Update October 2014: I have taken my experiences with excess lipase activity, combined it with interviews with trusted medical professionals, and turned it into a 40+ eBook. If you are looking for more information about excess lipase activity and support from a mother who has been there, then this eBook is for you.
Excess Lipase: An Introduction
I have excess lipase in my breast milk. Coming to that conclusion has been an extremely emotional journey for me. It has been filled with many questions and even more tears.
What is lipase? Lipase is an enzyme that is found in every woman’s breast milk. It is there to help break down the fats in the milk and aid with digestion. There are a few rare women out there who have an excess of lipase in their milk. The extra lipase causes the break down in the fats to happen very quickly and it results in bad smelling and bad tasting milk.
*** UPDATE 2/16/13: I have just learned (from my very well educated lactation consultant & the book Breastfeeding Guide for the Medical Profession by Ruth Lawrence) that the problem isn’t that women have extra high levels of lipase, but that they have high lipase activity. What does that mean? There isn’t extra lipase in your milk, but the lipase activity (breaking down the fats in the milk) is high. This small clarification in terminology doesn’t change how to test & treat your milk through scalding. It simply reinforces that there isn’t anything wrong with the composition of your milk. There isn’t anything wrong with the levels of lipase in your milk; it just breaks down those fats extra fast.
How did I discover I had excess lipase? Nate was home alone with Grace one evening while I was out enjoying a Girls night with church friends. While I was gone Grace refused to drink from her bottle and was very fussy all evening. Just before I got home Grace calmed down enough to drink 2 ounces from the bottle and fell asleep.
Nate and I were both pretty frustrated that the night hadn’t gone well. While we were talking it over, I reached over and picked up the bottle of milk that Nate had been giving Grace. I smelled the milk and then tasted it. It tasted AWFUL! Something was definitely not right. I started freaking out. I have been storing milk in my freezer for months and now there was something wrong with it????
That night I started doing some online research to see what could be causing my frozen milk to “go bad.” That’s when I found out about having excess lipase.
How can I be sure that is the problem? In the online research I did, I came across several women who wrote about scalding their milk to halt the lipase from breaking down the fats. To test my milk I pumped a fresh batch and then scalded half of it. Then I took small portions of each and put them in the fridge and the freezer. Overtime I did a sniff/taste test to see how long the fresh and scalded milk stayed good.
My regular fresh milk still smelled fine in the fridge after 12 hours, but by 24 hours it was starting to turn “bad.” The scalded milk is still good and sweet tasting after a week! My freezer test isn’t done yet. After a week, both samples taste fine. I plan on checking on them both in another week. UPDATE: Several months later and my scalded freezer milk is still fresh!
The fact that my scalded milk outlasted my regular fresh milk in the fridge confirms that I have a problem with excess lipase. Normal breast milk should last in the fridge for about 8 to 10 days. Mine only lasted one day. That’s not good. Not good at all, but the scalded milk is still fine!
Can Grace still drink my milk? Yes. There is nothing nutritionally wrong with my breast milk. Any of it that is older than 24 hours just tastes bad. Some babies don’t mind the taste and will drink it just fine. However, Grace doesn’t like it and won’t drink it. Honestly, I don’t blame her at all! It really is nasty.
What can I do about it? Scalding my freshly pumped milk before I freeze it seems to be my only option.