My Breast Milk Smells

My breast milk smells like soap

Most mothers describe breast milk as smelling sweet or not smelling of anything much at all. But sometimes expressed breast milk may smell or taste like soap; as long as your baby doesn’t mind then it isn’t a problem, it’s safe for them to drink. Bear in mind if you hadn’t tasted it you wouldn’t be worried. The soapy (or metallic) taste is thought to be connected to the activity of the fat digesting enzyme—lipase—in the stored milk. If your baby seems troubled by the taste of expressed breast milk, scalding the milk straight after expressing and before cooling/freezing can help.

Some women have milk that smells or tastes soapy after thawing or even standing for a bit. These women are thought to have a high level of lipase enzymes that break down the fats in milk. the milk is absolutely safe and most babies will still drink it. You can deactivate the lipase before freezing the milk by heating freshly expressed milk to scalding (bubbling around the edges, but not boiling), then quickly cooling and freezing it. This reduces some of the anti-infective elements somewhat, but formula is still far higher in risk and far lower in value.

Another useful resource describing ways to identify, scald and store lipase affected milk is a kindle book by Rebekah Hoffer:

The following excerpt from the book Working and Breastfeeding Made Simple also has ideas for dealing with soapy milk see :

My breast milk smells sour

Breast milk is full of protective factors that make it very long lived, however sometimes a mother notices her carefully stored breast milk has a sour or rancid smell rather than soapy. This is thought to be due to chemical oxidation either via mother’s drinking water or certain fats in her diet. Nancy Mohrbacher describes some specific changes a mother can make to her diet that may help:

  • Avoid drinking your local tap water; switch to bottled water for a while.
  • Stop taking any fish-oil or flaxseed supplements.
  • Avoid any foods like anchovies that contain rancid fats.
  • Avoid using local tap water while handling your milk and its containers.
  • Increase your intake of antioxidants by taking beta carotene and vitamin E supplements.

My breast milk smells like… onion/fish/garlic/other food

This can be due to food that you have eaten tainting your milk or other food stored in the same refrigerator flavouring the breast milk.

Some mothers have found that their breastmilk can smell like the food they’ve eaten (eg garlic). This is one of the good things about breastfeeding, as your baby learns about the flavours in your family diet even before starting solids. Other possible causes include food odours being absorbed into stored breastmilk from the fridge/freezer or storage containers being used. As long as the breastmilk has been stored correctly, the breastmilk is fine to use.

Milk Storage Guidelines

For information on breast milk storage see How Long Does Breast Milk Last?

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