"I had a stash of expressed milk in my freezer," says Alicia, "but when I thawed a bag the other day, my baby refused to drink it. I checked and it smelt and tasted 'soapy', so I thawed another bag and this one was off too.
"I don't get it. I followed the storage guidelines to a tee. I need my baby to drink my milk because I am going back to work in a couple of weeks – please tell me I won't have to ditch my entire freezer stash!"
If breast milk has actually gone 'off' it will smell rancid like sour milk – but what Alicia is describing sounds as though she could have an excess of lipase, an enzyme that naturally occurs in breast milk. It has some important beneficial functions, such as breaking down fats in breast milk so fat soluble vitamins (eg Vitamins A and D) are more available to the baby, helping keep the fat particles well mixed with whey, and keeping fat globules smaller so they are easily digested.
When a mum has an excess of lipase in breast milk it will mean that the fats in her milk will break down more quickly, giving the milk this soapy taste after it's been expressed. Although it won't harm your baby, it's very common for babies to reject this soapy tasting milk.
But before Alicia gives up on expressing or ditches her entire freezer stash, there are some answers.
The first tip for mums with a high lipase content in their milk? The lipase enzymes can be inactivated by scalding the milk as soon as it is expressed. To do this, heat breast milk in a pot (at about 82C) until you see little bubbles appear at the edges of the pot. Be sure not to boil the milk. Cool it quickly and freeze.
Dealing with that freezer stash
If your frozen milk is out of date or if it's sour (it will smell and taste rancid, not just soapy), you will need to ditch it.
But if it's just soapy, you can try mixing some of this thawed milk with freshly expressed milk; start with half thawed and half fresh, and adjust from there.
If your baby is older and eating family foods, you can try mixing thawed milk into food or smoothies.
If your baby rejects the thawed milk, even when mixed with fresh milk, and the thought of throwing out your liquid gold sees you literally crying over spilt milk, please don't despair – you can make this marvelous mummy milk into a healing lotion that can help with dry itchy skin, sunburn, psoriasis, rashes and grazes. It will be gentle on delicate, sensitive skin, and the antibacterial properties in breast milk can reduce secondary infection due to scratching.
- 100 ml grapeseed oil
- 1 tbsp beeswax
- A few drops of Vitamin E oil
- 100 ml breast milk, at room temperature
Mix the oil and beeswax together and gently heat on low until the beeswax has just melted. Add the Vitamin E oil.
Slowly pour in the breast milk while whisking the oil mixture rapidly. The mixture should thicken as you whisk, and will thicken more as it cools.
Pour into a lidded container and pop it in the fridge. You can store it for up to three months.
Pinky McKay is an IBCLC Lactation consultant and bestselling baby care author of Sleeping Like a Baby and Parenting by Heart. She's also the creator of Boobie Bikkies, all natural and organic cookies to support a healthy breast milk supply. Visit her website at www.pinkymckay.com.