Soapy Milk

If your milk smells of soap you may have a Lipase issue. To understand this concern you first need to understand what Lipase is.

Lipase is an enzyme in our bodies and in milk which helps the body/baby break down fats. Everyone has it, however, it is possible to produce too much which results in what many people describe as “spoiled milk”. This enzyme is not meant to be activated until it hits the gut, however when you produce too much, it starts “digesting” the fats early.

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Most people never know they produce too much lipase, as they either never pump milk or their babies accept their milk without problem. However, there are a small number of people whose babies will reject it.

The most important thing to realise is that it is not a problem. It’s perfectly fine to feed to a baby. The only time it becomes a problem is if your baby is rejecting it.

It is only an issue with pumped milk. It doesn’t necessarily only affect frozen milk, but any milk that has been pumped.

The level of the issue varies from person to person. There is one mother I spoke with whose milk “turns” after a day or two in the fridge. My own however started to “turn” within the first hour after being pumped as you will see below.

Breastmilk is meant to be sweet. Milk which does have excess lipase is identified by a “soapy” smell and a bitter aftertaste in the milk.

If your baby is rejecting your milk, a small experiment can be run to determine how bad the lipase issue is.

If possible, pump 6oz. Scald 3oz (heating it until it bubbles around the edge but doesn’t boil) and leave 3oz as normal. Freeze 1oz of each.

Leave one of each out on the work counter, and put one of each in the fridge.

Taste/smell the two non frozen versions every hour for 12 hours and defrost the frozen samples after 1 week.

Your findings may differ, however these were my findings…

1 hour
Non Scalded: Smelled fine, had already developed a slight aftertaste.
Scalded: Smelled and tasted fine.

5 hours
Non Scalded: Smelled fine, nasty aftertaste.
Scalded: Smelled and tasted fine.

7 hours
Non Scalded: Smelled slightly soapy, taste made me gag
Scalded: Smelled and tasted fine.

Interestingly, even though I’d never feed it to my child, the scalded version smelled and tasted fresh 24 hours later too!

Frozen Samples
Non Scalded: Rancid smell which made me gag
Scalded: Smelled and tasted fresh!

What I learned from this experiment:

  1. Freezing immediately made no difference. The enzyme was still active during its frozen state.

  2. It made no difference at all between the versions left out on the kitchen counter and the one in the fridge. Both samples reacted in the same way in the same time frame.

I used to scald my milk in an avent bottle warmer. I would fill the water quite full and leave it for 40 minutes (refilling water if needed). Not entirely sure what temperature this is, but it’s very, very hot without boiling and worked beautifully. By doing this too, I didn’t lose any milk in the transfer process from the pumping bottle to the stove and back again.

Every person is different. Every baby reacts differently. If you discover you have this issue and your baby rejects your milk, you should run your own experiments and see what your little one will and will not take. I knew of one mother who found she had excess lipase. She scalded her milk only to find her baby would drink the unscalded, but wouldn’t take the scalded!

Be aware that scalding has disadvantages too. Firstly, it destroys some of the nutrients and if you’re freezing it too, it’s not the best thing (although still better than formula!), and secondly, it’s not exactly convenient!

My advice, if you don’t have to… DONT!

Do you have experience with this? What additional advice would you give mums who are struggling with this issue?