You’ve got a thousand things to do and about a million things on your mind now that you’ve had your baby, so when it comes to feeding time, you just want it to go as soothly as possible to get your little one the nourishment it needs.
You spend time each day pumping, bagging and refrigerating/freezing your breast milk to ensure you’ve got reserves to feed your baby, so the last thing you want is to find out that the milk has gone bad.
But how do you tell the difference between good milk and milk that’s gone bad? It’s important to know the difference because accidentally feeding your baby spoiled milk could result in anything from an upset tummy to extreme discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. In these cases, be sure to contact your family doctor immediately.
We learn about the five senses when we’re young: Sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. While you don’t need to use sound or touch to spot bad breast milk, keeping the other three senses in mind can be an easy way to remember how to check your breast milk for quality.
Sight – Look at your breast milk
It’s common for breast milk to separate into layers when it sits for a little while or when refrigerated. If this happens, give the milk a quick swirl, and the layers should disappear as the layers mix again. However, if the separation doesn’t go away, it’s a good indicator that the milk is spoiled. Also, keep an eye out for chunks (could resemble cheese curds like in cottage cheese) in the milk. If chunks are present, the milk is most likely bad.
Smell – Smell your breast milk
This is usually the most obvious indicator that the breast milk has turned because the foul sour odor that spoiled breast milk produces is hard to miss. Spoiled breast milk has a similar smell to spoiled cow’s milk. If your breast milk has other odors that you’re not sure about, contact your doctor as some odors, while disconcerting, can turn out to be harmless, but it’s always best to be sure.
Taste – Taste your breast milk
Fresh breast milk should have a sweet and creamy taste. While the taste can vary slightly from woman to woman and based on different foods in the diet, fresh breast milk is generally described as having a pleasant taste a bit like regular milk. If you’re unsure about a particular batch of breast milk, give it a little taste. If it’s sour or salty or unpleasant, the milk is most likely bad and should not be fed to your baby.
It’s also helpful to know how long breast milk stays good for so consider the following guide the next time you’re not sure.
- Room temperature – Good up to 6 hours assuming the room is not hot.
- Refrigerated – 3 to 5 days if properly sealed and refrigerated.
- Frozen – 5-7 days if properly sealed and frozen. Once defrosted, milk is good for up to 24 hours and should not be refrozen.
As always, if you’re not sure about the quality of your breast milk, contact your caregiver. Keeping an open dialogue with your doctor will help to ensure the health and safety of you and your baby.