High Lipase is something that can affect a breastfeeding journey. It sounds scary, but it’s nothing to worry about, and your breast milk is still safe for your baby.
Picture this: You’re a new mom. You’ve been religiously pumping your breast milk since your little one was born and you have a nice freezer stash built up. After a while, you realize you have to start using that stash and freeze the fresh breastmilk instead.
You defrost the bags you’ll need for that day and decide to set up bottles, but the first bag of breast milk smells bad. It doesn’t smell like curdled cow’s milk, but it definitely does not smell like the fresh breast milk that you have sitting in your fridge from the morning’s pumping session. You cry as you pour the “bad” milk down the drain and check the next bag. This one smells the same. Before dumping that bag down the sink, you stop and put it back in the fridge. There should be no reason for that milk to be bad. It’s been in the freezer for less than 6 months, you’ve been a fanatic about sterilizing everything, and you can’t bear to dump 8 ounces of milk down the drain when you’ve already dumped 4 ounces.
So you smell the milk again and realize that it smells like soap. Google becomes your best friend when you type in “soapy smelling breast milk” and article after article about something called ‘high lipase’ comes up.
That was me. I’m eternally grateful I did a quick search because I would have thought my entire stash was bad because it all smelled soapy.
So what is high lipase?
According to the La Leche League, lipase is an enzyme that breaks down fat in milk. When you make too much of it, it breaks down the fat in your milk faster when the milk is cooled or frozen. Freezing slows down the process, but doesn’t stop it, so that’s why my breastmilk smelled fine when I bagged and froze it, but smelled like soap when I defrosted it. Since it had been in the freezer for a few months, that enzyme had continued to break down the fat in my breast milk.
Now I had to figure out what that meant for me and my baby. Luckily, high lipase milk will not harm your baby. The high lipase milk is perfectly fine to drink and most babies do not have any issues accepting it. I was one of the lucky ones whose baby didn’t seem to mind the slightly metallic soapy taste. I thought it tasted terrible, but she drank it with no problems.
Some babies don’t take it. There are a number of suggested methods to get around this. One would be to try to use the milk as quickly as possible, but if you’re building a stash, that won’t be feasible.
One way to get around it is to mix the high lipase breast milk with fresh milk to cover the taste. You may have to experiment with the ratio to see which one works for your baby, but starting at half and half often does the trick. If that can’t or doesn’t work, however, there are other options.
The LLL suggests scalding the milk. Although it does kill some of the nutrients, it is better than having a baby that won’t take your milk. To scald, you would place your milk in a pan and heat it until bubbles start to form on the edges. Do not let it come to a full boil. Once you see those bubbles, cool it quickly. Once it’s cool, you can freeze it. If you freeze it before, scalding will not change the taste because the enzyme will still be “live” in the milk. You have to scald it before you freeze it and remember that milk will break down in the fridge as well, so you may have to have some trial and error to see how long your milk takes to break down.
You may still have to experiment with mixing scalded and fresh milk, but this is one of the most common suggestions to avoid your baby refusing your milk (if your baby has a problem with high lipase).
One other suggestion was to place a drop of vanilla extract in your milk to sweeten it since breastmilk is sweet. This was from Pumpables.co and a few other sites, but I’d be cautious as some vanilla extract is alcoholic. I’d recommend doing research before using this method (and get the okay from your pediatrician).
On a final note, your lipase level can differ from baby to baby. My breastmilk did not have as high an amount of lipase in it for my second as it did for my first. I do not know what causes this, but my second baby has no trouble taking the breast milk either, so I hope you are as lucky! I’ve also included a link to the La Leche League article that has more helpful hints.
Good luck in your breastfeeding journey!
Written By: Jerrica Cheramie