Bad Breast Milk: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Prevention

How to Tell if Breast Milk is Bad for Your Baby

Breast milk nourishes your baby and provides antibodies that fight diseases so that your baby’s development is normal and healthy. However, if you do not eat right or do not store pumped breast milk properly, it can harm your baby. Read on to know under what circumstances breast milk can be bad for your baby.

Can a Mother’s Breast Milk Be Bad for the Baby?

Mother’s milk is the best for the baby as it contains nutrients needed for the baby’s growth and development. However, in some situations, breast milk can be bad for the baby.

If you a mother who wonders, “what if baby drinks bad breast milk”, then go ahead and find the answers.

Signs That Indicate Mother’s Breast Milk is Bad for The Baby

Here are 15 signs that can indicate that breast milk is bad for the baby:

1. Failure to Gain Weight

Breastfed babies should ideally gain between ½ kg to 1 kg every month for the first six months. If this isn’t happening, it is a certain sign that breast milk is not helping.

2. Changes in Bowel Movement

Once breast milk is started, your baby will produce at least 4-5 dirty diapers daily during his first six weeks.

3. Frequently Upset

If your baby frequently seems irritable, it could be that he isn’t getting necessary nutrients from breast milk.

4. Delay in Reaching Milestones

If your baby’s milestones like rolling over, crawling or sitting up are delayed, it could be a sign of deficiencies related to breast milk issues.

5. Fewer Diaper Changes

Six wet diapers a day average for newborn babies. If you feel this number has reduced, it could be a breast milk-related issue.

6. Dark-Coloured Urine

If urine colour is dark, it shows that your little one isn’t getting essential fluids that can be supplied through breast milk.

7. Always Sleepy

Newborns can sleep for up to 17-18 hours a day in slots of 3-4 hours each. If your baby seems sleepy and lethargic all the time, it is a sign of intolerance to mother’s milk.

Sleepy baby in mother's arms

8. Dissatisfied Feeling

A nursing session should leave a baby satisfied and calm. However, if she isn’t receiving enough quantity or if the right nutrients are missing, then your little one may cry for more.

9. Signs of Dehydration

Your baby may show signs of dehydration if he does not get enough fluids and there could be several reasons for this.

10. Increase in Gas

If your baby is drinking more of watery foremilk, then it could cause excess gas.

11. Short Feeding Sessions

Check if your feeding sessions are becoming progressively shorter. Ideally, your baby should be feeding at each breast for 10 minutes.

12. Body Swelling

If your little one is facing problems with breast milk, you will notice swelling around the face and stomach areas.

13. Odd-Coloured Stools

Your baby’s stools should be yellowish in colour and mushy in consistency after you start breastfeeding him. Bright green poop with a frothy texture means low-calorie intake from breast milk.

14. Growth Stoppage

Apart from the inability to gain weight, if your baby hasn’t grown in length, it could well indicate some issues with breast milk.

15. Allergic Reaction

Some breastfed babies can have allergic reactions to mother’s milk. The kind of food the mother eats could be one of the reasons for this. Signs of breast milk allergy include excessive gas, vomiting, diarrhoea, and increased irritability.

While all the above symptoms could indicate that your breast milk is not suiting your baby, it is possible that they indicate a different health problem. Babies are known to not gain weight, or have odd-coloured stools, or show any of the above symptoms for a number of other reasons. So please do not jump to conclusions and feel disheartened. Consult your baby’s paediatrician at the earliest.

Baby with allergic reaction

How to Know if Expressed Breast Milk is Spoilt

Most nursing mothers pump milk and store it for later use, especially if they are working. In such cases, ensure the milk has not become spoilt before feeding it to the baby. Here are pointers to understand bad breast milk symptoms:

1. Taste

Taste the milk first to know if it has gone bad.

  • Factors That Can Affect Taste of Breast Milk

What you eat affects the way your milk tastes. The flavour of your milk can change depending on the kind of food you eat, medicines you take, and the way you store it. The freezing and thawing of milk can cause the taste to alter.

  • How to Check Bad Taste

Taste your milk before feeding it to your baby. It could taste a lot different from cow’s milk, but if it tastes sour or rancid, it is best to throw it away as it has probably gone bad.

2. Appearance

Have a good look at the stored milk before you feed your baby. Its appearance can tell you whether it is good enough for your baby.

  • Factors That Can Affect the Appearance of Breast Milk

Storage techniques can have a major impact on the appearance of the milk. It separates into layers when it is kept in the refrigerator. However, this only changes its appearance and may still be good to feed the baby.

  • How to Check Bad Appearance

After the milk has been pumped from the breast, it separates naturally as the fat rises to the top while water content settles below. When you swirl it, it should mix and form a single mass. If it doesn’t mix or has chunks floating in it, discard it immediately.

3. Smell

Make sure you have checked the milk for any change in smell before feeding the baby. A soapy kind of smell may emanate, but it’s not harmful.

  • Factors That Can Affect the Smell of Breast Milk

Certain medications you may be taking can affect the way your milk smells. The presence of an enzyme called lipase can change the way breast milk smells.

  • How to Check Bad Smell

Make sure the smell isn’t rancid, which is when you will have to throw the milk away.

Expressed breast milk

How Long Does Expressed Breast Milk Sit Out Before It Goes Bad?

New mothers often ask a common yet pertinent question, “Can breast milk spoil in the breast?” Here are a few pointers to know how long breast milk can sit out before turning bad:

  1. Freshly pumped mother’s milk can be kept at room temperature (around 25°C) for 5 to 8 hours before it goes bad.
  2. Breast milk that has been previously refrigerated can sit out at room temperature for a maximum of up to 4 hours.
  3. Frozen breast milk that is thawed, but is yet to be warmed up can stay out for up to 4 hours.
  4. Frozen breast milk that has been thawed and warmed cannot be kept at room temperature since it can go bad immediately.
  5. Frozen breast milk that has been taken out of the freezer cannot be stored or defrosted at room temperature at all.

How to Prevent Expressed Breast Milk from Going Bad

Here are a few proven ways to ensure that expressed breast milk doesn’t go bad:

1. Use Right Storage Container

Use a clean bottle with the date marked and an airtight seal or a heavy-duty freezer bag. Avoid bottles with regular tops and plastic bags as they could leak or spill.

2. Follow Storage Guidelines

If you have used an insulated cooler bag to store breast milk, make sure it is used up within 24 hours. Refrigerated breast milk won’t go bad before five days.

3. Follow Freezing Guidelines

While freezing breast milk, there should be a space of at least an inch between the container top and the milk to allow expansion. Breast milk containers should be kept at the back of the refrigerator where it is the coolest.

4. Thawing Rules Should Be Followed

Avoid leaving breast milk out at room temperature to thaw. Also never refreeze thawed breast milk. Do not attempt to thaw breast milk in the microwave or gas stove.

5. Choose Quantity Rightly

Express milk according to need and there won’t be too many storage hassles.

Breast milk has an impact on the baby’s health if the mother’s diet has been compromised. When breast milk is expressed and stored, there can be side effects if storing guidelines aren’t followed properly.

Also Read: Causes of Change in Breast Milk Color

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