Before moms have a new baby they start to harvest a natural food source for their expectant bundle of joy, often referred to as 'liquid gold' or 'mom juice.' Mom juice has been scientifically proven to have miraculous benefits for growing babies, like antibodies that help babies fight off bacteria, vitamins that lower baby's risk of contracting allergies and asthma, plus that feel-good skin-to-skin bonding experience between mom and newborn; not to mention the financial benefit of never having to buy food for baby since the human body makes it all on its own.
Studies have shown that non-formula fed babies go on to have higher IQs, have a lower risk of ear infections, and less need for medical attention in the long run. For moms, sharing a bit of that hard-earned mom juice burns a lot of extra calories and has shown to help shed those post-pregnancy pounds as well as get things "down there" back to normal size and functioning order. But with all the good, it is also important to know when one's milk has gone bad. Look out for these 15 signs that pumped milk is better kept out of the reach of baby.
15 It Doesn't Mix
The biggest way to tell that breast milk has gone bad? The swirl test: Though breast milk will naturally separate if left to sit for a while, a quick swirl will normally put it back to its homogeneous state. Some moms have said that even while pumping they notice some thicker milk come out in the beginning followed by much thinner, slightly translucent milk at the end, which is completely normal, especially if you have some clogged milk ducts. Breast milk can vary from string-like to thick clumps to watery, but once its all pumped out it should blend to look like regular drinking milk. Just know, that if it doesn't mix back together after sitting for a while, as in, you can clearly see the fat solids floating atop from the liquid, best to discard. Sorry, momma.
14 It Smells Bad
The second surefire way to tell that mom juice has gone bad is to smell it. Like other kinds of milk we're used to drinking on the regular, a funky smell is a dead give away that the expiry date on your favorite dairy beverage is looming or has passed. Though fresh breastmilk will not have the same odor as cow's milk, it should not be too difficult to distinguish between the scent of freshly pumped milk to the rancid odor of spoiled milk. Besides, you wouldn't mix foul smelling milk with your morning corn flakes, so don't force a baby to drink that either. Watch out for strong odors. So if you're unsure how long the milk has sat there, be safe and give it a whiff before letting the baby have a taste.
13 The Curdle
Is your expressed breast milk looking as chunky as your baby's thighs? That's not normal and definitely a sign the liquid gold could just be old. Yes, breast milk can range in thickness after it's pumped, but actual curds resembling cottage cheese are not suitable to be on the menu. Typically, milk curdles when the pH levels drop allowing fat proteins to attract to one another, this often occurs when heating milk. One may want to consider using the old curdled milk for a milk bath instead of feeding it to your little one. Curdled milk is a sure sign that the milk is no good. Giving babies spoiled milk can result in serious illness, stomach pain, and a trip to the doctor. Even though it's painful to let go of the mom juice, better safe than sorry.
12 Sour Taste
When in doubt, do a taste test. It may seem strange to taste one's own breast milk, but if the smell is leaving you questioning whether or not the milk can still live on another day, give it a taste. Sour tasting milk should be tossed in the trash. The breastmilk should not taste sour, like old lemonade, although human milk naturally contains lipase, an enzyme normally present in human milk which could be the culprit if you find that even your freshly pumped milk sometimes has a somewhat acidic taste to it; but when your milk is no good the "normal" tart taste will turn bitter making you pucker like you've sucked on a lemon. So if you think your milk is bad, it probably is, but to be sure taste it.
11 Not Stored Properly
We know pumping is hard work, and you would never willingly part with your milk, but on the off chance you were in a hurry and happened to not seal the milk bag all the way before throwing it in the fridge, there's a good chance your milk may have gone bad. Give it a taste just to make sure. With all the storage options out there, it may seem impossible to improperly store milk. But dealing with a fussy little one, a busy daily routine, and the demands of motherhood and life itself, things happen. Try not to be too hard on yourself. But using storage containers with locking lids, sterilized bottles, and new milk bags with day to day labels are a great start to getting in the swing of making sure your milk stash is always safe and up to date.
10 Front Of The Fridge Vs The Back
So the milk is pumped and you've even remembered to put it in the fridge – and label it! Congratulations, now just make sure it's not on the door. If you store your milk toward the front of the refrigerator or on the door, the constant temperature change from opening and closing the refrigerator can affect the milk's freshness, meaning it could go bad sooner than expected. To be on the safe side, place it in the back where it is less prone to changing temperatures due to the opening and closing of the refrigerator. Some organized moms even create a milk bin equivalent to a chill drawer in their refrigerator to store the milk so they never have to worry about making room or finding new places to store the milk.
9 Baby Isn't Having It
If your baby doesn't even want to drink it, chances are it's not you, it's the milk. If your milk has sat around in the hot sun during your day at the beach, a baby will probably be less likely to open up for his or her afternoon feedings. Smelling and or tasting the milk beforehand, and just paying attention to milk storage can help with this. Though some lactation specialists say that after milk is stored for a while, it can take on a soapy or metallic taste even when it has not gone bad, often causing the baby to hesitate before taking the milk. If you're sure your milk is definitely still within the good parameters of milk storage, try scalding the milk, or heating it to a simmer temporarily, then letting it cool and see if your baby will take a drink.
