Does Breast Milk Ever Smell Sour? The Truth Revealed

why does my breast milk smell sour

Breast milk can smell funny at times, going from sweet to sour. But is that sour milk smell normal or a sign something’s wrong? Here’s why breast milk can smell funky and when it’s time to worry.

That sour stench coming from your breast milk may have you wrinkling your nose, but don’t dump it just yet! Occasionally, breast milk takes on a sour odor that can be alarming. Before you toss it out, learn what makes breast milk go sour and when it’s still safe for baby.

The Shock of Sour Breastmilk

You’ve just pumped a fresh bottle, excited to provide that liquid gold to your precious babe. But when you unseal the bottle to pour it into a storage bag, you get a whiff that makes you recoil. A sour, rancid smell you wouldn’t expect from milk that came straight from your body.

Your first instinct may be to toss the funky fluid down the drain and sterilize your pump parts asap. But hold up, mama. Sour breastmilk isn’t always as bad as it seems.

Before you dump that liquid gold, let’s explore what can make your milk go sour in the first place. The causes might surprise you, and the milk may still be safe for your little one.

When Vitamins Smell Vile

Believe it or not, sourness in itself doesn’t mean your breastmilk has spoiled. As strange as it sounds, sourness can actually come from vitamins and enzymes that are still nourishing your baby.

The main enzyme culprit is lipase. This enzyme occurs naturally in all breastmilk and helps babies digest the fats and proteins. But lipase can also break down milk fats into fatty acids that give milk a soapy or sour aroma.

The intensity of lipase differs between moms. You might never notice it, or it could make your milk smell and taste like sour cream! The smell gets worse after the milk is frozen and thawed. But relax – it’s not hazardous.

Another common source of sourness is your own diet. Spicy foods like garlic and onions add a sulfuric rotten egg odor. Cruciferous veggies can cause a cabbage-like smell. But as funky as diet-based scents can be, they don’t spoil the milk. Some babies don’t even notice or care about the flavors!

So next time you get a whiff of something sour from your liquid gold, don’t panic. It could just be proof that your milk is chock full of nutrients.

When to Worry About Sour Smells

Now you know that sometimes a sour aroma is no biggie. But how can you tell if your breastmilk has truly gone bad? Here’s when that sour smell warrants concern:

It Smells Rancid

A slight sourness is one thing, but if your milk smells rancid, rotten, or like vomit, Houston we have a problem. Time to toss it.

Foul odors like these are a tell-tale sign that bacteria has multiplied out of control in your milk. Heat and time degrade the proteins and fats into compounds that stink badly and can make your little one sick.

If you taste milk that smells rancid, you’ll notice an immediate sour or bitter flavor. Babies reject spoiled milk for good reason – their senses detect the contamination we might overlook.

It Changed Colors

Healthy breastmilk ranges from bluish to yellowish white. If your liquid gold turns pink, red, brown, yellow, or greenish, bacteria could be the culprit. Discard any milk that looks abnormal.

The exception is if you eat a lot of leafy greens, orange veggies, or algae supplements. These can briefly tint your milk green or orange but are harmless.

Sourness plus weird colors? Toss it out and take it as a sign to tweak your pumping and storage habits to avoid more spoilage. Your baby deserves the freshest milk possible.

The most foolproof way to prevent sour milk is storing it properly and using it quickly. Limit freezer time to 3-6 months max. And if your sniffer senses something off, trust your instincts and err on the side of caution for your little one’s health.

The Taste Test

So your milk smells sour, but you’re not sure if it’s just a harmless lipase issue or something more sinister. Before you feed it to your little one, consider doing a taste test yourself.

Give the milk a small sip. If it simply tastes sour or soapy from lipase enzymes, it’s still safe for your baby. Many moms get used to this flavor or stop noticing it. You can still keep or freeze the milk.

On the other hand, if the milk immediately makes you gag or tastes rancid, bitterness prevails over sourness, or you detect an unmistakable rotten flavor, it’s time to get rid of it.

Bacteria-spoiled milk often smells sour too, but your tongue detects the contamination right away. Your instinct to spit it out serves you well – don’t let baby ingest milk that tastes clearly putrid.

Trust Your Tot’s Reactions

Even if milk passes your lips test, pay attention to how your little one reacts after drinking it. Since babies have such sensitive taste buds, they’ll likely refuse to nurse or bottle feed if the milk has significantly gone off.

Fussiness, crying, spitting up, and refusing to latch are clues your milk doesn’t taste right to them. Diarrhea or vomiting after a feeding can also indicate the milk has spoiled and made them sick.

Believe it or not, some moms can’t taste lipase sourness at all. For them, the true test is baby’s acceptance. If your tot drinks the milk easily with no issues, it’s likely fine even with a sour scent.

When in doubt, remember your child’s cues are the most important. If they reject soured milk, find an alternative feeding. It’s not worth an upset stomach or worse. Trust your maternal instinct, and your baby’s, too.

