Thawing Breast Milk

Specialties NICU


How are you guys out there cold thawing frozen breast milk? We've always used a "water bath" or submerging frozen collection bottles in a graduate cylinder filled with cold water until completely thawed. That was good enough until a certain survey team came to visit. We were told we had to put frozen bottles in the fridge until they thawed (like 5-6 hours later). Some of us feel this is not a good idea because we feel as soon as the bottles start to thaw we only have 24hrs to use them. We are only allowed to use thawed milk for 24hrs. Combine that with the fact that we can't mix powders into our milk in our room (have to go down the hall to a mixing room) it's not like you can just grab some HMF and toss it in when you need it.

The think is, that I'm sure we will be back to using water baths come next week when the survey team is gone but it has made me curious as to what others are doing.

Gompers, BSN, RN

2,691 Posts

Specializes in NICU.

If the baby is going through a lot of breast milk, or if the collection bottles just have tiny amounts in them that thaw quickly, we will thaw them in the fridge. But otherwise, we use WARM water baths to thaw or warm the milk. We use cylinders, too, and each baby has one at the bedside that is labeled specifically for that baby and for that particular use. After we thaw the milk, the cylinder is rinsed out and then placed upside-down on a washcloth, to thoroughly dry so that stuff like psuedomonas doesn't hang around. The one thing we always do - whether it's a frozen bottle of breastmilk, a prepared formula syringe, or a baby bottle with cold milk - is place the container in a glove or plastic bag, so that it isn't exposed to the actual water. The joint commission is the one that told us to do it a few years back, and we have ever since. They don't have a problem with this practice, at least as of their last visit to us last month.

Specializes in NICU, PICU, educator.

Warm water or set out. We have a hot water spigot and will bring a cup of hot water to the bedside for a quick thaw.

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