Every once in a while, your baby might need to take a bottle, and one of the best investments you can make, besides a great pump, is a bottle warmer. Because nothing is worse than listening to a baby cry in hunger while you warm up their bottle.
Bottle warmers are a convenient way to warm up your stored breastmilk quickly, safely, efficiently, and effectively so you or any caregiver can start feeding your baby when they are ready to eat. Many different types of bottle warmers have different “bells and whistles” that make heating up your baby’s bottle easier. The one you will want will depend on your needs, how often you are using bottles, and if you need a sterilizing option. If you’ve found yourself wondering what the best bottle warmers are, we’re going to help narrow the field.
Why Do You Need to Heat Your Baby’s Milk?
There is no medical reason for you to heat up your baby’s milk before feeding it to them in a bottle, but some times anecdotal evidence (especially from generations of moms just like you) is all you need. Many mothers before us have warmed up their breastmilk or formula simply because that’s the way it comes out of the breast. Babies have a natural disposition towards milk that is body temperature- which is 98 degrees or higher. A cold bottle is a shock to their system and often harder for them to digest as it takes longer for their body to heat it up to digest it properly. Some babies even get stomach pains from drinking cold breastmilk or formula for this reason.
The ideal temperature for milk for infants is 98.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Although babies can, and sometimes do, drink cold milk the reality is that warm milk is often comforting to an infant reminding them of their mother’s breastmilk. And even if a baby has not ever nursed, warm milk is often easier to digest and babies often have fewer stomach pains and cramps from warm milk versus cold milk. However, cold milk and warm milk have the same nutritional value, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of North Dakota. However, researchers at both the University of North Dakota and Ohio University Medical Center do suggest warming up either cold breastmilk or formula as they have found that anecdotally, children are more welcoming to warm milk versus cold milk in the infant stages of life.
However, it does entirely depend on your baby’s preference. Some babies who are bottle-fed from the earliest stages of their life, whether its breastmilk or formula, may not know the difference between warm milk coming from a mother’s breast and the milk they are getting from the bottle. Nothing is wrong with your baby if they prefer cold milk or formula over warm milk or formula- it is just a simple preference that you will have to learn as your child grows.
Breastmilk that is stored in the freezer or the refrigerator or formula that is mixed with cold water is suggested to be warmed up before being fed to your baby. The exact temperature will depend on your child- some children like their breastmilk or formula a little colder while others like their breastmilk or formula is a little bit warmer. It will take some trial and error to figure out exactly what your baby likes and how to achieve that perfect bottle temperature.
Different Ways to Heat Your Milk
There are a few different ways to heat your baby’s breastmilk or formula that are safe and effective. If you are heating from breastmilk stored in a bag, you can heat it in the following ways:
- Run the bag under hot tap water
- Place the bag in a bowl of hot water
- If thawed, place the milk in a bottle and warm it up using one of the methods below.
If you are heating your baby’s breastmilk or formula that is already in a bottle, you can safely heat it in the following ways:
- Run the bottle under hot tap water
- Place the bottle in a bowl of hot water
- Use a bottle warmer
Many parents and caregivers elect for using a bottle warmer because it heats up a baby’s bottle quickly, effectively, and safely. Parents and caregivers don’t have to worry about overheating a bottle (and thereby killing many essential vitamins and nutrients) and then waiting for it to cool back down or sometimes waiting upwards of 15 minutes for a bottle to heat up. And all that waiting can seem like an eternity when you have a hungry little one ready to eat, like NOW.
*NOTE: Never heat your baby’s breastmilk or formula, either stored in a bag or in a bottle, in the microwave or in boiling water. A microwave doesn’t heat evenly, causing extremely hot spots or cold spots, which can be dangerous to your baby when consumed. Also, if the milk or formula gets too hot, it can destroy important vitamins and nutrients. Boiling water also causes hot and cold spots, and getting it too hot can destroy the nutrients as well. Also, heating a plastic bottle can leak plastic chemicals into the milk and can destroy the bottle itself by melting it.
How Long Does Milk Stay After Being Heated Up?
So you have heated up your baby’s milk or bottle either by running it under a tap with hot water or by using one of our favorite bottle warmers listed below. So how long is the milk safe to drink after it’s been heated up?
Well, this can depend on a number of factors. Does the bottle contain breastmilk or formula? Has the baby drunk from the bottle yet? Did you re-refrigerate or was it left at room temperature? Here are some of the most common questions (and their answers) on how long milk is safe for your baby to drink once it has been heated up:
- If you have thawed breastmilk, it can not be refrozen- Once breastmilk has been thawed, it must either be drunk by your baby immediately or it can be placed in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.
- If you have warmed breastmilk, it should be drunk within two hours- It is recommended that you dispose of any leftover breastmilk from a bottle, but seasoned moms will tell you not to do it immediately because you don’t want to waste your liquid gold. Once your baby has stopped eating, wait 15 minutes before you dump the rest of the bottle out. If they truly are done, then you can dispose of the rest.
- Prepared formula can keep in a refrigerator for 24 hours if it hasn’t been consumed- Many formula feeding families will prepare bottles ahead of time to be used throughout the day.
- Warmed up formula should be consumed within one hour- discard any remaining formula after the baby is done eating.
Why You Might Need a Bottle Warmer
Some moms might scoff at the idea of someone needing a bottle warmer, because “breast is best,” but in all honesty, many moms may need to provide their baby with a bottle at some point during their nursing journey. And because some moms may need to use bottles all the time and that’s their Mothering journey, we don’t judge.