Dealing With Sour Milk

You’ve determined your breastmilk has a sour scent. Now what? Here’s your game plan for handling funky smelling liquid gold:

Masking the Taste

If the sourness is just from lipase enzymes or your diet, the milk is still safe for your little one. You can take steps to make it more palatable so baby keeps those nutrients down.

Try chilling milk before feeding – cool temps dull the sourness. You can also mix milk with fresh pumped milk to dilute the flavor. Adding vanilla extract, lemon juice, or sweetener to the bottle can help override sourness.

For older babies, focus on straw cups or spoons instead of bottles. Bypassing taste buds makes sourness less noticeable. Offer sour milk with strongly flavored foods your child already enjoys to disguise the taste.

Blocking the Smell

Even if the flavor doesn’t bother your baby, a whiff of sour milk may turn their stomach. Try popping a few drops of lemon essential oil in your bra pads or on a burp cloth under baby’s nose during feedings. The lemony aroma hides sourness and makes feeding more pleasant.

You can also add vanilla or peppermint extract to storage bags and bottles to mask sour odors. Just avoid mixing anything directly into milk since that can contaminate it. A few aromatic drops nearby does the trick.

When to Toss It Out

If your milk is truly spoiled from bacteria, do NOT try to salvage it. Methods like scalding or “pumping and dumping” don’t kill germs or make rancid milk safe again. Just let it go.

Likewise, toss milk that’s been left out too long, stored for over 6 months frozen, or smells rotten despite your best efforts to improve taste and smell. Fresh milk is easiest for you and baby.

Don’t get discouraged if you have to dump some liquid gold now and then. Chalk it up as a lesson learned on proper storage and move forward providing your baby the highest quality milk.

Preventing Sour Milk

Now that you know what causes sour breastmilk, let’s talk prevention. With proper storage and handling, you can avoid many funky odor issues. Here are tips for keeping your liquid gold fresh:

Store Cold

Cold temperatures slow bacteria growth and enzyme activity that cause souring. Refrigerate milk right after pumping. Use chilled storage bags. Keep milk towards the back of the fridge, not the door.

Frozen milk lasts longer than refrigerated, but don’t freeze more than you’ll use within 6 months. Thaw frozen milk in the fridge, never room temp.

Add Milk to Bags First

Pour milk into storage bags before sealing to reduce air contact. Air introduces contaminants. Squeeze out extra air before sealing bags.

If pumping directly into bags, use bags designed for pumping to minimize air. Never add fresh milk to already frozen bags – only combine refrigerated milk.

Work Quickly

Don’t let pumped milk linger at room temperature. Seal bags and chill within an hour. Bacteria multiples rapidly in warmth.

When warming milk for baby, take only what you’ll use and don’t save leftovers. The double temperature change degrades milk quickly.

Watch the Dates

Label bags with date pumped. Use oldest milk first. Don’t exceed fridge storage times – up to 4 days fresh, 2 weeks thawed.

Mark frozen bags with freeze date and use within 6 months. Follow “first in, first out” system, moving older milk to front. Discard any milk close to expiration.

Following best practices for hygiene, temperature, dating, and limiting storage times will ensure your milk stays fresh and nourishing. With a system in place, you can relax knowing your liquid gold is safe – even when a little lipase sneaks in!

When to Seek Help

Sour breastmilk is often no big deal thanks to lipase enzymes or diet. But in some cases, persistent sourness warrants medical evaluation:

Unexplained Foul Smell

If your milk has a persistent rancid or rotten smell with no apparent diet or storage cause, see your doctor. Foul odors in fresh milk could potentially indicate an infection or imbalance in the breast needing treatment.

Don’t attempt to mask unexplained foul smells. Seek medical guidance to determine if something is awry and remedy it so you keep producing healthy milk.

Refusal to Nurse

Babies know best! If your infant repeatedly refuses to nurse or bottle feed despite remedies to improve sour taste and smell, that’s a red flag.

Poor latch along with fussiness or crying can signal your milk doesn’t taste right to your baby. Spitting up or vomiting after feeding are also concerning signs.

Consult your pediatrician if your little one refuses soured milk or seems unwell after drinking it. There could be an issue making your milk unpalatable.

Supply and Hydration Concerns

Finally, if you notice changes in milk supply, letdown issues, or problems staying hydrated, talk to a lactation consultant.

Proper nutrition and hydration are key for quality milk production. An IBCLC can help troubleshoot any impediments to your supply.

They can also provide tips for optimizing pumping, storage, and handling to minimize souring issues. Don’t hesitate to utilize their expertise.

When in Doubt, Ask!

Bottom line, if you have any ongoing concerns about sour milk, seek advice from healthcare pros. They can easily determine if it’s just a harmless lipase or diet issue, or something more requiring treatment.

Stay vigilant, but don’t stress. With the proper guidance, you’ll keep your baby nourished with the sweetest, freshest milk possible.

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