Your Ever-Changing Milk
Have you ever looked at your freshly expressed breastmilk and noticed that the color seemed different? Or that it smelled off? Are you wondering if it is okay to feed to your baby? It is rare for breast milk to go “bad” if you are following appropriate storage guidelines and hygiene measures. Read on to learn about various causes of color changes or different smells in your milk. It is important to remember that variations in taste, smell, and appearance of your milk are normal. Your breast milk is the most ideal, tailor made food for your baby.
Milk released from the breast at the start of the feeding is referred to as foremilk. Foremilk is thin in appearance and can have a blue tint. Hindmilk is released towards the end of a feeding. It tends to be thicker and whiter in appearance.
If you have eaten a lot of spinach or green leafy vegetables, you may notice a slight green tint to your breastmilk. Another color change that can occur due to diet is consumption of beets, carrots or squash. This may give your milk an orange appearance. This milk is fine to feed to your baby.
If you happen to notice a brown color to your breastmilk this can be caused by “rusty pipe syndrome”. This means that there is a small amount of blood from broken capillaries in the breast. “Rusty pipe syndrome” commonly occurs during early lactation and resolves over time. You may also notice blood in your milk if you have nipple damage from poor latch, biting, or pumping. A black/brown hue to your milk can be related to old or residual blood. It can also be related to medications or food dyes. Rest assured that blood in your milk is not dangerous to your baby. If you are noticing frequent, large amounts of blood in your milk contact your physician for an exam.
As mentioned, medications and food dyes can also affect the flavor, color, and smell of mother’s milk. Should a mom become ill her milk can also change in color or flavor. Again, it is safe to continue feeding at the breast or with expressed milk in this situation.
Expressed breast milk that has been sitting for a few hours either at room temperature or in the refrigerator likely will develop a white layer or even clumps on the top. This is the fat in your milk. Gently swirl the bottle to mix in the fat. If you notice a clear/white film that is difficult to remove from your pump parts or bottles this is from fat. You can use castile soap when washing to help remove this.
Did you know that some of the foods you eat could make your breast milk taste like that food? This can be helpful to adapt your infant your family’s nutrition styles. Breastfed infants tend to enjoy a wide variety of flavors when starting solids because of this.
If you are noticing an “off” smell from milk that has been thawed, consider two causes. The first cause may be improper storage or handling. This can cause it to smell more rancid. Do not give this breastmilk to your infant as it may have some bacterial contamination.
A sour smell or taste to your milk can be related to a process called chemical oxidation. This can be related to a maternal diet high in polyunsaturated fats or can be from copper/iron in drinking water. Should you notice this issue try avoiding fish oil or flaxseed supplements and foods like anchovies. Avoiding your usual drinking water, try using bottled water instead to see if the problem resolves. Increasing your intake of antioxidants can also help. It is fine to feed this milk to your baby.
If you know you have stored your breast milk appropriately and it still smells “off” it may be due to a high lipase content. Milk with a high lipase level often has a soapy or metallic smell and taste. There is no known way to correct this once the milk has already been frozen and thawed. Should your baby refuse this milk you may want to consider scalding it to deactivate the lipase. You can scald your breastmilk (heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges) and cool quickly before storing.
If you have any questions about the appearance of your milk or proper storage guidelines contact The Care Connection at 716-725-6370 or firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a lactation consultant.