Fresh Versus Frozen: The Taste of Thawed Breast Milk

Frozen thawed milk tastes different from fresh. How do I know? Because I was basically dared by my mother-in-law (MIL) to try my own breast milk (yes…). At the time, my baby was about 3 months of age and wasn’t taking breast milk well from the bottle. My MIL suggested it was the taste of the thawed breast milk, as her friend said her grandchildren had the same issue because the thawed breast milk did not taste good. I knew breast milk usually tasted slightly sweet because of the lactose content, but I didn’t really believe my MIL that there could be such a vast difference in taste between fresh and frozen to affect baby’s intake. Especially since I had learned as a dietitian that a baby doesn’t usually develop a strong taste preference until after 6 months of age. Before then it was often possible to get a baby established onto a more bitter tasting hydrolyzed formula even if the baby had been used to the sweet taste of breast milk. And after all, if the expressed breast milk had been quickly frozen, wouldn’t that slow down the lipase enzymatic action on the fats within the breast milk and so prevent the breast milk from going ‘off’ in taste? Well, my MIL then implied that if I didn’t believe her I should taste the breast milk myself. So I did. In front of her.

And okay… there IS a difference. Fresh breast milk tastes…fresh…a bit like cow’s milk but lighter, more watery and with a slightly sweet taste. The thawed breast milk tasted more bitter and metallic. I found it had to be heated more in temperature to make it more palatable tasting.

My little one still took the thawed frozen breast milk (sometimes with a bit of cajoling and distraction with a toy) from a bottle until about 4-5 months of age, then after that she seemed to get wise to the fact that it really didn’t taste very good, and so refused more adamantly to take it (even when she was really hungry). She would always drink fresh pumped breast milk though!

What I have found I needed to do was this: Give the frozen breast milk as soon as it has thawed. This means really within the first hour or two after it has been thawed out in the fridge. Doing so will keep the thawed frozen breast milk tasting as close as possible to freshly pumped milk. Any more than that, and the bitter, metallic and soapy taste starts to appear, especially the longer it sits (mainly because of the active components within the breast milk like the lipases which start to break down the fat within the milk).

Note that even if there are some taste changes in the thawed breast milk, you can still use it in the baby’s food, assuming the baby is eating at least a few tablespoons’ worth of solids in a sitting. This gets easier to do as baby gets bigger and eats more at a time. So don’t toss all your hard work of pumping away!

 

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A New Breastfeeding Position: the “Bear Hug”

You’ve already heard or may have tried these common breastfeeding positions: Cross-Cradle Hold, Cradle Hold, Football Hold and Side-Lying Hold. I’ve tried all of them. But I ended up having to invent a new position basically out of necessity. I call this the “Frontal Hold” (or more affectionately known as the “Bear Hug”) position.

Why? First, I found I was getting milk lumps more easily on the right side from the traditional cradle hold, though the football hold position did help some. I also got tired of backaches from slouching and hunching over with the cross cradle and other positions. The side-lying position didn’t work as well for baby and I. Lastly, I was going to travel back to the States when baby was 4 months old, so needed a breastfeeding position that would work in the cramped quarters of an airplane seat using a breastfeeding cape.

Here’s how to do it (works best with the Brest Friend breastfeeding pillow):

  1. Sit up tall and straight, making sure you are comfortable with pillows behind you if needed.
  2. Put baby facing you between you and the breastfeeding pillow.
  3. Adjust baby’s legs so that they straddle around your waist.
  4. Use one hand to support baby’s head and neck (make sure baby’s back is straight) at a slight angle with baby’s mouth on par or level with nipple.
  5. Your other hand can be on the breast you are offering, when you bring baby’s head and mouth towards the nipple.

To help ensure a good latch, make sure the nipple goes far into the back of the baby’s mouth. Once latched on, baby should be able to suck comfortably this way. However, make sure to burp baby well in between or afterwards, as I have found that my baby often takes in a bit more air this way as a result.

If you are using the Brest Friend breastfeeding pillow, you can clip the two parts of the pillow together and pull the belt tight enough, so that the pillow holds the baby more snugly to your body. You can also angle or tilt the pillow so it supports the baby’s back better.

I started to use this new position when my baby was 3-4 months of age. This position became easier as baby started to sit up better unsupported, and as the football position got more difficult (baby’s body was longer and needed more pillows to support her body on the chair’s armrest). It came in so handy on the airplane too and prevented a lot of lower backaches! I still switch around positions during a breastfeeding session, but have used this “bear hug” position regularly for many months. I’ll have to stop using this breastfeeding position soon though, as she’s finally getting too big and sitting ‘too tall’ to latch and feed properly!