We have all been there. You’re preparing for an adventure outside the house, which requires packing, pumping, and bringing a lot of gear. Infants and babies can be very particular about their milk temperature which can bring on some challenges.
If you are pumping and bottling breast milk, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to properly warm breast milk while on the go.
So… how do you warm breast milk on the go? There are several ways to warm breast milk on the go:
- Allow the milk to sit at room temperature for two hours
- Use hot water and a bowl to naturally heat the milk
- Bring a thermos filled with hot water
- Ask a restaurant for hot water in a bowl or cup
- Warm the bottle under hot running water
- Use a portable bottle warmer, or
- Try some hand warmers!
There are plenty of clever ways to warm breastmilk or formula milk to ensure your baby eats and doesn’t have a feeding fit. Of course, not all babies require their milk to be warm, but for the babies that do, you’ll be grateful you’ve thought ahead to make your life a little easier.
Does Breast Milk Have to be Warm to Feed?
Every baby is different and has specific preferences when it comes to milk temperature. Some babies absolutely demand their milk be heated to their liking, while others enjoy their breast milk no matter the temperature (though the latter are usually the minority).
Nursing infants take their breast milk at body temperature, so 98 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, people continue to heat up their baby’s food, as it’s customary to continue feeding at the same temperature. However, warming up breast milk is not a nutritional requirement.
Warming up breast milk helps to evenly distribute the fat deposits through all the milk, but it doesn’t improve its valuable nutrition by being warm. The sole function of warming milk (whether breast or formula) is to improve the palatability for babies.
Some people enjoy their leftovers cold. Others can’t stand it! Babies are the same way with breast milk. Here are a few of the best options to warm milk when you are out.
The Best Ways to Heat up Breast Milk on the Go
- Use the Room Temperature to Naturally Warm the Milk
If you plan enough ahead and are in a relatively warm environment, you can simply warm the breast milk by setting it out to let it come to room temperature before feeding. Depending on its starting temperature, the breast milk will come to room temp within two hours.
You do not want to leave the bottle out longer than that, but that is likely the amount of time it will take for the bottle to warm completely on its own.
Be aware that you also do not want to let frozen breast milk sit out like this. This method of natural warming is only for refrigerated breast milk.
If you are looking for a good way to store your bottled breast milk while on the go, try one of these cooler bags (link to Amazon). They are insulated and come in a lot of cute prints. (I have the watermelon print!)
- Use a Portable Baby Bottle Warmer
Being a mom is expensive enough, so I understand if you’d prefer a method that doesn’t involve you buying yet another gadget.
However, if you are a mom who is on-the-go a lot, there are portable milk bottle warmers that will make your life much easier when attempting to feed mid-adventure.
One particularly efficient on-the-go bottle warmer is the Tommee Tippe Portable Baby Bottle Warmer. It is like your standard coffee or hot foods thermos in that it securely stores hot water.
My friend bought this one and she told me it was leak and spill free. It also easily fits into a diaper bag or purse without adding extra bulk. The best part is that it is fairly inexpensive. You can check out the current price here (link to Amazon).
To use this kind of portable baby food warmer, fill the metal thermos with boiled water. Seal it up and then take it on the go with you.
When it’s time to feed, pour the hot water into the plastic bottle-warmer cup that closes around the thermos. This cup will fit your breastmilk bottle and the milk will heat in no time.
- Use a Thermos or Hot Food Storage Container
Now that you know about the baby bottle warmer it may be hard to entertain any other option. However, it is not a totally necessary accessory. In fact, it’s likely you already own a thermos to keep your coffee or tea hot.
You can use pretty much any thermos, and it is all you need to keep some boiled water hot for when you need to heat up your breastmilk.
You can boil water ahead of time from home, or even at a hotel (most hotel rooms now have a water kettle of some kind.)
If you have a large enough thermos, you can plop the bottle in the hot water thermos. This Kitsure Thermos (on Amazon) is large enough to hold a bottle within its circumference, and is priced closely to the portable baby bottle warmer above.
However, if you own a smaller thermos that will not fit a baby bottle, use a container (either a large width cup or bowl) to pour the hot water into, and sit the bottle in the hot water.
You can also use this method to warm a bottle at night (check out my full article for more details).
- Ask for Hot Water and a Bowl/Large Cup
Much like you’d do with a smaller thermos, if you are mobile and need to warm up a bottle, ask a restaurant or a coffee shop for a cup of hot water and a container to sit the breastmilk bottle in to engulf it in the warm water.
You’d be surprised how often restaurants get requests like this and are more than happy to oblige!
When dealing with open cups of hot water and finicky bowls, be sure to take care not to burn yourself. Sometimes the water people give you will be surprisingly scalding.
Not only do you want to avoid burning yourself, but you also want to properly calculate the water temperature against time to figure out how long to sit the bottle in the hot water.
- Run Hot Sink Water over the Bottle
If you’re in a real pinch and you prefer to not involve others, slip away to the restroom with the bottle and run the bottle under hot sink water until the breast milk warms.
It may not be the most efficient method, however, it’ll do.
Place a cap or steady finger over the nipple of the bottle to ensure it is sealed. Then, hold the bottle under hot water for a few minutes, rotating the bottle so the milk gets heated evenly through.
Once completed, shake the bottle so the fat evenly mixes, and boom. Warm breast milk, ready to go!
- Use Hand Warmers
Remember those hand warmers you have stuffed in your closet from that one time you went skiing? Those hand warmers are a very covert and genius way to heat your breastmilk or formula milk on the go!
These hand warmers (on Amazon) can make warming breast milk both cheap and incredibly convenient.
To use them, open one of the packets, crack it and rub it around in your hands until you feel the heat. Then, wrap the hand warmer around your milk bottles and voila! Warm breast milk.
Hand warmers work for a few hours, so you can technically keep the milk warm for a while (though I recommend only warming the milk when your baby is ready to eat, vs letting it sit too long.)
If you have to warm breast milk on the go multiple times a day, then this method will not be your most cost-effective. (Obviously asking for free hot water and a bowl to use every time is less expensive.)
However, this method eliminates the need to ask restaurants or other businesses to lend you their water or bowls.
The Key Take Away
Being a mom is hard enough as it is, we hope you can make your life a little easier by utilizing these savvy bottle warming techniques when on the go!
Remember, you don’t have to spend money to heat breast milk when out, but there certainly are certain tools (like portable bottle warmers, thermoses or hand warmers) that make the process easier and faster.
Not all babies are the same, so while your best friend’s little one may not have a problem drinking chilled milk down, your baby may always require it to be heated.
If this is the case, at least now you can rest easy knowing heating breast milk on the go is not only possible, it’s pretty easy!
More Pumping Tips
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NEXT, Check out these articles:
- How to Pump Milk for Daycare
- Everything You Need to Know About Spectra Bottles
- How To Quickly Warm a Bottle At Night