Bottle warmers for breast milk - do you need them?

Breastfeeding facts

When you have the baby, your obstetrician will give you advice on breastfeeding. He or she may also recommend that you bring along a family member to help with the first nursing sessions. Breastfeeding may not come naturally to some women, especially if they have never seen anyone do it.

However, it is best for both mother and child. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for children up until six months of age. After that, mothers should breastfeed their babies for two years or more together with appropriate complementary food.

Steps in milk production

Breast milk is made from the blood through a succession of steps:

  • Aldosterone stimulates the initial development of milk-producing cells (lobules) in the alveoli.
  • Prolactin stimulates the growth and development of these cells into milk-secreting structures (alveoli, or sacs), and
  • Oxytocin stimulates the ejection of the milk from these cells through small openings in the nipple when a baby sucks at the breast.

Breastfeeding tips for new mothers

  1. Hold your baby close to you so that she can easily attach herself to your breast using her rooting reflex. This reflex helps your newborn instinctively find your nipple and latch on. Encourage her to latch on by holding her close with one arm while gently guiding her head toward your breast with your other hand.
  2. Your newborn will probably begin feeding often, every two to three hours. Prepare your breasts ahead of time by expressing some milk, or you can also use a pump.
  3. Nurse your baby for as long as she wishes each time.
  4. Avoid using bottles with teats that imitate the mother's nipple. The natural flexing and stretching of the baby's mouth during breastfeeding is needed to stimulate the mother's production of breast milk. Expressing milk will not have the same effect on your body.
  5. Massage your breasts during nursing to help stimulate more let-down reflexes if you are producing less than enough milk, soothe engorged breasts, and ease plugged ducts.
  6. Don't go too long without feeding, because this will cause your body to produce more prolactin, which will further reduce your milk supply.
  7. Try different breastfeeding positions. Most women are comfortable nursing in an upright position, but if you are not, try lying down or sitting back with your feet up.
  8. When you're ready to end a feeding session, gently hold your child away from your breasts. If she resists releasing the nipple due to the strong suction of her mouth at this age, break the suction by inserting your pinky into her mouth between her gums before pulling her off. Feeding should be a pleasurable experience for both mother and baby.
  9. Allow plenty of time for breastfeeding because it may take several minutes for a newborn's sucking to trigger the milk ejection reflex. If your baby seems frustrated, she may be hungry and need to feed more often.

How can you store your breast milk?

For moms who produce a lot of milk or want to store milk for future feedings, there are breast milk collection kits that also include storage bags specifically designed to protect the nutrients in your milk. These let you store collected milk for later use, and some even come with cooling packs to keep the collected milk at a safe temperature.

Breast pumping

One of the methods is breast pumping. Breast pumps take the place of your baby's mouth to express milk from your breasts.


Can be used any time and anywhere: You can use a breast pump anytime and anywhere. All you need is a power outlet or batteries to get started. Plus, it won't bother anybody around you when you're using one in public places like movie theaters and restaurants.

Convenient for mothers on the go: It's quick, easy to assemble, not too noisy, has fewer parts, requires little cleaning compared with the other types of pumps, and is free-standing or handheld so that both your hands are free when pumping.


Some women find them uncomfortable because they have to hold them in place while pumping.

Froze your milk

You can also store breast milk by freezing it. Defrosting breast milk can be tricky, so follow these steps:

  1. Use the defrost setting on your microwave to thaw your milk safely.
  2. Shake or jiggle the container before you open it to help break up any large ice crystals that have formed.
  3. Check the temperature of your milk before feeding. It should be around room temperature, not cold from being refrigerated or frozen.    
  4. If you're trying to speed up the thawing process, place the sealed bag under warm running water rather than using a microwave, keeping in mind that microwaves heat unevenly and may leave pockets of very hot water and steam inside that could burn you or damage the milk.

Warm your baby's bottle safely

Warming breast milk or formula is easy, but it's important to do it safely. Never microwave a bottle of baby formula or expressed breast milk, since microwaves heat unevenly and may leave pockets of very hot water and steam inside that could burn you or damage the nutrients in your milk or formula.

Instead, you can use the defrost setting on your microwave to thaw expressed breast milk safely. Or put the bottle of formula or breast milk in a bowl of hot water until it reaches the desired temperature. Never boil or steam your baby's bottle, which could cause hot spots that could burn them.

To feed your baby, simply pour the warmed liquid into the bottle and screw on the nipple. Your baby will naturally bring their mouth to wherever they feel the warmth while feeding. Warm bottles should always be used within 2 hours after warming; if not consumed immediately, transfer unused prepared bottles to freezer storage bags or ice cube trays and place in labeled Ziploc bags for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator (40°F) before freezing.

Do you need bottle warmers?

Bottle warmers are not necessary if you have access to a microwave oven. Like microwaves, bottle warmers can get very hot inside and should be carefully handled. The bottles should also be carefully watched while heating to ensure that they do not overheat or boil dry. There may be cases where using a bottle warmer is safer than using the microwave oven such as when small children are present in the home or when defrosting previously frozen milk.