8 Funky Colors
Another red flag that the mom juice has gone bad is weird coloring. Though breast milk can vary in color from a bluish hue to a light brown depending on diet, medication, and herb intake, breastfeeding moms may want to make sure that nothing too out of the ordinary is being ingested by the baby. If you see any clumps of color floating in the milk you should discard it. Even slightly rosy milk from a burst blister containing small amounts of blood is deemed safe for consumption by baby according to the CDC. But if that freaks you out toss that batch aside and pump a new batch. Anything resembling black or dark green mold in the milk should be avoided at all costs. So, in the end, check your rainbow and make sure that no colors out of the ordinary are in your milk.
7 Problem Of Dirty Pumps
Just like bottles, breast pumps need to be cleaned regularly to prevent harmful bacteria from building up and getting mixed with new, fresh milk. So if your pump hasn't been cleaned in a while, it could affect the quality of your new milk. Most lactation specialists suggest changing pump parts every two to three months. Some doctors even encourage cleaning the nipple before beginning pumping to ensure maximal cleanliness. Steaming the pump parts or just old-fashioned soap and water should do the trick. But when in doubt refer to your pumps instruction manual for cleaning advice. Long story short – do not try pumping without cleaning your pump. Nasty bacteria can remain in the chambers exposing your baby to gross bacteria that could make him or her sick, completely going against the purpose of all nutritious breastfeeding.
6 Too Hot To Handle
If you warm your breast milk up more than once, chances are it's not good anymore. In addition to cooking away most of the nutrients, heating the milk and letting it recool provides a great environment for bacterial growth. To be on the safe side, breast milk should only be warmed up once, typically in a hot milk bath. Meaning that one should boil water and place the bottle or milk bag in the hot water until the milk contents heat up to about room or body temperature and then be fed to the baby. The heating and cooling of breastmilk, like other kinds of milk, can lead to bacterial growth which can result in very sick babies. This heating milk, or the process of bringing up cooled milk to room or drinking temperature, should not be confused with scorching milk, which is discussed further down in the article.
5 It Was Left On The Counter
If you leave your milk out on the kitchen counter for too long it will spoil. Temperature regulation is key! On normal days, 6 hours is the maximum recommended amount of time one could leave baby milk out on the kitchen counter, but on hot days, we're talking heat wave in the south, hot, that number should be cut in half. So if it's hot, roughly 3 hours is just enough time for your milk to start to turn. It is important to label times as well as dates so you never forget. And we know you're busy, but do you really want to be the one crying over spoiled milk? If you leave your milk on the counter too long, you may need to think of alternatives instead of giving it to baby to drink.
4 It Was In The Fridge Too Long
So you remembered to take the milk off of the counter and place it in the refrigerator. Whew! what a relief, no it won't spoil, right? Wrong. After 6 days, refrigerated breastmilk can get a little funky, properly storing milk is very important. This means using proper containers or milk bags and properly labeling the dates of all expressed milk. Keep your milk near the back of the refrigerator, properly labeled with the date it was pumped. Make sure that whatever method you are using to store it is properly sealed and that you make a plan to use the milk BEFORE 6 days time. Placing refrigerated milk in the freezer does not guarantee quality freshness at the same rate as directly frozen. Since bacteria grow at different speeds depending on the conservation method, one should still respect the rules for refrigerated milk and just use it before time runs out.
3 Stayed In The Freezer Too Long
6 months is a long time, although it may fly when you have a new baby at home. Storing breast milk for longer than 6 months in the freezer is a no-no, and may result in a significant reduction in the nutritional benefits of breast milk, not to mention a sick baby. Remember mommies, La Leche League, a global nonprofit focused on breastfeeding, suggests remembering the 666 rule. Breast milk is good typically 6 hours on the counter after pumping, 6 days in the fridge, and 6 weeks in the freezer. Any more than that, and it's probably better to reserve for milk baths. Remember, labeling is very important. Especially when you have so many things in mind, trying to remember when a bag of milk appeared in your freezer can be a bit unnerving with a crying baby in the other room.
2 Mixing Milk With Medication
Flu, the common cold, allergies, extracted tooth? We get it, sickness happens. But, if you recently took medicine that was not intended for breastfeeding mothers and then pumped, it's probably best that the milk is not fed to the baby. Consult your doctor on how long it takes for that particular medication to move through your system before feeing your baby. That way you'll be in the know before it is safe to pump and give unmedicated milk to your baby. That way you have time to heal and be your best you for your baby. Common over-the-counter medications unsafe for breastfeeding are aspirin, nasal decongestants, and codeine. Try avoiding these at all costs if you choose to be your baby's primary source of nutrients. And just so you know, Lactation specialists still recommend sticking to a pump schedule, medication or not.
1 The Hangover
Finally! You found a sitter and had your first real night out with your significant other since the baby was born. But, you had one too many cocktails to celebrate your rediscovered independence. Although the actual transfer of alcohol content to the baby in breastmilk is low, it's better not to take any chances to avoid getting baby tipsy. Pumping while intoxicated or just after a boozy night is highly unrecommended. Though the "pump and dump" may feel extreme – and sad, it could avoid engorgement and protect your little one later. Even after a fun night out, lactation specialists still encourage pumping around the same time every day as it is essential in keeping up your supply and preventing blocked ducts. Long story short: boozy mom means the mom juice is not suitable for the baby.
Sources: momlovesbest.com, living.thebump.com, livestrong.com, wikihow.com