If you are struggling with breast milk that smells off or sour despite following proper storage guidelines, then you might be dealing with excess lipase.
Having excess lipase isn’t the end of the world and there are a few things you can do to help keep the sour smell and taste from affecting your breast milk.
This guide will help you understand what excess lipase is, how you can avoid the change in taste by scalding breastmilk, and what to do if your baby won’t take the milk.
Excess Lipase and Scalding Breastmilk
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There are a lot of things that I was not prepared for as a pumping mom. Excess Lipase was one of them…
As a working mom who pumped 7-8 times a day to provide enough milk for my baby, you can imagine my shock and horror the first time I thawed a bag of frozen breast milk from my freezer stash (that I worked tirelessly to build before returning to work) and it smelled off…
I had followed all the appropriate storage guidelines. It wasn’t even close to being expired. The freezer bag has no holes and wasn’t compromised in any way.
What did I do wrong???
Being uninformed, I did what any paranoid first-time mom would do, I dumped that entire bag of breast milk (5 WHOLE OUNCES!). Ouch.
I thawed a second bag. Same issue…
I immediately started to worry that something happened to my freezer. Perhaps my milk thawed without me realizing it and then refroze. Maybe ALL the milk I had stored (500+ ounces) had gone bad!?
I wanted to cry.
That was when it was suggested to me by a friend to look up excess lipase and scolding breastmilk.
What is Excess Lipase?
Lipase is an enzyme found in breast milk that helps aid in breaking the fat down so that baby can digest it easier. When the lipase is present in excess, that process happens much more rapidly causing the breast milk to taste different and smell sour.
Most moms, like myself, find that freshly expressed breast milk is fine. Frozen breast milk was the culprit for me. I could store fresh breast milk in the fridge for days and it would taste and smell normal. But frozen milk was another story.
Some moms find their freshly expressed milk turns sour tasting after just a few hours. It all depends on the level of the excess lipase.
How to Tell if Excess Lipase is the Issue?
If you have followed all storage guidelines correctly, then excess lipase is most likely the issue.
Here is a quick test you can do:
- Pump fresh milk
- Pour that milk into two store bags
- Put 1 storage bag into the freezer and one in the refrigerator
- Leave for 24-48 hours.
- Thaw the frozen milk
- Test both samples of milk
- If the frozen sample smells off, then it is most definitely a high lipase issue
Having excess lipase does NOT mean the breastmilk smells rancid. This is more of a soured or soapy smell/taste. Rancid smelling breastmilk might mean you had an issue with storage temperature or the milk is outdated.
Is Excess Lipase Breast Milk Safe for Baby to Drink?
Despite smelling slightly off and assuming proper storage guidelines have been followed, breastmilk with excess lipase is completely safe for your baby to drink.
If your baby takes the milk fine, then don’t worry about the excess lipase. There is nothing that you need to do. Count yourself lucky!
However, some babies will refuse the milk due to the altered taste. If this happens, you can do a few things.
If Baby Refuses the Breast Milk, You Can:
- Pump and feed only freshly pumped milk (that’s tough for moms who work or pump exclusively)
- Scald the Breast Milk (more on that below) before storing
- To save your current breastmilk stash, you can mix (cooled) scalded milk with fresh or frozen milk that contains the high lipase in hopes it will help your baby take it. The ratio will be trial and error.
- If mixing doesn’t work, consider donating the milk to a milk bank as excess lipase is not typically an issue from milk banks.
Scalding breastmilk is your best bet for solutions if you want to pump and freeze breast milk when dealing with excess lipase.
Unfortunately, this is not an option for breastmilk that has already been cooled and stored. You need to scald freshly pumped milk.
Steps for Scalding Breastmilk:
- Soon after expressing breastmilk, transfer milk to clean saucepan on the stove
- Heat the milk to about 180 F (82 C) or until you see small bubbles around the edge of the pan
- DO NOT bring to a rolling boil!
- Quickly remove from the heat and quickly cool the milk
- Store (freezer or refrigerator)
While scalding breastmilk does damage some of the anti-infective properties and kill off some of the nutrients, this isn’t a huge issue unless all you ever feed your baby is scaled milk. Make sure they are either breastfeeding or getting freshly pumped milk as well.
Using a Bottle Warmer to Scald Breastmilk
One of the biggest issues I had while working was not having access to a stove to scald breastmilk. This meant anything I pumped at work could not be frozen. That was tough.
One tip I learned fairly quickly was to scald my milk using a standard bottle warmer. It would take less than 8 minutes to scald the milk and clean everything up. Add my 15-20 minute pumping session and I was done in less than 30 minutes.
What You Need to Scald Breastmilk in a Bottle Warmer:
- A Bottle Warm without auto-shutoff feature – I used the Philips Avent Fast Bottle Warmer its one of the few on the market that does not have the auto-shutoff.
- Stainless Steel Bottle – I hate heating the plastic storage containers and storage bags to such a high heat. Stainless steel bottles were my goto. I used the Kid Kanteen Baby Bottles.
- Access to Ice & Container – My office had an ice maker and that was super convenient! Bringing ice from home is another option. Have a container wide enough to give the bottle an ice bath.
- Digital Thermometer – Make sure it’s food grade! I used this one – here.
- Milk Storage Bags – You will need to transfer the milk into storage bags after it is scalded.
Steps for Scalding Breastmilk in a Bottle Warmer:
- Express Milk
- Prep a container with ice and water for an ice bath to dunk the scalded breastmilk bottle into
- Transfer milk to stainless steel bottle and put the bottle cap on but leave the nipple off
- Add water to the bottle warmer and place bottle in the warmer
- Place the thermometer directly into the milk
- Turn on the bottle warmer and watch the thermometer very closely
- As soon as the milk temperature hits 180 F, quickly remove the bottle and place it in the ice bath being careful not to spill the milk or get ice water in the milk bottle
- Once the milk is relatively cool, transfer the milk to a storage container or bag
- Refrigerate or Freeze Breastmilk
You can See How Easy Using a Bottle Warmer is:
Scalding breastmilk may seem like a hassle since you are adding extra steps in addition to pumping but when dealing with excess lipase in your breastmilk it is by far the best way to avoid the altered taste in your breastmilk.
Breastfeeding as often as you can and feeding your baby freshly expressed breast milk when convenient, will help save you the trouble but in order to build a freezer stash, scalding breastmilk is the best way to remedy high lipase.
Have questions or comments? Drop me them below! I would love to hear from you!
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