Breast milk is best, and often, moms will pump and store it for later use. Exclusive breastfeeding doesn’t happen easily for every mom. In some cases, you have to be away from your baby for several hours. For some moms, breastfeeding may not work out because they have inverted nipples, or the baby can’t latch on properly. Other moms don’t feel that they can handle breastfeeding and opt to pump exclusively.
Whatever the reason, pumping regularly helps to maintain your milk supply. This means you have to pump and store breast milk safely for your little one to take hours or days later. However, sometimes that milk could go bad, and you don’t even notice. So, what happens if baby drinks spoiled breast milk? Let’s start by understanding how to store it and how it looks and smells.
How Does Normal Breast Milk Look?
Breast milk is usually white, but each woman’s milk may appear different. Sometimes it comes with a hint of yellow, bluish, orange, or off white. Colostrum, which comes in as soon as your baby is born, is usually yellowish. The transitional milk sets in two to five days later up to two weeks postpartum and appears orange-ish.
The mature milk is more watery and comes after two weeks. It’s bluish or whitish. These different colors can also show up within a single pumping session, from the foremilk to the hindmilk.
This spectrum of colors also depends on several other factors, including your diet, water intake, herbal consumption, medication, and how many days or months of breastfeeding. If the milk changes color, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is bad.
How Does Normal Breast Milk Smell?
According to many moms, their breast milk is odorless, while others say it smells sweet. Then others say it smells ‘soapy’ soon after a breast pumping session or after getting it from the freezer.
In some cases, the soapy smell comes from a high level of lipase, an enzyme that naturally exists in breast milk. This enzyme helps your baby break down breast milk for easy digestion and absorption of its essential nutrients. Defrosted breast milk may smell slightly sour, and this is normal.
SEE ALSO: What To Do With Leftover Formula Powder
What Happens if Baby Drinks Spoiled Breast Milk?
On tasting the spoiled breast milk, your baby will squirm and spit out it out. If they swallow the spoiled breast milk, they may get a tummy ache and soon after vomit the milk. Babies will rarely get diarrhea or fever from drinking milk that has gone bad.
Once you notice your baby refusing the milk after tasting it, you should stop feeding them and check it. It’s rare for breast milk to go bad if you handle or store it following the proper guidelines. However, don’t feel bad if it happens to you. Even the most careful parent, guardian, or babysitter can give a baby spoiled milk unintentionally.
How to Tell Your Breast Milk is Spoiled
Breast milk typically separates after a pumping session. The watery milk goes to the bottom while the fatty milk makes its way to the top. Gently swirl the bottle, and if the breast milk mixes easily, it’s in good condition. If you notice chunks after swirling, the milk is spoiled.
Smell the Milk
If your milk is at a normal temperature or refrigerated, you can use the ‘sniff test’ to check if it’s gone bad. It’s normal for breast milk to have varying smells, but if your milk has a sour-like smell, it’s most likely spoiled.
As we mentioned before, breast milk has the enzyme lipase. High levels of this enzyme can lead to a soapy or sour smell, much as the milk is safe for the baby.
Taste the Milk
Tasting your breast milk will help you tell if it’s safe or not for the baby. Its taste may vary from cow milk, but it shouldn’t taste sour or rancid. Refrigerated milk that tastes sour is spoiled, so you should not give it to the baby.
For frozen milk, thaw it first by putting it in the refrigerator overnight or holding the bag or container under warm running water. Never thaw frozen breast milk in boiling water or the microwave.
Swirl the container or bag gently to mix the fatty and liquid layers of the milk. Spoiled breast milk will not mix well and have a sour smell. If you’re not sure whether it’s safe, taste it. It should be sweet-ish. If it tastes sour, it’s gone bad.
How to Make Sure Your Breast Milk Doesn’t Go Bad
According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, nursing mothers and caregivers must follow recommended preparation and storage standards. These standards help maintain pumped breast milk’s quality and safety for the baby’s optimal health.
Before Pumping/Expressing Breast Milk
Whether you’re expressing manually or using an electric pump, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water.
Check the pump well and clean it well. If it’s been in storage for a while and has any moldy parts, throw them away and replace them immediately.
Storage after Expressing Breast Milk
Store breast milk only in food-grade bottles or recommended storage bags. The bottles must have tight-fitting glass or plastic lids.
Store freshly expressed milk in the following ways:
- At room temperature for four hours maximum.
- In a refrigerator for four days.
- In the freezer for about six months for the best quality. It can last up to 12 months in a deep freezer because the cold temperature is more stable.
Indicate clearly on the bag or container the date you expressed that milk. Never store the milk in the refrigerator door. The door is exposed to temperature changes as you open and close it.
Freeze immediately any expressed milk that you won’t need for the next four days. Avoid wastage by freezing the milk in small portions, preferably enough for one feeding. As breast milk freezes, it expands. Therefore, it’s advisable to leave a little room at the top of the storage bag or container.
If you’re traveling, you can store the milk with icepacks in an insulated bag for a maximum of 24 hours. Ensure that the baby drinks the milk as soon as you arrive or store it immediately in the refrigerator or freezer.
Thawing Breast Milk Safely
Place the storage bag or container with the milk into a different container with warm water. You can also run warm tap water over the bag for a couple of minutes. Avoid using direct heat or microwave.
Keep the container tightly sealed while warming the milk. Don’t give your baby any milk that has been leftover in a bottle for more than 2 hours. Discard it instead.
Don’t panic if your baby starts vomiting soon after drinking spoiled milk. That is what happens if baby drinks spoiled breast milk. However, if the vomiting persists or comes with additional symptoms, they can become dehydrated. At this point, you must call your pediatrician immediately.
Breast milk contamination may happen to the most careful parent or caregiver. Following the correct preparation and storage guidelines will help you understand how normal breast milk looks, smells, and tastes. That way, you won’t discard good milk or give spoiled milk to your baby.