Yesterday I defrosted some breastmilk I had in the freezer. Breastmilk is good for about three months in the conditions of my freezer (stored on the middle shelf of a freezer attached to my refrigerator, which gets opened quite a few times a day), and since I started putting milk away back in September, I have some bags that are nearing their “use by” date. I figured I would defrost a few and use them so they wouldn’t go bad and then put my extra fresh milk in the freezer to be used in another few months. I have used frozen milk before with no problem, but this time something was different. I defrosted the bag in the refrigerator overnight and when I went to use it, it smelled GROSS. Not like spoiled milk, really, just… gross. Kind of plastic-y. And VERY strong. I could smell it from across the room. I store the milk in Lansinoh bags, which ARE plastic, but they are made for milk storage and are BPA free, so I figure that the plastic smell isn’t harmful.
Since it smelled so weird I didn’t want to give it to Owen. I dumped it down the drain, assuming it had not been frozen properly or was past its due date. Sadness! I worked so hard for that milk! I thought maybe the issue was with defrosting overnight, so I thawed another frozen bag in warm water. It smelled awful too. This time I tasted it, thinking that maybe it was just the smell of the plastic, but the milk was fine. Strangely enough, it was not spoiled. It tasted… off… but was not the smell of curdled or rotten milk. It tasted kind of salty, but generally like my milk normally tastes.
Then I remembered reading something about lipase in the past. Lipase is an enzyme that breaks down milkfat when the milk is stored, and some women find that their milk takes on a soapy or metallic taste when it is frozen when they have an excess of lipase. Apparently the milk is perfectly fine to feed your baby, but some babies reject it because of the funny taste. I am not sure if this is the issue with my frozen milk, though, because I’ve used other frozen milk without any issues. Has anyone out there experienced this issue in milk that’s been frozen for a long time, but not a short time? I’m thinking of defrosting some other milk today, spot checking to see when the strange smell happens (after 1 month? 2 months? only near the “end” of the storage time?).
Since I tasted the milk and it didn’t seem spoiled to me, I gave it to Owen as some of his milk before bedtime (3 ounces out of the 6 or so he usually eats). He was a bit fussy while eating and didn’t eat quite as much as usual, but he did take it and then promptly fell asleep like normal. No weird spitting up or poop or gas issues to speak of, so I think I can assume that the milk was ok. “They” say that babies won’t drink spoiled milk, so I figured if he didn’t take it, I should toss everything that smells that way. So I’m operating under the assumption that the issue is lipase.
Seriously, though, how many strange breastfeeding issues do I have to deal with? I think I’ve had my fair share. If Owen will accept small amounts of the smelly stuff, I can mix it in with my fresh milk and then freeze some more now for future use. I’ve read that if you scald your milk before freezing that it reduces the amount of lipase and helps with the funny smell.
Part of me wants to just give up on freezing if it is that complicated because I have a good groove going with exclusively pumping right now and I’m just about keeping up with Owen’s intake (since we started solid foods he’s eating a more normal amount of milk, like 28 ounces a day, which is just about what I can pump). I have a system that works well with pumping and giving him only fresh milk, and supplementing with formula when I can’t keep up on a given day. Since he takes the formula happily, we could always use that if I needed to travel or be away from him.
I don’t know, though, I still have visions of breastfeeding until he is a year old. Maybe that’s crazy. Benjamin certainly thinks it’s crazy. He’s ready for me to wean ASAP. And maybe he’s right. Owen will be 6 months in January and maybe I should pat myself on the back for breastfeeding this long and stop pumping. Decisions, decisions!
Any advice on lipase? Or another theory on why my milk smells so weird after being in the freezer for so long? Some websites suggest freezing in glass instead of plastic… maybe that would help? Anyone done this?