Although many feel that there is no need for bottle warmers because of the convenience of microwaves and the extra costs involved, others prefer them because they eliminate any doubt about whether or not your baby's meal is at 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius). 

Furthermore, some studies show that babies prefer warmer bottles to cold bottles. However, we should also bear in mind that the safest way to heat a baby's bottle is either with boiled or steaming hot water or by using a microwave oven which has both its heating and reheating capabilities.

Bottle warmers are often useful for those who travel often as it allows you to bring milk along without needing an external source of power such as an electrical outlet. It is also extremely useful if you frequently feed your baby away from home.


You do not need an external power supply (such as electricity).


Bottles may overheat and burn sensitive areas; not recommended for use overnight.

Different types of bottle warmers

Different types of bottle warmers make use of different methods to heat bottles. These include microwaves, halogen lights, warmer plates etc.

  • Microwaveable bottle warmers

The most common type of bottle warmer is the microwaveable version because it heats up quickly and evenly. The downside to this method may be that you might get burned if the water boils over while heating. Also, you need to watch out for hot spots when cooking with a microwave oven.

These are the easiest types of bottle warmers to use since no additional equipment will be required if your home already has a functional microwave oven in place. They generally have compartments where you can store or freeze milk for future consumption in addition to being able to directly heat up milk within the milk compartment.

Microwaveable bottle warmers also generally have a heating surface which you can place the bottle on when heating up. This is very convenient since it makes it easier to monitor your baby's meal while heating to ensure that the temperature is even and there are no hot or cold spots. Some models may come with a timer indicating when the desired temperature has been reached, but bear in mind that due to different insulation materials of bottles, microwaves from one model unit might not all be uniform in heating up your baby's meal.

  • Bottle warmer plates

These types of bottle warmers make use of heated plates or metal coils at varying degrees of heat to heat up bottles placed directly onto them. These generally take longer to heat up than microwaveable bottle warmers and may also take longer to cool down when in use.

The advantage of using the bottle warmer plate is that it heats up slowly, thus preventing hot spots and making sure that your baby's food is thoroughly heated (note: always shake the bottle after removing it from the plate to make sure no parts are still frozen). It also keeps things simple since there is no need to monitor or watch overheating processes; you can simply leave it for a few minutes and come back later when the job is done.

However, bear in mind that some people have reported their babies being burned by overheated bottles so you should be extremely careful when handling these types of bottle warmers especially if they are placed in high-temperature settings.

  • Halogen lights

Although this may not be the safest option due to the risk of fire, it is one of the cheapest ways if you are willing to take that chance. Halogen lights are able to heat up bottles quickly but bear in mind that you should never leave them unattended since there might be a fire hazard involved. Bear in mind also that halogen lights do not heat evenly so there might still be hot spots after heating even though it heats up quickly. Again, make sure to always shake your milk thoroughly before giving it out for consumption by your baby especially if using this type of bottle warmer.

Other considerations when choosing a bottle warmer

Although all bottle warmers are designed primarily for baby's milk bottles, some models may be able to heat up baby food jars which can save you some time when preparing meals. However, these types of bottle warmers are not recommended for use with any other fluids than milk since they may damage or deform other types of bottles that are not intended for use in bottle warmers.

Additionally, it is important to consider whether you will need a bottle warmer that is solely dedicated for heating up milk bottles, or one where the unit itself can convert from a sterilizer to a warmer depending on your needs. If you have more than one child and plan on using breast milk as the main source of feeding your babies, then it might be worth investing in a multi-purpose unit so that you do not have to purchase another model just because you are done with the milk heating stage.

It is important to note that although most bottle warmers today are safe for use, it is still advisable to be wary of any damages to your baby's health even if you buy a supposedly high-quality brand name model since there have been reports where some types of bottle warmers have caused burns or deformities in cases where the surface of the bottles heated up unevenly. Furthermore, there have also been occurrences that resulted in bottles exploding after using certain types of bottle warmers so always consider these possibilities and take necessary precautions when using a new type of bottle warmer on your baby's meal.

Bottom line

With all of that being said, it is important to note that regardless of the types of bottle warmers you use for your baby's milk bottles, there are many benefits to using these devices rather than just leaving his or her meal out at room temperature.

Heating up a baby's food helps kill germs and bacteria which may have accumulated on the surface of the bottle while also making sure that your baby's nutrients and vitamins remain intact; this reduces the chances of illnesses and boosts your baby's immunity system against viruses and other harmful bacteria. With all these advantages in mind (and especially if you plan on using breast milk as the main source of feeding), it is best to choose an appropriate model among the types mentioned above to make sure that your baby will always have a delicious and warm meal to eat.

As with any other product review, make sure to do extra research and comparison on the different types of bottle warmers before making final purchase so that you can be confident of your decision once you finally bring the product home for use.