Friday, October 19, 2007

Milk, soap, and cheese.

So, maybe you've heard me complain that Jackson barely eats during the day while I'm at work. Instead, he saves up to cluster feed in the evenings, and then all night long. Before I went back to work, he would cluster feed in the morning, and I had him down to one middle on the night waking and one early morning waking--when I should really get up anyway. Within a month, he'd completely changed his pattern and was getting up 5 times every night. I couldn't figure it out. He was getting the same milk, maybe he just didn't like the bottle?

Two weeks ago, I was driving to work, and it just hit me why he might be reluctant to eat while I'm gone. I remembered a few times the bottled milk had developed a strong odor. I just dismissed it as "normal" because I always follow the recommended food safety guidelines for milk storage. I have the Dr Sears Breastfeeding book, and I remember reading a single paragraph about the enzyme lipase, which breaks down the fat. It says that rarely, the lipase concentration is high, and the milk develops a "soapy" taste within about 24 hours. I interpret the word "rare" as "couldn't possibly happen to me, and probably not even anyone I know". I was surprised a few months ago when my friend said that she had that problem, and it took her a while to figure out, so she ended up wasting a lot of frozen milk.

So, I'd read about it, and heard about someone I knew with the condition, but it took me another 6 weeks to think that just maybe, I had the same problem. I went home and compared the days fresh milk with some milk that was a few days old, and quite possibly mixed with some frozen milk. The fresh milk tasted like cows milk with a ton of brown sugar stirred in. The older milk tasted terrible with an after taste that burned my throat. It was horribly. No wonder Jackson doesn't eat very much while I'm gone.

So I called my friend to see what she's doing to treat the milk. Unfortunately, I got her machine. Lucky for me, I have a whole world of information at my fingertips. Here's what I found out:
My first search was for "soap breast milk". I pulled up a whole string of websites with instructions on how to make homemade soap from your excess breast milk. Yes people, that's really what came up. Step by step directions and discussions of the antibiotic properties of breast milk thus the amazing wound cleaning power of the breast milk soap. Well, I'm glad to know there are all kinds of people in the world. I'm pretty open minded, but I don't think this one's for me.

I don't remember how I worded the next search, but the first thing to come up was a woman's account of her attempt to make--wait for it--breast milk cheese. You did read that correctly, cheese. Apparently, she's been using the breast milk around the kitchen, in omelets and brownies. She's also had some experience making fresh soft cow's milk cheese. What better use for the excess frozen human milk. So, she boiled the milk and added some vinegar to curdle it. Nothing happened, so she added more vinegar, and even more vinegar. At the end of the day, she'd added a ton of vinegar, and still didn't have cheese. As it turns out, human milk chemistry prevents curdling. The woman was heartbroken at having to waste all of that milk (I do sympathize), but I was relieved that no one had to eat that cheese.

I guess the third time really is the charm, because my next search netted the information I needed and no more shocking revelations about what the crazies are up to. The milk needs to be scalded at 180F or held at 160F for a few minutes. It's recommended to do this on the stove top in order to preserve the most nutrients. Many people use the microwave until the milk is "steamy" for the sake of convenience.

I went for the stove top, carefully pouring the milk into the pan and trying to pour it back. I lost quite a bit in the process. Since then, I've found I can simply put the glass bottles of milk in the pot of hot water (loosen the lids for safety), scald it, and put the bottles in the fridge to cool. No more spilled milk, not too inconvenient.

I still have 130 ounces of frozen disgusting milk (three days worth). I don't have the will to toss it. While I still respect Dr Sears on other topics, I blame him for the bad milk and for the sleepless nights. What they should have said is that ALL breastmilk contains lipase and sometimes the concentration is high enough to cause spoiling. If you notice strong odors, and your baby is reluctant to eat, your milk is probably affected. Then they should explain what to do about it. For being advocates of breast feeding, this bit of misinformation has probably led many women to give up.

Here's the website:


  1. I laughed and laughed about all the wonderful ways to use breast milk. Who would have ever thougtht. You may have some good ideas for Christmas presents for freinds and neighbors.

  2. How funny! I barely make enough milk to keep my babies alive. Miles gained 4 pounds when we quit nursing. I can't imagine having extra-but if I did I don't think soap and cheese would be on the list of things I would do with it-maybe ice cream (j/k). :)

  3. I wonder if that had anything to do with my kids not taking the bottle. We always thought they just wanted it straight from the source.
    Ok, the cheese thing sounds just completely wrong! But the almost sounds tempting. One of the things I love about nursing is all the wonderful healing properties of breastmilk. Everyone here teased me, but I would put it on wounds, styes, cold sores, etc. It is amazing stuff.

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