Anyone that's attempted to breast feed or nurse can guess why breast milk's nickname is liquid gold. It is nutrient packed, sometimes in low supply, and labor intensive to produce. Whether you are exclusive pumper or pumping to secure a stockpile for future separations from your baby, you may be worried from time to time about giving your baby spoiled milk. But how do you know if it's not usable? Thankfully, there are some signs your breast milk is still good so you can avoid throwing out perfectly fine milk.
For the short time I breastfed and pumped, I felt like it was always a guessing game. I did what I was supposed to as far as proper storage procedures and labeling each bag with dates and times. Yet, when it came time to actually using the milk sometimes I would be second guessing it thinking, "Hmm, this smells different today, or, this looks a little different today." As much as it pained me to dump it in the sink (pumping and dumping is the literal worst) I felt like I didn't have a choice because there was no way I could feed my baby milk that I even slightly thought might be spoiled. I'd blame myself forever if that happened.
Turns out I was being overly cautious and admittedly a little misinformed. Here are five ways, to help you determine if your breast milk is good, fresh and usable.
1. Different Colored Milk Is Good To Go
According to Kelly Mom your breast milk can look all types of ways including: watery, thin, blue, green, or orange if the mother has been eating a lot of green foods or other colored foods. The site noted that the color of the milk is usually nothing to be worried about. Breast milk changes it's composition feeding to feeding, day to day and it essentially changes with your growing baby.
"Disregard color as it's a poor indicator of freshness," Mel McCullough, a breast pump supply seller with Ameda Direct tells Romper. "Frozen milk can take on a yellowish hue and it's completely normal." She also said breast milk can be bluish or brownish because of food dyes or the mother's diet in general.
2. Separation Signals Freshness
Another visual indicator of freshness is an appearance of separation. According to Le Leche League International (LLLI) human milk will separate if it's allowed to stand and the fat will rise to the top. If you see separation in your milk rest assured it's totally normal and good to go.
You can't compare breast milk to cow's milk in that sense because cow's milk goes through a pasteurization process to prevent separating. All you have to do is shake the container of your breast milk to get consistency back to non-separated.
3. Properly Stored Breast Milk Is The Gold Standard
Properly stored breast milk is one of the most sure fire indicators that your milk is still good. There are some widely agreed upon storage standards touted by experts that you can use as a guideline.
The Baby Center explained that human milk can sit out at room temperate for up to six hours. In a cooler with ice packs you're looking at 24 hours. In a refrigerator, it's best to store the milk in the back and it can be left in there for five days. With frozen milk you can get away with breast milk being in there for six months.
4. Soapy Smelling Breast Milk Is Up To Snuff
People sometimes think if something has an unusual odor it means something is wrong, spoiled, or not safe. Not when it comes to human milk. In this regard, soapy smelling or tasting breast milk is still good, and perfectly fine to feed your baby.
Kelly Mom noted that the soapy aroma is not a reason for concern and is safe for your baby. It could just be an indication that your breast milk is high in lipase, which is an enzyme that breaks down the fat in milk. Most babies don't mind the mild taste difference, but if they're rejecting it there's something you can do. "Scalding milk before freezing it can deactivate the enzyme and extend the milk's freshness," McCullough says. Kelly Mom added that the process is recommended for those babies who are rejecting the milk, even though scalding tends to destroy some of the immunity boosting qualities of the milk.
5. A Rancid Smell Spells No Good
There are signs your breast milk is good, then there are signs your breast milk is just plain bad, unusable, and possibly unsafe. If your milk has a distinctly sour or or rancid odor, it's an indication that it's spoiled according to Kelly Mom. The site noted that it's just like cow's milk in that regard. If your milk smells sour it's probably not safe to feed your baby. If you feel like you're repeatedly getting expired milk you might want to take another look at your storing procedures to make sure you're doing it in the best, most efficient way.
Navigating the breast milk spoiled or non spoiled conundrum can be difficult, especially in the beginning. Rest assured as long as you breast milk isn't smelling like old cheese you are probably OK to feed it to your baby. If you're still unsure you can always contact a certified breastfeeding expert to help you determine what's best for you and your baby.