48 answers

Thawed Breastmilk Separating?

I am about to go back to work, and have stockpiled a lot of breast milk in preparation. My 6 month old boy has never had a problem taking a bottle, either from Dad, or anyone else, but he has typically gotten freshly expressed breast milk when he has had a bottle. (I have been exclusively breastfeeding him for 6 months, and have just last week begun introducing rice cereal mixed with breast milk, which he is taking well.)

In his "trial days" at daycare this week, he has been rejecting his bottles, which are full of thawed breast milk. Could this be the problem? I notice that my thawed milk seems to separate quite a bit. I have been thawing the milk by placing it in the fridge the night before. The fat is separated, but I can mix it up. Shortly afterwards, it separates again, but into a grainy appearance, not the layered separation that happens with fresh milk. Has anyone else encountered this issue? Any advice? I am not sure that I will be able to consistently pump enough each day to provide him with fresh milk for the following day. Thank you!

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Hi everyone. Thanks so much for all your advice and feedback.

He is doing much better at daycare only a few visits later. He took a full bottle from his care-giver today. I think a few things were going on. I think that first batch of milk somehow had gone bad, even though it is less than two months old. (Yes, I store the milk in the back of the freezer, with the air squeezed out. I thawed by placing in the fridge the night before). Other milk that I have thawed since then did not get the curdled, grainy appearance after I mixed the fat layer in. Also, I think he was just simply too intrigued by all the other kids--and afraid of missing something exciting--to eat. And, I think (as many of you pointed out), he is not interested in a bottle unless he is truly hungry. My caregiver was trying to bottle-feed him according to my approximate nursing schedule, so I don't think he was really that hungry when she made her first attempts.

Just to clarify in case someone is reading this thread for their own knowledge. Some of you mentioned that if my milk was too old it would be more suitable for a much younger baby--higher levels of fat and colostrum. I certainly agree with this, but I don't think it is a factor here. My current stockpile is only six weeks old. I pump daily, even while I was home on mat leave, because I am also a milk donor. My extra milk goes to the milk bank, and only the most recent milk is stored up for my son for daycare. Because of the daily pumping and full time nursing, I have a lot of milk.

Thanks for all your reassurances that he would get the hang of it soon. It seems like we are back on track now.

More Answers

Hi E.,

I think the frozen breast milk just tastes differently. Maybe it has freezer burn? My 2 children never took bottles, although with my daughter (1st child), I did have an abundant supply of frozen breast milk that was thrown away because she had no interest in it whatsoever. Not even when I mixed it with her food. Perhaps you might want to try mixing his cereals with fresh pumped milk that is kept in the fridge and never frozen. Use that fresh milk for him to take to daycare for his bottles, and let him enjoy the loving, secure time with you when he breastfeeds. Maybe he's ready for other different types of baby foods while he's away from you? I breastfed until both of my children were 15 months. The only reason I stopped was because I had to have back surgery while my daughter was little and with my son, I had to leave town unexpectedly. No matter how much solid foods they eat, while a mommy is still nursing, that is the most comforting time a child can have and it's also a nice way for them to ease teething pain, and to relax enough to fall asleep :) Just make whatever adjustments you need and know that the breastmilk doesn't have to be frozen. You sound ,like you use it up fast enough. Here are some general guidelines to store breastmilk:

At room temperature (less than 77°F) for 4 to 8 hours
At the back of a refrigerator for 3 to 8 days
At the back of a freezer for up to 3 months

*And remember never to heat breastmilk in the microwave as it doesn't heat consistently all the way through, leaving hot spots that can burn your baby. The microwave also destroys valuable proteins in the breastmilk.

