Parenting

Must Baby Formula & Milk Be Warmed Up Before a Feeding?

When babies want their bottle, they want it NOW -- not in ten minutes. Which is why it can be agonizing for parents to have to grab their baby in one hand and a pot in the other, turn on the stove, and warm the milk or formula. For millennia, moms have been told this is a necessary step before a baby will accept your offering. Yet many experts now say that warming the bottle is optional and by no means necessary. 

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"It is not necessary to warm milk," says Cheryl Wu, MD, a pediatrician in New York. "Milk is fine to be dispensed at room temperature." Some experts say it all depends on what each individual baby prefers. Those who breastfeed are accustomed to imbibing their beverage of choice at body rather than room temperature, and may prefer a warm bottle.

"Many pediatricians will tell you there's not a medical reason to warm the bottle, that's it's more of a personal preference," says Lauren de la Rosa, a baby feeding and nutrition expert at NurturMe. "Some babies may like their milk better warm, at room temperature or even chilled –- and that's okay." 

Yet Dr. Wu warns that warming bottles can get babies into a groove that they'll want to continue. "If we 'teach' baby that every time they drink something, it is warm, they may start to refuse things that are room temperature down the line," she says. "Remember, babies and children are quick learners, and take whatever is given to them consistently and routinely as the 'norm,' and may reject things that are outside of it."

The baby's age is another big factor, says Deedee Frank, a registered nurse and lactation consultant at Mercy Medical Center. When babies are young they may prefer their bottle warm, but once they're older and eating solids may more easily transition to cold or room-temperature drinks. "If a baby is older, giving them milk from the refrigerator is okay," says Frank. "After all, isn’t that the way we adults like milk?"

More from The Stir: How to Wean Baby Off a Bottle: 7 Tips for Moms

If your baby does prefer her bottle warm, here's how to do it: Take the milk out of refrigerator and warm the bottle under warm tap water for 5 to 10 minutes. "Then drip the milk on the inside of your forearm to test temperature prior to giving it to the baby," says Frank. "It is NOT recommended to microwave breast milk or formula. That is very unsafe since microwaving heats unevenly. Parents are risking burning the baby."

Bottom line: Don't feel pressure to warm the bottle unless your baby won't drink it otherwise. Parenting is enough work as it is, why do any more than necessary?

Does your baby refuse to take a "cold" bottle?

 

Image © Lisa B./Corbis

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