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There’s no doubt breastfeeding can be a beautiful experience and a unique opportunity for a mother to bond with her child. However, it can also be a frustrating experience; sometimes painful, sometimes defeating and at other times plain bewildering. One of the most common breastfeeding problems for new mothers is excess lipase. Yet, as this issue isn’t widely discussed, it often ends up causing unnecessary anxiety.
It’s why, in this article, we’re going to discuss high lipase breast milk. Let’s find out what it means, why it happens, and what you can do about it.
What Is High Lipase Breast Milk?
Lipase is a naturally occurring enzyme present in breast milk. Its primary purpose is to deconstruct fats in the milk so that an infant can turn them into digestible nutrients. There is nothing abnormal or undesirable about lipase. It’s absolutely essential. However, a not-insignificant percentage of women produce too much lipase while breastfeeding.
This is what’s known as high lipase milk. Crucially, the enzyme has no adverse effects when the baby drinks directly from the breast. But it causes the milk’s fats to break down too quickly resulting in an unpleasant taste after it has been bottled and stored. Some describe this as a soapy taste. Others say the milk is sour tasting even though it hasn’t gone off.
Some mothers say their breast milk smells like metal or their breast milk smells like iron, specifically. Others experience more of an eggy odor. While it’s unpleasant, it poses no risk to an infant’s health. The main issue is getting the baby to drink it. If it tastes unpleasant to you, it definitely tastes unpleasant to them.
To reiterate, high lipase in breast milk is only an issue for pumped, bottled, and stored feeds. Milk-fed directly from the breast is unaffected because the enzyme hasn’t had any chance to alter its fatty compounds. The longer high lipase milk spends outside of the breast, the more likely it is to develop an unpleasant taste or smell.
High lipase affects chilled and frozen milk in the same way so it doesn’t matter how you store the liquid after pumping. It’s all about how quickly you use it.
How to Tell If Your Breast Milk Contains Excess Lipase
Typically, the first indication is when a baby refuses stored milk, but continues drinking from the breast. If this occurs multiple times and there’s nothing obviously wrong with the milk or your child, the best way to know for sure is to taste it.
If you can, compare it with milk directly from the breast or recently pumped milk (bottled within two hours). If the older stored milk tastes different, there’s a good chance lipase is to blame, particularly if it also has an odd smell.
How to Safely Scald High Lipase Breast Milk and Why It Works
So, what can you do about it?
The simplest solution is to safely scald the milk before using it for feeding. Deliberately overheating your milk might sound like an odd thing to do – in all other circumstances it’s something to be avoided – but studies show heating lipase above a certain temperature inactivates the enzyme.
But there is a catch. Scalding only works if you do it before the milk has developed an unpleasant taste. If you know or have a strong suspicion that you’re producing high lipase breast milk, you need to scald it as soon as possible after pumping and bottling it. If it tastes sour already, it’s too late.
Scalding refers to heating the high lipase in breastmilk to 180-degrees Fahrenheit (or 82-degrees Celsius). Do this with plenty of time to spare before a feed so the milk can cool down again afterward. After scalding, refrigerate or freeze the milk as you would normally. Not only will the funny taste be gone but the scalding will extend the breast milk’s storage time and help it stay drinkable for longer.
But, Wait, What About the Antibodies In Scalded Milk?
Unfortunately, scalding destroys a lot of the antibodies present in breast milk making it an imperfect solution. So, ideally, you wouldn’t feed your baby exclusively from the bottle but instead, provide a combination of pumped and on-breast feeds.
If you sometimes pump and feed on the bottle and other times feed on the breast, there’s nothing to worry about. High lipase milk from the breast is not affected, needs no special treatment, and contains plenty of antibodies.
If an exclusively pumped diet is the only viable option (for very busy moms, it might be), figure out a schedule that enables you to use some stored milk before it needs scalding. High lipase milk doesn’t ‘turn’ immediately. You can pump, bottle, and store it for a time (1 to 2 hrs) before the lipase activates. Scalding is only necessary if you know you’re going to be storing high lipase milk for more than two or three hours.
How to Deal with a Freezer Full of High Lipase Breast Milk
Now for the really important question: what do you do if you’ve got a freezer filled with high lipase milk that’s way past the point of scalding. Does it all have to go to waste?