Here are some situations in which you might want to consider a bottle warmer no matter–whether it’s once or every feeding:
- Working moms: Working moms, whether they pump or not, will be providing bottles for their caregivers to give to their baby throughout the day. A bottle warmer helps the caregiver warm up the bottle quickly, safely, and effectively.
- Exclusively pumping moms: Nursing directly from the breast may not have worked out, for whatever reason, but these moms are powering through with pumping several hours a day to provide for their babies. They can spend less time preparing their baby’s food with a safe and effective bottle warmer to heat up stored milk.
- Adoptive/foster moms: Adoptive and foster moms can’t always feed on the breast, so they donor milk or formula, and a bottle warmer get those all-important bonding moments during feeding underway even faster.
- Date nights: There, we said it. Partner connection is so very important and date nights are necessary for both of you to feel connected after a new baby arrives in your family. A bottle warmer helps give you the peace of mind that even the teenage babysitter from down the street can heat your baby’s bottle without overheating it or under-heating it.
- Emergencies: Emergencies happen, and often when you are the least prepared. If you find yourself in a hospital and unable to nurse your baby, you can help your caregivers by providing a safe way to heat your stored breastmilk or to heat formula.
Different Types of Bottle Warmers
The type of bottle warmer you get will depend mostly on how often you will use it. If you are a working mom or an adoptive or foster parent, you will more than likely need a bottle warmer that is long-lasting and has a few more bells and whistles than someone who will only be using the bottle warmer on occasion. A good bottle warmer will prevent hot spots and cold spots by heating it evenly. There are different types of bottle warmer methods that do this:
*Note: You will still want to gently stir or shake your baby’s bottle before a feeding, as well as test the temperature of your baby’s bottle on the inside of your wrist. A good way to tell if your baby’s bottle is Goldilocks (i.e., not too hot and not too cold, but just right) is by placing a drop of the breastmilk or formula on the inside of your wrist. If you can’t feel it, it’s Goldilocks (i.e., just right).
Our Favorite Bottle Warmers
This bottle warmer is perfect for the budget-conscious family who doesn’t need a bunch of bells and whistles to heat their baby’s bottle. This bottle warmer quickly heats up breastmilk, formula, and even baby food jars and works with most bottle sizes. It also has a removable cooler with space for up to two bottles, keeping bottles cool for up to 8 hours, which is perfect for those overnight feeds or for caregivers.
The TBI Pro Dual Bottle Warmer can heat up two bottles at a time and it allows you to see exactly what temperature the heating process is at while you wait. The easy to adjust buttons make it simple for you to adjust the temperature to exactly what you want. It also is able to defrost breastmilk, heat baby food, and sterilize baby bottles.
This bottle warmer is perfect for parents who need to heat more than one bottle at a time- parents of multiples or caregivers caring for more than one baby at a time. It also sterilizes and heats baby food using a steam method. The auto shut-off turns off the warming mechanism when its done heating. You can manually adjust the temperature to exactly the temperature your baby needs, making it perfect for those finicky babies.
This multi-functional bottle warmer works for a family with kids of all ages. It not only can heat breastmilk or formula but it also can warm baby food, defrost baby food safely, sterilize bottles and pacifier, and even boil eggs (hello, early morning breakfast). It can col two bottles at once, and is large enough to fit plastic, silicone, and glass bottles of varying shapes and sizes. You can customize the temperature and the time of heating easily, and you can even delay heating for right when you are ready for it. It is also easy to clean with a wide-open top.
It can almost be impossible to find a place to heat up your baby’s bottle when you are traveling. This portable bottle warmer from Tommee Tippe doesn’t need any electricity- just place hot water in the thermal flask and when you are ready to heat the bottle you simply place the hot water in the bottle warmer compartment, add the bottle to be warmed, and wait for it to heat up. It fits all Tommee Tippee bottles and more standard-sized bottles.
Gently and evenly heat your baby’s bottle with this simple and compact baby bottle warmer from Kool. It fits most standard, wide, and angled bottles. The automatic shut-off gives you peace of mind, or put it on warm mode to keep it warm in between feedings. It heats the bottle fast and efficiently, and its small size makes it perfect for your kitchen counter or on a nightstand.
This simple and convenient bottle warmer works while you’re on the road. Simply plug it into your car’s adapter and it will warm your baby’s bottle quickly. The digital display shows the temperature and the remaining time until the bottle is warmed up. It fits most bottles and car cup-holders.
Heat bottles fast, up to 113 degrees as well as baby food, with the WOHOME Baby Bottle Warmer and Sterilizer. You can sterilize bottles, pacifiers, and small toys as well as defrost stored baby food. It heats bottles and food evenly but not too rapidly so as not to deplete any nutrients. It can fit bottles and even breast milk bags with a capacity of fewer than 8 ounces.
This 330-watt baby bottle warmer is one of the fastest bottle warmers on the market. It has several different operating modes (heating, defrosting, and sterilization). It is easy to clean, BPS free, and fits most bottles like Philips Avent, Medela, Comotomo, Tommee Tippee, Evenflo, and Dr. Brown’s.
With the Baby Breeza Electric Bottle Warmer, you can not only heat breastmilk or formula in minutes, but you can also heat baby food quickly. There are two settings: Quick Warm for baby food and formula or Steady Warm for breastmilk. It fits most bottles, storage bags, and plastic and glass baby food jars. The best part? This bottle warmer comes with an app. You will get a notification on your phone when the bottle is done heating up.
Whether you need a baby bottle warmer for everyday use or just occasional use, it is a convenient tool that can make your day significantly easier. Most baby bottle warmers are quite affordable, and not having to waste running water or wait a long time for a bottle to heat can save you or your caregiver’s sanity.
Photo: Kitawit Jitaton/Shutterstock
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