When I was pregnant, I remember seeing my friends warm up milk for their babies and thinking to myself, "Is that really necessary?" In my mind, I figured if my baby was hungry, he'd eat. Right? Wrong. Isn't it funny how quickly the way you view parenting changes when you actually become one? The truth is that babies exert their preferences from birth - one of those being that most of them want their milk warm. Breastfed babies especially, who are transitioning to a bottle, already have an expectation for the temperature of their milk. A perfect 98.6 degrees. So that means you need to figure out the best bottle warmer to use for breast milk.
Here we’ll share what to look for in a bottle warmer, guidelines for safe warming, along with our favorite bottle warmers for heating breast milk.
What to Look for In a Bottle Warmer for Warming Breast Milk
You might think that all bottle warmers are created equal in terms of whether they are appropriate for formula or breast milk, but you have to be extra careful about preserving the nutrients of breast milk. That often means a bottle warmer that takes a little longer since ones that heat up very quickly don't preserve them as well.
You also want a warmer that gets milk as close to body temperature as possible so you can feel confident that your baby will drink it. Which actually feels lukewarm - not hot!
What else to look at when making your bottle warmer choice:
Safety – Your baby’s safety is your number one priority. You want to know that whatever bottle warmer you choose for your baby will warm the milk to a safe temperature while also preserving breast milk nutrients. No baby bottle warmer should heat milk about 113 degrees or it could burn your baby’s mouth and throat. And as a parent who is feeding your baby breast milk, you’ll want to find a bottle warmer that you know can heat milk to a perfect 98.6 degrees since that is the temperature breast milk is when it comes from your body.
Method of Warming – There are two main types of warming methods, along with other various methods you may see from portable bottle warmers
- “Steam Heat” Technology – This method is generally faster but may not heat up liquids evenly. If you choose this kind of bottle warmer, pay attention to how it functions and read reviews from other parents to be sure it’s safe and fits your baby’s needs.
- “Water Bath” Method – Though slower, this heating method warms in a more even manner. When heating breast milk, you want to be extra careful that it never gets overheated which can lead to destroyed nutrients, so a “water bath” warmer may be the better choice.
- Portable Bottle Warmer Methods – As you’ll see in our article “Best Portable Bottle Warmers of 2020” getting the warming method perfected is a little more tricky. Creators had to get a bit more creative to find a way to warm on the go. Reliability can be an issue at times, but that’s not so with our favorite travel bottle warmer from The Baby’s Brew.
Warming Effectiveness – How annoying would it be to purchase a bottle warmer only to realize that it won’t even reliably heat up your baby’s milk the way that you expect it to? Not only would it not make your parenting life any easier, but it would actually end up making it harder. Be sure to choose a warmer you know can heat up your baby’s milk to the exact temperature you need every single time.
Ease of Use – Just a press of a button to start warming up that breastmilk to a perfect 98.6 degrees? Yes, please. Pay attention to how long the set up is going to take to get your baby’s bottle warming. You want something that’s really easy to use!
Portability – There are plenty of reliable electric bottle warmers that require an outlet to work. Since much of your time will be spent feeding your baby at home, these can be a great choice for a non-portable option. But at some point, you’ll want to be able to get out of the house with your little one. The Baby's Brew portable bottle warmer allows you to live life on-the-go without having to be tied down with a cord.
Fit – Finally, be sure that the bottle you love to use with your baby is compatible with the bottle warmer you choose.
Who knew there was so much to consider when making your bottle warmer purchase! Additionally, take into consideration the guidelines below before choosing your warmer and once you begin using it.
Guidelines for Warming Breast Milk
Great job, Mama, on pumping all that liquid gold for your sweet little babe. We know it’s a lot of work, but it’s certainly worth all of the effort.
Similar to preparation and storage, which we go over here, there are some specific guidelines you’ll want to follow for warming up your baby’s breast milk. This will ensure that your baby’s breast milk is given at a safe temperature while also preserving all of those precious nutrients.
Here’s what to keep in mind to ensure safety and quality standards:
- Always start the bottle warming process with fresh/refrigerated breast milk, a clean bottle, and washed hands. (Frozen breast milk can be thawed and then used in a bottle warmer.)
- The ideal temperature for a bottle of warmed breast milk is about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit since that mimics a breastfeeding experience.
- 104 degrees F is the maximum temperature you should warm a bottle of breast milk. Though you can safely warm liquids for your baby up to 113 degrees F, anything beyond 104 degrees will start breaking down the unique nutrients found in breast milk.
- If you’ll be warming up your baby’s milk later in the day while on the go, be sure to store it in a cooler bag with ice packs until you’re ready to warm it up.
- Once warmed and feeding has begun, the milk should be consumed within an hour or so.
- If there is any leftover breast milk in the bottle after feeding, it needs to be thrown out.
- Never reheat or restore breast milk that has been previously warmed.
So let’s look at those amazing bottle warmers now, shall we?
Warming Breast Milk on the Go
Heating up breast milk when you're out can seem like a daunting task. Sure, holding a bag of breast milk under some warm running water for a couple of minutes isn't as big of a deal at home, but it's sure not something you're going to want to be doing when you're running errands or when you're at Disneyland.
So, how do you warm up milk when you take a trip out of your house?
The best way to warm breast milk (or formula for that matter) while you're on the go is to use a portable bottle warmer. This will save you from having to warm breast milk under a faucet in a public, unsanitary bathroom or asking your server for a bowl of warm water.
