If your breast milk has freezer burn, you might be wondering whether it's still safe for your baby to consume. We understand the situation can be frustrating given all the effort you made to pump and store your milk. Don't fret; we did the research for your convenience, and here's what we found out.
Freezer burn does not make breast milk bad or unsafe to drink. However, it can affect the color, smell, and taste of the milk, which most babies may not like. To prevent freezer burn, take as much air out from breast milk storage bags before sealing and storing them in the freezer.
Freezer burn is a common problem with frozen milk. Read on and learn what it is, how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens to your baby's milk supply.
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Is Freezer Burn Bad For Breast Milk?
Freezer burn is a real issue for mothers who meticulously store, organize, and freeze their breast milk. After all their hard work pumping and storing, it can be frustrating to see the storage bags get freezer burn. But should it really be a cause of concern?
What Is Freezer Burn?
Freezer burn occurs when food is not properly wrapped airtight and moisture escapes from the container and freezes outside the bags. It also happens when the food item is stored for a long period of time.
Another cause of freezer burn is if your unit temperature is set to above zero degrees Fahrenheit and fluctuates.
Some indications of freezer burn include:
- Changes in color due to oxygen seeping into the storage bag
- Ice crystals forming outside the storage bag
Can Babies Drink Freezer Burnt Breast Milk?
According to the USDA freezing and food safety guide, any food that gets freezer burned is still safe to consume. However, if it is heavily freezer burnt, then it might be better to discard it for quality reasons.
The same guidelines apply to breast milk. If after thawing, the breastmilk still seems okay, you can safely give it to a baby, unless the baby refuses to drink it.
Another way to make use of freezer-burnt milk is to use it in baby food preparation. It can be added to homemade baby food such as purees, oatmeal, and popsicles to maximize the nutrients from breast milk.
How Do You Know If Breast Milk Is Bad In Freezer?
If the breast milk storage bag is still in the freezer, one indicator that there might be something wrong with it is if it forms ice crystals or if it changed color.
Freezer burn is a form of dehydration. You can tell if breast milk has freezer burn because it will appear cloudier or have white specks throughout. The white specks are actually the moisture coming out of the milk when it evaporates in the freezer.
However, you cannot immediately conclude that it has gone bad—not until you take it out of the freezer and defrost it to see if there's a bad smell or taste.
As discussed above, freezer-burnt breast milk is not considered spoiled milk. So even if you see ice crystals or a change in color in the freezer, it's not a sure indicator that the milk has gone bad.
What Color Is Bad Breast Milk?
Milk is generally white in color, and you can easily tell that it has gone bad if it changes color (probably yellowish) and starts to curdle. However, this is not the case for breast milk.
Breast milk naturally has different colors depending on what the mother is eating and her condition. Below are the different possible colors and the reasons behind them:
- Red - This is caused by blood mixed into the milk if the mother is experiencing soreness and a cracked nipple.
- Yellow or orange - This is caused by colostrum or the mother eating a lot of orange food such as carrots.
- Green - The mother is eating a lot of green and leafy food.
- Blue - Bluish and watery milk is called the foremilk, which comes out at the start of pumping.
- Violet - The mom is eating food such as blueberries or purple food dyes.
- Brown - This can be caused by certain medications or residual blood in the breast.
It looks like breast milk has taken up the entire color spectrum, so it's impossible to tell just by looking at the color whether the breast milk has gone bad. The only sure way to check is if it has a sour, soapy, fishy, metallic, or rancid odor or taste.
How Long Does Breast Milk Last In Freezer?
Freshly pumped breast milk should be sealed airtight and stored immediately in the freezer. With proper storage and freezer temperature, it can last there for as long as 6 months.
Here's a quick storage guide according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Room temperature - up to 4 hours (77 degrees Fahrenheit or colder)
- Refrigerator shelf - up to 4 days
- Freezer - up to 6 months at its best quality, but can be extended up to 12 months if necessary
As an additional note, the CDC reminds mothers never to store breast milk in disposable containers not intended for breast milk. And leave at least one inch of space on the bag because the milk expands when frozen.
It is also recommended to store only small amounts in one bag so that only small batches will be thrown out in case a few go bad. Lastly, labels are very important. Always indicate on the bag the date the milk was expressed.
Is Watery Breast Milk Good For Baby?
Watery breast milk is normal and is in fact necessary to hydrate a baby. When a mother pumps milk, the first few ounces that will come out will be watery. This is called foremilk and intends to hydrate the child.
Since infants cannot drink water until they reach 6 months, this foremilk is their only source of hydration and is very crucial to their health. Do not try to dilute or substitute foremilk with water because the baby can experience hyponatremia or water intoxication.
The milk that comes out afterward will be thick and rich. This is called hindmilk, and it's full of healthy milk fats that will nourish the baby. This is just as necessary as the foremilk because it contains vitamin E, vitamin A, and the calories babies need.
A good balance of foremilk and hindmilk is essential to a baby's health. Any imbalance can lead to a condition called lactose overload. This can cause the baby a lot of discomfort due to digestive issues and changes in the baby's stool.
To prevent this imbalance, feed the baby at a regular pace—not too often and not too seldom so that the breast will have enough time to produce both foremilk and hindmilk.
As a mother, it is understandable to be concerned about the quality of food you give your baby. When in doubt, it is always best to give your baby a fresh batch of breast milk if you feel unsure about the ones with freezer burn.
We hope this article was able to ease your concern about freezer-burnt breast milk. Thank you for reading. Do check out these other articles on freezing different milk products.