Breastmilk smells can vary from sweet caramel to white cheddar flavouring all the way to fishy, metallic or even soapy. Off-smelling breastmilk can be quite worrisome for moms, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your breastmilk is bad!
If you’ve followed proper storage and freezing guidelines and your breastmilk still smells funny…read on before throwing out your liquid gold.
There’s Something About Lipase…
Lipase is a naturally occurring enzyme found in your breastmilk. Enzymes are little workers that help break down your food. Think of enzymes doing what your mom did when you were little; slicing your after-school apples and cutting your steak at dinner, making it easier to eat. Lipase is an enzyme in your breastmilk that helps break down fat so your baby can digest it. Isn’t your breastmilk so cool – not only are you able to give them a powerhouse of nutrients, you’re also giving their body the utensils to break it down for them. Infant formula does not contain lipase enzymes, which makes it harder for babies to digest the cows milk fat (eg: gassiness, bloating, constipation, diarrhea etc).
Breastmilk and Avocados
Some moms have a higher concentration of lipase enzymes in their breastmilk, causing the fat to be broken down at a faster rate and oxidize. This “oxidization” is like slicing up too much an avocado and then putting it in your fridge in hopes of using it the next day for your avocado toast – but sad lessons are learned, every morning – the darn thing goes brown in no-time and we all know that brown avocado just doesn’t smell or taste appealling – despite it being totally safe and still very much nutritous. With lipase, it’s the same kinda deal – too much of it can oxidize the fats inside your breastmilk and start to give off a funky smell or taste. It’s still totally safe, and very much nutritious – but can be a bit off-putting to moms and some babes.
Your Babe Might Not Even Care About High Lipase Breastmilk
High lipase breastmilk might be more worrisome to you than your babe. Not all babes care if your breastmilk smells terrible or tastes bad – (I bet they’ll be the ones who also love Blue Cheese when they’re older). If your little one prefers “fresh from the tap” vs. thawed breastmilk, you don’t have to dump all that liquid gold down the drain.
So what do you do if you have high lipase and your babe doesn’t like the taste of your thawed breastmilk?
Preventing High Lipase Breastmilk
There’s no vitamin or magic pill that will reduce lipase in your breastmilk, and there’s no test on the market for high lipase. I’ve personally looked into developing this, but I don’t want moms to throw out their hard work because they have high lipase. Some babes just don’t care and there are some things you can do to help stop/slow down this enzyme’s activity.
Tips for Saving Your High Lipase Breastmilk:
Scald Your Breastmilk before Freezing
After expressing, place your breastmilk in a saucepan over low-med heat. You don’t want to do this for long, just enough to where little teeny tiny bubbles are forming around the sides.
- This method will destroy the lipase enzyme, but a catch-22 is that it will also destroy some other heat-sensitive nutrients. At the end of the day though, if it prevents you from throwing out your breastmilk, go for it.
Mix in Your Freshly Expressed Breastmilk
If you have some freshly expressed breastmilk in the fridge or after a pump session, mix in 50/50 fresh to thawed breastmilk. This can help cut down on the potency of the already oxidized fats in your previously frozen breastmilk.
Freeze-Dry Your Breastmilk
Freeze-drying is a process where water is removed from the breastmilk in its frozen state, turning your liquid breastmilk into a shelf-stable, nutrient-rich powder.
Removing the water puts the lipase enzyme in a ‘sleep’ mode and prevents your breastmilk from getting more potent smelling/tasting over time. Reconstituted freeze-dried breastmilk tends to be milder in smell and taste, making it more tolerable for your babe. Unlike scalding your milk, heat-sensitive nutrients aren’t destroyed, and your breastmilk will retain nutrients, probiotics, antibodies, and enzymes better and longer than traditional freezer storage.
If your babe still prefers fresh from the tap, you can rest assured that none of your hard-earned stash will go to waste because you can add your high-lipase breastmilk powder to foods as they grow!
What if it’s Not High Lipase?
A rare condition called chemical oxidation may be at play if your breastmilk has an overwhelmingly powerful sour or rancid taste/smell. This may happen if your diet is very high in polyunsaturated fats or “PUFAs” found largely in commercially packaged foods, have free copper or iron ions in your drinking water, commonly found in well water, and older plumbing systems with copper piping. I must emphasize chemical oxidation is quite rare but can happen. Reducing your exposure to PUFAs, increasing levels of antioxidants in your diet through whole foods and filtering your drinking water may help to prevent chemical oxidation in your breastmilk. For more evidence-based information on chemical oxidation and high lipase in your breastmilk, check out KellyMom.com.