If you’ve already pumped and bottled lots of milk before discovering your lipase issue, you’re going to be left with some unusable feeds. Some babies will drink the odd-tasting milk if it’s mixed with unaffected milk straight from the breast or scalded milk. It’s worth a try if you’re willing to risk wasting some ‘good’ milk if they don’t accept it.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much else you can do to make the milk palatable. However, if the prospect of wasting it is unthinkable, contact your local milk bank. A lot of donated milk gets given to sick babies on tube diets so taste really isn’t an issue. Most milk banks have no problem accepting high lipase milk but you should always inform them before donating.
How to Scald High Lipase Breast Milk: A Step By Step Guide
There are two safe ways to scald frozen breast milk and milk that’s been chilled for several hours after pumping.
Method One – Stovetop Scalding
- Gather together the following supplies: a large mixing bowl, crushed ice, a stainless steel bottle or thermos, a thermometer, a saucepan, another bottle for storage.
- Prepare an ice bath by filling half the mixing bowl with ice.
- Pour the high lipase milk into the saucepan and place it on the stove.
- Heat the milk to 180-degrees Fahrenheit using the thermometer to make sure it doesn’t get too hot and start to burn. It should be bubbling around the edges but not boiling.
- Place the stainless steel bottle or thermos in the makeshift ice bath. Now pour the breast milk into the thermos and allow it time to cool.
- Once cool, transfer the scalded milk to whatever container you would usually store your breast milk in. Then, place it in the fridge or freezer as you normally would. The milk has been treated and should not develop a funny taste. It can be stored for as long as required.
Method Two – Bottle Warmer Scalding
- Gather together the following supplies: a large mixing bowl, crushed ice, a stainless steel bottle or thermos, a thermometer, another bottle for storage, a bottle warmer with an auto-shutoff feature.
- Prepare an ice bath by filling half the mixing bowl with ice.
- Place the stainless steel bottle or thermos into the bottle warmer. Pour the breast milk into the thermos and turn the bottle warmer on.
- Wait until the breast milk reaches 180-degrees Fahrenheit (use the thermometer). Stir occasionally with a long spoon or the thermometer itself.
- Remove the bottle from the bottle warmer and put it straight in the ice bath. Allow plenty of time to cool.
- Once cool, transfer the scalded milk to whatever container you would usually store your breast milk in. Then, place it in the fridge or freezer as you normally would.
If you don’t have a stainless steel container, you can use a regular plastic one. The reason we recommend stainless steel is because plastic emits synthetic compounds (BPAs) when it’s heated and they can end up in your baby’s food.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q – Is it safe for my baby to drink high lipase breast milk?
A – The problems with high lipase breast milk are superficial and do not pose any risk to a baby’s health. Excess lipase affects the milk’s taste and smell and the level of antibodies it contains but it does not make it undrinkable.
There is no reason to be concerned if your baby has consumed high lipase milk. Scalding breast milk can be a tedious process so if your baby is willing to drink it untreated, count yourself lucky.
Q – Can I do anything to fix the high levels of lipase in my breast milk?
A – There is no proven way to alter high lipase levels in your breast milk. The problem affects some but not all women. Though it’s more common for a mother to produce high lipase milk throughout the entire nursing process, it’s not unheard of for the situation to change unexpectedly and without intervention.
The important thing to remember is there’s nothing wrong with your breast milk. This is not a health issue. It’s just a physical quirk that some women experience.
Q – Is scalding breastmilk easier on the stove or with a bottle warmer?
A – A lot of mothers prefer to scald high lipase milk on the stove simply because it reaches temperature much faster. Other than heating the milk a bit faster, there’s not much difference between the two methods. If you’re busy and can’t watch over the milk the entire time it’s heating, use the bottle warmer. It’s easier to burn the milk on the stove if you don’t keep a watchful eye.
Q – How do I know for sure the problem is high lipase and not something else?
A – It’s a good idea to eliminate other possible causes for the sour taste of your milk before starting a scalding schedule. Check your fridge is working correctly and the bad taste isn’t an indication of spoilage. Some plastics can affect the taste of liquids so you may want to try an alternative container to see if the issue resolves itself.
‘Excess lipase in your breast milk’ can sound a bit more serious than it is to nursing mothers who are unfamiliar with the problem. There’s nothing to worry about beyond the prospect of having to do a bit more work which, let’s be honest, is the really scary part when caring for a new baby.
While it can definitely be frustrating, it’s an issue that’s easy to handle when you figure out what it is and how to fix it. We know you can handle it!
Did you learn something useful? Let us know in the comments below!
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