How to Manage High Lipase Breastmilk

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Video Chemical oxidation breast milk

DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding you or your baby’s health. Please read my Medical Disclaimer for more info

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bags of frozen breastmilk

If you have high lipase breastmilk, the excessive breakdown of fats can result in a metallic, soapy, or fishy aroma and taste that your baby may dislike. When this happens, the nutritive properties of the milk are not affected, however, some babies may disfavor the taste.

So, what can help?

First, What is Lipase?

Lipase is a type of enzyme that helps digest fat [1] and is found only in human breastmilk and milk from mountain gorillas. Quite an interesting lactation fact, right?

And there are two kinds of lipase that are well known: lipoprotein lipase and bile salt-dependent lipase [2]. Each has a positive role to play in digestion and immunological effects on your baby.

The benefits of lipase for your baby include:

  • Supporting baby’s ability to digest fats [1] by guaranteeing fat molecules remain blended into the milk in a small, easily digestible form [2].
  • Breaking down triglycerides to release fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K [3].
  • Releasing free fatty acids that provide immunological effects (including, antibacterial, antiviral, and antiprotozoan) [4]. One purpose of the lipolysis process is to prevent the growth of microorganisms in thawed breastmilk [5].
  • Protecting against infectious intestinal parasites such as Giardia (a parasite that causes diarrhea) and Cryptosporidium (a parasite that causes the diarrheal disease: cryptosporidiosis) [6].

High Lipase Activity

expressed breastmilk

There are a couple of possibilities as to why the odor or taste of your breastmilk may change, and the solutions depend on the root cause.

If the change in odor and taste is due to high lipase, often, the breastmilk doesn’t smell or taste abnormal when it’s fresh, but you and/or your baby may notice the difference if the breastmilk has been refrigerated or frozen and this is because the lipase has had more time to break down more fats. Additionally, the rate at which this occurs varies from person to person. For some, it occurs in less than 12 hours, while others notice little or no change for up to a few days.

What can help if your baby dislikes the taste?

A few tricks you can try if your baby dislikes the taste of your high lipase breastmilk include:

  • Try mixing the refrigerated or defrosted breastmilk with half freshly expressed breastmilk. Often, babies are content if the smell and taste are masked with some fresh breastmilk.
  • If your baby is 6 months old or older, you may add 1-2 drops of alcohol-free vanilla extract to the bottle to help improve the taste.
  • Lastly, you may scald your breastmilk prior to freezing it to resolve this issue. However, scalding your breastmilk above 100°F (40°C) can deactivate lipase and is not advised as this may destroy many of the immunological active factors and benefits in breastmilk [5].

However, if the first 2 options do not work for you, it is still immensely beneficial to feed your baby the scalded breastmilk over some other options. If possible, just try to nurse your baby at your breast and/or feed your baby fresh breastmilk when you can.

Scalding Your Breastmilk to Deactivate High Lipase Activity

Scalding means to heat the milk to where bubbles are just seen forming on the edges.

To scald your breastmilk:

  1. Place the milk in a clean pan or pot over low heat on the stove.
  2. Heat the milk to the point where it is bubbling around the edges but not boiling, as boiling will definitely reduce or destroy valuable immunologic properties [7].
  3. Place the pan in a larger bowl filled with ice water (use lots of ice) to cool it quickly.
  4. Store your breastmilk in rigid polypropylene plastic or Pyrex containers [8], either in the refrigerator if it is to be used within a day or two, or in the freezer, if it will be stored longer.

Lawrence and Lawrence recommend rigid polypropylene containers for storing breastmilk because fewer nutrients and immunological components are lost compared to breastmilk stored in other types of containers [8]. Lawrence and Lawrence also say that if polypropylene containers are not available, Pyrex is the next best choice. However, the best choice for storing breastmilk is glass storage containers.

Another Possible Cause: Chemical Oxidation

pouring filtered water into a glass cup

Another possible cause of a change in smell or odor in your breastmilk may be chemical oxidation. This problem is extremely rare, but may be more challenging to resolve.

If the smell of your breastmilk is rancid or sour, milk storage experts Jones and Tully suggest the cause is likely chemical oxidation rather than high lipase activity.

Chemical oxidation may be caused by a diet containing polyunsaturated fats or rancid fats, or drinking water with free copper or iron ions.

What can help?

When chemical oxidation occurs, your breastmilk is actually spoiled and should be discarded. Scalding the milk will only make this issue worse, however, these dietary changes may help:

  • Avoid fish-oil or flax-seed supplements, anchovies, old vegetable oils, bad nuts, or other foods that may contain rancid fats [9, 10].
  • Drink filtered water to reduce the potential for iron or copper ions being a cause [9]. Using a water filter such as the Brita removes copper and iron from your faucet water. My family personally uses the Brita, and we love it. The Brita does take up a good amount of space in your fridge, but the Brita filters last us a long time even with using it 3-6x daily.
  • Increasing your antioxidant intake may also help prevent chemical oxidation, so you might want to try including beta carotene (found in orange fruits and vegetables) and vitamin E in your diet [9] to help.

Sources

[1] lipids; Lönnerdal and Atkinson, 1995, p. 361

[2] Lawrence and Lawrence, 2016, pp. 136-137

[3] Lawrence and Lawrence, p. 137

[4] Lawrence and Lawrence, p. 136

[5] https://abm.memberclicks.net/assets/DOCUMENTS/PROTOCOLS/8-human-milk-storage-protocol-english.pdf

[6] Lawrence & Lawrence, p. 463

[7] Lawrence and Lawrence, pp. 162, 721-722

[8] Lawrence and Lawrence, p. 719

[9] Mohrbacher, p. 461

[10] Vieira SA, McClements DJ, Decker EA. Challenges of utilizing healthy fats in foods. Adv Nutr. 2015 May 15;6(3):309S-17S. doi: 10.3945/an.114.006965. PMID: 25979504; PMCID: PMC4424769.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may get a commission if you decide to purchase something through my links at no cost to you. Please read my Disclaimer for more info.

DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding you or your baby’s health. Please read my Medical Disclaimer for more info

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