Human Milk Warming Temperatures Using a Simulation of Currently Available Storage and Warming Methods

PLoS One. 2015 Jun 10;10(6):e0128806. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128806. eCollection 2015.


Human milk handling guidelines are very demanding, based upon solid scientific evidence that handling methods can make a real difference in infant health and nutrition. Indeed, properly stored milk maintains many of its unique qualities and continues to be the second and third best infant feeding alternatives, much superior to artificial feeding. Container type and shape, mode of steering, amount of air exposure and storage temperature may adversely affect milk stability and composition. Heating above physiological temperatures significantly impacts nutritional and immunological properties of milk. In spite of this knowledge, there are no strict guidelines regarding milk warming. Human milk is often heated in electrical-based bottle warmers that can exceed 80°C, a temperature at which many beneficial human milk properties disappear. High temperatures can also induce fat profile variations as compared with fresh human milk. In this manuscript we estimate the amount of damage due to overheating during warming using a heat flow simulation of a regular water based bottle warmer. To do so, we carried out a series of warming simulations which provided us with dynamic temperature fields within bottled milk. We simulated the use of a hot water-bath at 80°C to heat bottled refrigerated milk (60 ml and 178 ml) to demonstrate that large milk portions are overheated (above 40°C). It seems that the contemporary storage method (upright feeding tool, i.e. bottle) and bottle warming device, are not optimize to preserve the unique properties of human milk. Health workers and parents should be aware of this problem especially when it relates to sick neonates and preemies that cannot be directly fed at the breast.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Food Preservation / methods*
  • Food Preservation / standards
  • Heating / methods
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*

Grants and funding

nanobébé LTD., provided support in the form of a salary for author SBZ, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.