High lipase breastmilk and the scalding process - Evidence Based Babie
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High lipase breastmilk and the scalding process

As a breastfeeding mom, you may have to express your breastmilk and you may have noticed that it has a strange smell or taste, or your baby may be refusing thawed breastmilk while they’re perfectly happy to drink fresh breastmilk.

Someone may have mentioned high lipase breast milk, chemical oxidation of breastmilk and how to scald breast milk, so it won’t start smelling or tasting differently than usual.

You may be wondering whether it really is high lipase and what you can do about it. The good news is that it doesn’t have to impact your breastfeeding journey too much.

What is lipase?

Lipase is a naturally occurring enzyme present in breastmilk which helps break down the fat in the milk. Making digestion easier for your baby.

  • Lipase helps to keep the fat well-mixed with the protein part of the milk, it also keeps the fat globules small so that they are easily digestible.
  • Lipase also help to break down fats in the milk, so that fat soluble nutrients and free fatty acids are easily available to babies.
  • The primary lipase in human milk, bile salt-stimulated lipase (BSSL), has been found to be the major factor inactivating protozoans.

High lipase

Each mother produces a different amount of lipase and changing food or diet won’t change the amount of lipase a mother produces. Some women’s breastmilk may have excess lipase activity, which may change the breastmilk smell or the milk taste.

Lipase can cause breastmilk to have a soapy smell and a soapy taste, sometimes it can even have a metallic smell or taste after some time has passed. Some women’s lipase activity is higher than others and the time it takes for the milk to change depends on many factors such as the individual mother and the storage of the breastmilk.

Lipase is completely natural and completely safe for babies to consume, although some babies may refuse the breastmilk due to the smell and taste.

Chemical oxidation

If your breastmilk has a sour smell and taste or is rancid smelling, rather than soapy, it could be due to chemical oxidation of the breastmilk.

A mom’s intake of polyunsaturated fats may be involved, or free copper or iron ions in her water.

Recommendations for chemical oxidation of breastmilk include:

  • Avoiding your usual drinking water (either drinking it or having milk comes into contact with it).
  • Avoiding fish-oil and flaxseed supplements, and foods like anchovies that contain rancid fats.
  • Increasing your antioxidant intake (including beta carotene and vitamin E).

What does scalding breastmilk mean?

The best way to deal with high lipase breastmilk if your baby refuses to drink it is to scald your breastmilk as soon as possible after expressing the milk.

The process of scalding milk breaks down active enzymes, heating the milk to a scald will inactivate the lipase and stop the process of fat digestion.

How to scald breast milk

  • Heat your breastmilk to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit or 82 degrees Celsius, or until you see little bubbles around the edge of a clean pan. Do not bring the water to a rolling boil.
  • Place the pan in a larger bowl filled with ice cold water (use plenty of ice) to cool it quickly.
  • Safely store the breastmilk as needed.

Use storage containers that are specifically designed for human milk.

Lawrence & Lawrence recommend a rigid polypropylene storage container due to the fact that fewer essential nutrients and immunological components are lost compared to breast milk stored in other types of containers.

If polypropylene containers are not available, Pyrex is the next-best choice.

Does scalding breastmilk destroy nutrients and antibodies?

The scalding process will destroy some of the anti-infective properties of the milk and may possibly lower some nutrient levels. This is unlikely to be an issue unless all of the milk your baby is receiving has been heat-treated.

Scalded human breast milk will still be a superior choice compared to infant formula milk though. So, no need to stop breastfeeding if you need to scald your breastmilk.

Is scalding breastmilk always necessary with high lipase?

The good news is that it’s not always necessary to scald your breastmilk. You’ll first have to determine the issue. Is it chemical oxidation or high lipase? If you’re sure it’s high lipase, you can then continue to find a solution.

Offer it to your baby

Even if it smells or tastes different to you, many babies won’t have an issue drinking it. So, try to offer it to your baby first before making a lot of unnecessary work for yourself.

If your baby is refusing the breastmilk, make sure it’s because of the lipase and not for other reasons. We all know that breastfed babies are notorious for refusing bottles, and there are many tricks to try and get them to take a bottle. Perhaps try cup feeding and see if they’re interested.

Oftentimes, it’s the bottle they don’t like and not the milk. Try a few ways to be sure. If they’ll happily take freshly expressed breastmilk but not breastmilk high in lipase, then you’ll know it’s indeed the smell and taste of your milk causing the refusal.

Check the storage

Are you storing your breastmilk properly according to storage recommendations? Are you washing, drying and storing your pump parts as needed? Are you sure it’s high lipase and not the milk actually going off?

Have you tried airtight containers to see if it might lengthen the time before the smell and taste of your milk changes? This sometimes helps.

Perhaps use fresh breastmilk before it changes and try not to express too much breastmilk and then having to freeze it.

Use freshly expressed breastmilk

The lipase activity is different for every mother. Some may notice a change after a couple of hours, some may only notice a difference after a couple of days.

Investigate when exactly the smell and taste of your milk changes, and when possible, try to use it before it happens.

Mix it with fresh milk

If you have previously frozen breastmilk that’s high in lipase and your baby is refusing to drink it. You can mix your previously frozen breastmilk with freshly expressed breastmilk. This may help with the smell and taste and many babies will accept the breastmilk this way.

Scald it

If all else fails, you’ll need to scald the milk to prevent the lipase activity from changing the smell and taste of your milk. You’ll have to do it as soon as possible after expressing, to avoid it changing.

Use alcohol free vanilla essence

I will start off with saying that there is no research or recommendations on this, and I do not recommend this.

This is something that many moms have done for many years. You’ll need to decide whether this is the best choice for you and your baby or not.

Some moms have found that putting just a small drop of alcohol-free vanilla essence into their breastmilk will help change the smell and taste and many babies will then happily drink the breastmilk.

What can you do with your current frozen milk

Feed it to your baby

As mentioned above, there are ways you can feed the milk to your baby, whether it’s by mixing it with fresh milk or even food once they start solid foods.

Have some breastmilk jewelry made

What better way to save your beautiful memories of your breastfeeding journey than to get some breastmilk jewelry made for you? It really is a very special piece of jewelry that you will forever be thankful for.

Use it for a milk bath, soap or lotions

Breastmilk is wonderful for the skin, so why not do a milk bath or make your very own breastmilk soap or lotion.

Donate the breastmilk

You can also donate the breastmilk to a milk bank. Each milk bank will have their own screening process and guidelines, so get into contact with them.

Important notes on high lipase and scalding breastmilk

Remember that there is rarely a need for a milk stash or a freezer stash. Rather breastfeed directly when possible or use fresh breast milk when possible.

High lipase does not mean you have to end your breastfeeding journey, there are many things you can do for high lipase milk.

If you ever need any evidence-based information or support related to breastfeeding, consult with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

Additional information and resources

Variations in the rancid-flavor compounds of human breastmilk under general frozen-storage conditions

The level of bile salt-stimulated lipase in the milk of Chinese women and its association with maternal BMI

ABM Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants, Revised 2017


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