1 mom found this helpful

Please RE-READ Tera, Jennifer C. and Melissa's advice to you. All three of them are spot on with why your milk is separating, keeping your supply going, etc. Try not to thaw your bottles the night before. Breastmilk thaws very quickly under WARM tap water, but should only be left thawed for 24 hours, so when you thaw it at night it "expires" faster. It takes me 10 minutes to defrost and prepare my son's bottles in the morning. Again, don't shake the milk, swirl it. The grainy appearance will only happen sometimes. Don't worry about it, it's still fine as long as it hasn't been in the back of your freezer for over 6 months, and as long as you didn't acciendally boil it while defrosting it under water that was too hot. Do not use boiling water to defrost breastmilk! WARM TAP WATER is best. Of course never microwave it. Keep up the good work. Keep stocking your freezer with milk, as much as possible, because you'll need it! Before you know it your baby will be taking the defrosted milk like a champ! Call the Pump Station with these types of questions. They'll answer all of your questions by phone.

1 mom found this helpful

You should check the Medela website. Some women produce higher levels of a certain "chemical" that can sour when frozen and thawed. But I think you just boil the milk (and then let cool of course) before serving. I remember reading about it on the site and it could help you. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

what is your method of thawing? hopefully not the microwave. the best way to thaw breastmilk is to hold the bag underneath warm/hot water from the tap. it shouldn't separate much. hope that helps.


1 mom found this helpful

Is this his first time getting a bottle? Many breastfed babies resist transitioning to a bottle after being fed exclusively directly from the breast. If that is the case, then there are many reasons why they reject it and equally as many options for working through the resistence.

However, if your baby has taken a bottle in the past no problem, then it could be issues with the milk itself. Breastmilk should be thawed overnight in the fridge or under warm running water. Breastmilk should NEVER be shaken, you should only swirl it to combine the foremilk & hindmilk. It should combine fairly well if warmed just beyond room temperature.

Another issue could be the recent introduction to cereal. Babies will often cut back on their milk intake when solids are introduced.

The important thing is not to stress yourself out over this. You will work through this, it just may take some figuring out!

1 mom found this helpful

just shake it up really well before the feeding. and then half way through the feeding shake it again so that it stays together.


That is really normal. The fat seperates because the milk isn't "homoginized" like cow's milk you get in the store. If you warm the milk slightly it will reincorporate much more easily.

http://www.kellymom.com/ is a great site for all things breastfeeding. I pumped for first son until he was 16 months old and nursed him until he was 2. My second son is 16 months old now and I quit pumping a few weeks ago and we are still nursing. I work full time so both kids got a lot of pumping milk and much of it is frozen.

I've heard that frozen milk has a different taste/texture/smell than fresh (never tried it! LOL). You can try mixing a little frozen in with freshly pumped stuff to help your babe get used to it (just steadily increase the amount of frozen to fresh if you need to).

I will tell you that if you don't make pumping each day a priority your milk supply will decline and you will have a hell of a time. I speak from hard experience on that one. Pumping is a pain in the butt but you've got to do it to keep your milk supply up or you'll be headed down the road to formula in no time at all. Everyone is different but I found what worked best for me was to pump once first thing in the morning (your milk supply should be highest first thing in the a.m.), then once at work in the morning and once in the afternoon (if I was having supply issues, I'd throw in another session at lunch), and then once after my babe went to sleep but before I went to bed.

If you don't have a double electric pump and some way to pump hands-free, get one. It takes most of the drudgery out of pumping and you will likely do lots of pumping.

Also, I belong to this yahoo group:
and it has been tremendously helpful. It is a very supportive community for moms who nurse and/or pump. Great advice and troubleshooting if you have any problems. I'd highly recommend joining to anyone who will need to do a significant amount of pumping.

Good luck in going back to work!


That's wonderful that you're nursing your boy! Breastmilk does separate into layers, as it has a foremilk (watery) and hindmilk (creamy) consistency, and is not homogenized (except when you shake it up). Nonhomogenized cows milk looks like that, too (you can scoop the creamy layer right off the top). You're thawing it the best way, in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure that the milk hasn't been frozen for longer than what the guidelines say for your kind of freezer. Sounds like everything should be fine.

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