Friday, April 18, 2008

Hey Mom Your Milk Tastes Yucky

by Wendy Haldeman, MN, RN, IBCLC, Co-Founder of The Pump Station

I received a frantic phone call the other day from a mother who had proudly stored 150 ounces of frozen breast milk in preparation for returning to work. She had just defrosted one of her precious bags of milk and attempted to feed her little one. Her baby flat out refused to drink any of the milk. This little one had taken a bottle of fresh milk that morning, so Mom knew that the issue was probably not about refusing a bottle. Perplexed, as this had never happened before, the mother tasted the milk. Gross!!! The milk was horrible. It tasted like soap, smelled really funky, and had a somewhat greasy appearance. This mother was panicked and in tears as she was returning to work the next day.

So, what happened? Before all you moms freak out - understand that the vast majority of babies do not care that frozen milk tastes different. The baby in this story just happened to have a very discerning palate. Breast milk contains an enzyme called lipase which breaks down fat during the freezing process. In a very few cases, lipase will even begin to work on refrigerated milk. This is a normal process and in no way indicates that the milk is “bad” or may be harmful to the baby.
So, what does one do if your baby will not accept your frozen milk? You can try a couple to things. For reasons I am not sure of, pumping into and freezing in glass bottles somehow appears to inhibit the lipase action. Just remember to leave some room in the bottle as the frozen milk will expand and can break the glass. If this strategy does not work you will need to place the freshly expressed milk into a sauce pan and scald the milk. This means, you heat the milk just to where a thin skin forms on the top of the milk (According to Wikipedia, scalded milk has been heated to 180 degrees, just before the boiling point.) Then, immediately shut off the heat and chill the milk. You only need to do this if your baby truly has an issue with your frozen milk. Scalding milk is a real hassle and heating does destroy some of the antibodies.

Another question posed by this mother was whether or not she needed to throw away all her precious milk. I advised her not to. Sometimes the baby changes her mind and will drink the milk and if not, one can always use the milk to mix in with cereal or to thin pureed fruits and vegetables.

Lastly, the mother wanted to know how one can tell the difference between “normal” defrosted milk and truly “spoiled” milk. I advised her to take an ounce of her expressed milk and just leave it on the counter for a day or two. I promised her that even a sleep deprived mom could identify bonafide soured milk!