I often read the recommendation that milk for newborns and infants (breast milk or infant formula milk) should have body temperature (~ 37°C). Usually, this recommendation is just stated as a fact (without scientific reasoning) or with some useless "generic" reasoning ("It's best for your baby", etc.).

Hence, my question: Will bad things happen if milk is fed at room temperature (20-25°C) instead? If yes, which bad things? If not, why is body temperature recommended?

Note: I do know that milk (breast milk or infant formula) should not be "old", due to bacterial growth. That is not the question. I am asking about "freshly prepared" milk.

  • 1
    Probably has to do with what they are accustomed to (mother's milk is that temperature), their bodies being able to handle ingesting stuff at their same temperature more easily (doesn't mess with their own immature internal temperature control processes), and flavor. Cold food/beverages are going to taste flatter than something warmed up (the difference between ice cold ale and one that is a bit warmer, for instance), just because the taste buds sense differently at the warmer temperatures. Our taste buds are more active as foods are warmer. Science, not anecdote for that. – PoloHoleSet Aug 30 '16 at 19:05

There is no scientific basis to the idea that cold milk would upset a baby's stomach more than warmed milk.

Per the CDC:

Breast milk does not need to be warmed. It can be served room temperature or cold.

However, the CDC recommends to

Swirl the breast milk to mix the fat, which may have separated.

Cold milk will release less of it's aromatics. For breast milk when the mother has been on a bland diet, this can cause chilled milk to be less enticing to a baby. Most babies prefer a bottle due to the ease at which they can extract the milk and is one of the greatest causes of failure for those who want to breast feed, thus anything one can do to make bottle feeding less comfortable for them (such as feeding them cold milk) is often cited as an advantage in a breastfeeding plan.

Conversely, mothers consuming pungent foods such as onions, curries, asparagus etc will often see a decrease in the baby's desire to feed due to the pungent aromatics making their way into the breast milk. Chilling the milk will help mask these chemicals.

  • I have read the links. The first compared fresh to frozen-then-thawed breast milk (which is quite different from simply warmed milk.) The second does not support the misleading statement. The third had no text to support your assertion. I've corrected the post to more accurately reflect the literature you specifically cited. If you have questions, please feel free to ping me in chat. – anongoodnurse Jan 11 at 2:25
  • Please retract your edits. On the OWH page I linked to under "Storage: Tips for thawing and warming up milk" it clearly states "Breastmilk does not need to be warmed. Some moms prefer to serve it at room temperature. Some moms serve it cold." and "Swirl the milk to mix the fat, which may have separated. Do not shake the milk." I agree the other article was a bit weak, but you don't need to be a scientist to see the fat separate in breast milk and stick to the sides of the bottle: community.babycenter.com/post/a23911333/… – virtualxtc Jan 11 at 5:46
  • This is already stated in your CDC link. The answer now is clearer, and more reflective of the literature you yourself cited. Redacting would make this answer unnecessarily confusing (especially given your misinterpretation of the first paper.) Please just let it be. – anongoodnurse Jan 11 at 9:14

As far as cold milk I wouldn't recommend that, especially for young babies. Their tummies are sensitive, plus their body does use energy to bring that fluid to body temperature to be used. Room temperature is fine but you do want to knock the chill off cold milk out of the fridge.

  • A few seconds in the microwave works fine, just remember to shake the bottle to prevent hot spots inside. – MakorDal Aug 28 '16 at 20:46

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