giving cold milk is enticing, it may not work out if your baby refuses to take the bottle that way. 


Cons of Giving Your Baby Cold Breastmilk or Formula

We all want one less thing to have to hassle with as new parents. It’s an incredibly busy time impacted by the least amount of sleep you’ve probably known, so creating a routine with less steps is ideal. But, skipping the warming step of your baby’s milk might not work out the way you think it will. Though giving cold milk to your baby is safe, it still may not be the best choice. 

1.) Your baby may refuse a cold bottle. 

Honestly this is the number one thing you’ll probably run into trying to give your baby cold breastmilk or formula. As your baby initially takes the bottle, there’s a good chance you’ll be met with milk all over your baby’s face when she realizes it’s cold, followed by crying and a refusal to drink anymore. There is an especially high chance of this if your baby has always been fed warm milk previously - whether by breast or bottle. The chill of cold liquid can be shocking to your baby, and it just doesn’t feel as good going down. 

Will your baby take it eventually? Perhaps. But you also may run into this scenario every time going forward, making feeding time something neither of you are able to look forward to. 

2.) Cold milk may not be the optimal choice for preemies.

If you have a term infant, there is nothing unsafe about giving your baby milk that comes straight from the fridge. For preemies, it is considered best to warm milk prior to feeding. According to Medela, it is normal practice for nurses to warm baby bottles before giving them to the babies in the NICU. They write, “For a very low birthweight infant, feeding of cold milk may lead to changes in body temperature.” The Human Milk Banking Association also advocates for milk warming.

However, there isn’t any verified evidence to say that giving cold breastmilk or formula to premature infants is harmful, so this is something that would be good to discuss with your baby's pediatrician.

3.) It can be difficult to mix a cold bottle of breastmilk.

Unlike formula, breast milk separates when refrigerated. You will see the fat layer sitting on top with a more watery portion on the bottom. When pulling a bottle of breastmilk from the fridge and try to shake in order to mix the two layers together, it can be difficult to get all of the thick layer mixed it. You’ll see much of still stuck to the sides of the bottle. When warmed, however, the bits stuck to the side will come off, making mixing an easier process.

But what if there is no way to warm your baby’s bottle?

There may be times when you have no other option than to give your baby cold milk. Perhaps you’re traveling and don’t have a travel bottle warmer or a way to stop and run it under warm water. In this case, your baby will probably eventually take the bottle if they initially don’t want it. But what if you could avoid all that?

Opting to Warm Your Baby’s Bottle

By now you’re probably realizing that maybe your idea of giving your baby a cold bottle could backfire. So if you do want to go ahead and try it, we suggest doing so at home where you have the option to warm in a bowl of warm water if you need to. It will only take a feeding or two to determine if your baby is going to accept it or not.

So what are you to do if your baby won’t take the cold bottle?

Some babies just want the comfort that warm milk provides. You could warm it in a bowl of warm water or run it under warm water until the milk inside the bottle turns warm. (Placing a few drops on your wrist will help you determine if it’s the right temperature.) You can find out more about this in our article, “How to Safely and Effectively Warm a Baby Bottle.”

But there’s a better solution. And that’s to get the best portable bottle warmer there is - The Baby’s Brew. It’s the only battery-operated bottle warmer that can warm your baby’s bottle to the exact temperature your baby desires. If you go between breastfeeding and giving bottles of breastmilk, you’ll want to choose the 98.6 degree temperature setting so that it’s what your baby is used to. If you’re giving your baby formula, you may choose one of the temperatures above 100 degrees. Every temperature option on the Baby's Brew is safe and exact.

This takes away the hassle that typically comes with warming a bottle while ensuring that your baby’s milk is never overheated. It's simple to use and keeps a charge for up to 12 hours, meaning you can warm bottles for your baby all day long.

The Verdict on Giving Cold Milk to Your Baby

If your baby will take a cold bottle of milk, it’s safe to give it to them that way. But if you have a baby who clearly wants their milk warm, the easiest and best way to go about it is by using the Baby’s Brew. Great for home and travel, it will make feeding time less stressful and more enjoyable for both of you.

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