Portable bottle warmers heat up a bottle of your baby's milk in many different ways, so there is a much greater range of reliability than with an electrical warmer for home use. The Baby's Brew is the only battery-operated bottle warmer that can give you warm breast milk or formula at the push of a button.
It tops our list for the best bottle warmer for breast milk.
The Best Baby Bottle Warmers for Breast Milk
The Baby’s Brew is exactly what you need to warm breast milk on the go. In fact, it's the only portable bottle warmer that made the list because it's really the only bottle warmer you need whether you're on the go or not.
The other bottle warmers on our list are great choices for home, but the only way they'll work is by being plugged in. So having one of those as well as the Baby's Brew will certainly work, but if you just want one very trustworthy bottle warmer that will get your baby's milk to the perfect temperature whether you're at home, on an airplane, on the road, at a restaurant (AKA anywhere!) then this is the breast milk warmer for you. It’s compatible with almost all baby bottles (some will require an additional adapter.)
What makes this warmer great for breast milk? The Baby's Brew is the perfect solution for warming breast milk. It was designed with a slow heat technique to avoid hot spots and any accidental overheating that can destroy vital breast milk nutrients. Even with "slow heating" it only takes 5 - 10 minutes to warm up.
Once warmed, you can feed your little anytime within the hour. Another great reason breastfeeding moms will love this warmer is that it has 4 temperature settings including the perfect 98.6 body temp for breastfed babies!
The Kiinde Kozii warmer is an excellent electric warmer to use at home. Not only is it safe to use with all types of bottles, breast milk bags, and even food pouches, but it also has additional features to make warming easy. Reviewers love the timer feature for effortless bottle warming as well as the automatic shut off.
What makes this warmer great for breast milk? The Kiinde Kozii warmer was specifically designed with breast milk in mind. It follows all CDC and USDA guidelines for safely thawing and warming breastmilk. Because it uses a low temperature, nutrient-safe water bath it's safe for all bottles and even breastmilk bags, too! Steam heating can sometimes lead to overheating which is why this bottle warmer uses steam-free safeheat technology.
This Tommee Tippee electric bottle warmer appears to be the quickest way to warm on our list. According to their site, it warms baby milk bottles and pouches in as little as 4 minutes (when heating a 5 oz. serving from room temperature.) This is a great way to get a meal for your baby ready quickly without sacrificing safety or nutrition. It also fits most bottle brands as well as breast milk bags and food pouches.
What makes this warmer great for breast milk? Though fast, the BPA-free Tommee Tippee warmer still guarantees that it uses a gentle warming process to preserve essential nutrients found in breastmilk. Even if the breast milk is frozen, this bottle warmer is a safe and simple way to get it to your baby's desired temperature.
Dr. Brown's MilkSPA is an electrical system with a timer and automatic shut-off system. This means you can set it and forget it in order to accomplish other tasks while you wait for your baby's milk to be perfectly warmed. Whether the milk is frozen, refrigerated, or room temperature, it can be brought to body temperature with the push of a button.
What makes this warmer great for breast milk? Babies who breastfeed typically prefer body temperature breastmilk because that's what they are used to. Additionally, you don't want to get in the habit of feeding your baby milk warmer than that if you plan to continue to transition between breast and bottle. Dr. Brown's MilkSPA does a great job of getting milk to the perfect body temperature of approximately 98.6 degrees. However, if you exclusively pump and bottle feed your baby, there are other temperature options, too! This warmer follows CDC and USDA guidelines to preserve nutrients in breastmilk.
We recently wrote about the ingenious design of the Nanobebe bottles. Breastfeeding moms who transition their baby between breast and bottle will love the cylindrical design of the bottle that mimics an actual breast. Well, this company also makes a smart warming bowl for these special bottles to warm them much more quickly than a regular bowl of water (it can also work with other baby bottles, too, as well as breast milk bags.)
What makes this warmer great for breast milk?
It works similarly to putting a bottle or breast milk bag in a bowl in that no electricity is required. But because of the curved bottom design, it warms more quickly than just putting the bottle into a bowl of warm water. Additionally, it adheres to medical guidelines in terms of heating breastmilk the proper way to preserve nutrients. Though simple, it's also no fuss, which can be a huge bonus!
Bottle Warming FAQ
Can you warm formula or breast milk in a microwave?
No, you should never warm breast milk or formula in a microwave. Not only can it cause hot spots that can burn your baby’s mouth and throat, but it can also kill breast milk nutrients.
Do you really need a bottle warmer?
Having a bottle warmer to warm up breast milk or formula is not required. You can choose to warm milk for a few minutes in a bowl of warm water. However, many parents love the convenience and reliability of a great bottle warmer such as the Baby's Brew.
What's the best bottle warmer for formula?
At some point, you may make the switch from breast milk to formula. Luckily, any of the warmers we listed above are perfect for formula, too! Be sure to also check out "Best Bottle Warmers of 2020."
Can you warm breast milk from frozen?
Ideally, you would thaw milk from frozen by holding it under warm running water or placing it in a bowl of warm water. You can also allow it to thaw in the refrigerator if you have the time. Then we recommend using a bottle warmer to warm the milk to your baby’s preferred temperature.
Can babies drink cold breast milk?
There isn’t anything wrong with giving your baby cold breast milk if your baby will take it. But this doesn’t make for a very comforting feeding or digesting experience for your little one. We recommend at least taking the chill off by letting it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or briefly running it under warm water.
At what age should I stop warming up my baby’s milk?
There isn’t a hard and fast rule about when you should stop using a bottle warmer or heating up your baby’s milk. This is entirely up to you! The transition is usually easiest when you decide to start having your baby drink from a cup full-time.