In intensive care nurseries it has become common practice to use microwave thawing of frozen human milk for more rapid accessibility. Twenty-two freshly frozen human milk samples were tested for lysozyme activity, total IgA, and specific secretory IgA to Escherichia coli serotypes 01, 04, and 06. The samples were heated by microwave for 30 seconds at a low- or high-power setting and then reanalyzed. One-mL aliquots of 10 additional human milk samples were microwaved at low (20 degrees C to 25 degrees C), medium (60 degrees C to 70 degrees C), and high (greater than or equal to 98 degrees C) setting before the addition to each of 1 mL of diluted E coli suspension. E coli growth was determined after 3 1/2 hours of incubation at 37 degrees C. Microwaving at high temperatures (72 degrees C to 98 degrees C) caused a marked decrease in activity of all the tested antiinfective factors. E coli growth at greater than or equal to 98 degrees C was 18 times that of control human milk. Microwaving at low temperatures (20 degrees C to 53 degrees C) had no significant effect on total IgA, specific IgA to E coli serotypes 01 and 04, but did significantly decrease lysozyme and specific IgA to E coli serotype 06. Even at 20 degrees C to 25 degrees C, E coli growth was five times that of control human milk. Microwaving appears to be contraindicated at high temperatures, and questions regarding its safety exist even at low temperatures.