The Scoop on Excess Lipase

From what I’ve read over the last week I’ve learned excess lipase is pretty rare and there isn’t a ton of information on it. What I do know is that lipase is a normal part of breast milk. Lipase is the enzyme which helps milk fat to be digested. Lipase is the reason breast milk is the most easily digested food for babies. Excess lipase makes pumped/stored breast milk start the digestion process during storage rather than waiting until it’s in baby’s tummy. Once digested the milk’s taste/smell changes. That change isn’t good – either sour, metallic or soapy. Yuck!
Excess lipase isn’t a problem when baby gets the milk from nursing. The problem only arises when milk is pumped/stored. The taste/smell change doesn’t sour the milk, therefore baby can still drink it and reap the benefits of breast milk. But … the taste/smell makes most babies reject the excess lipase milk. Jemma is one of those babies and I don’t blame her!
To stop the lipase, pumped breast milk must be scalded. The heating process inactivates the lipase and allows the milk to be refrigerated or frozen. Every mom’s milk is unique, made especially for their baby, which means the lipase turns the milk at different times. Some mom’s milk will hold for a few hours, others have a few days before they need to scald.
I determined I have this lovely lipase problem when I thawed some of the milk I had pumped/froze in November 2010. It thawed in the fridge, I warmed it up and offered it to Jem. She turned up her nose something awful so I smelled it and about lost it. I wasn’t about to taste it … I was willing to trust my nose. I Googled “frozen milk with a sour smell” and kept seeing “lipase” pop up. Upon further reading and a phone call to my La Leche League Leader I decided to do an experiment. I pumped and separated my milk into 3 containers. I popped one container in the fridge and marked it “fresh”, I scalded the next container and marked it “scalded” and I scalded and froze the final container. I tested the fresh milk every few hours to see if it still had the fresh milk sweetness. By hour 18 it was starting to turn. So now I know any milk I intend to store longer than 18 hours must be scalded.  
What about the 200 ounces I froze before determining I have excess lipase? Good question :) I’m in the process of donating it to a milk bank. Since most milk bank milk is given to extremely sick babies the taste/smell doesn’t matter since it is given through a feeding tube. The nutritional value of excess lipase milk is perfect so donating is definitely the silver lining in this whole ordeal.
Excess Lipase Resources …
  • Kellymom – the bible of all breastfeeding wisdom 
  • La Leche League – 35 pages of forum discussions on lipase 
  • Simply Rebekah – one mom’s lipase story, scalding step-by-step instructions
If you are a mama (or know a mama) who is planning to pump/store breast milk be sure to test the fridge/freezer shelf life of your milk. I had never heard of excess lipase when I started pumping and didn’t know this could happen. So, learn from my mistake! Don’t get worried though, like I said … excess lipase is rare, but it’s better to know than be surprised 200 pumped ounces later :)
If you know of any other resources or reasons behind excess lipase I would love to hear from you! From what I’ve read it isn’t linked to my diet or anything else I can change, but I’m willing to give anything a try.
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  1. says

    I breastfed both of my sons for a year each and have just started nursing my new arrival and I have never heard of this. Thanks for the info!

  2. says

    Wow this is so interesting!! I'm so happy you posted this! I didn't have this problem, but it's a great thing to share because I'm sure someone else out there will have this problem & be looking for someone who went through the same thing! At least you've figured out what to do!

  3. says

    I'm always sad to see another mom join the Excess Lipase Club. Best of luck to you as you continue your breastfeeding journey!

  4. Kristen says

    I discovered this problem when I was nursing my daughter (now 2-1/2 years old). I am now pregnant with my second child, and I am wondering if I will have the issue again. Does anyone have any experience with subsequent pregnancies and the excess lipase issue — any luck having it disappear? It's my hope but not my expectation… Also, has anyone ever had this tested by a doctor? Knowing now that it is an enzyme produced by the pancreas and an excess amount can signal a problem, if I have this issue again, I think I will be inclined to have things checked out.

    • Anonymous says

      Did you end up having this problem with baby #2? I know this post is old but I’m wondering the same thing. I didn’t have this problem with my first child, but I did with my second. I’m wondering if I will with my third.

      • Gretchen says

        I had the same issue with #2 and #3.

        • Anonymous says

          Thanks for responding! You also had this issue with baby #1 right? I was curious why I didn’t have this issue with baby #1 but I had it with baby #2. Is it something that can happen on and off with different pregnancies? I haven’t found a lactation consultant that can answer that question for me or give me the reasoning behind it.

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  6. Nicole says

    Did you ever test the milk you froze immediately? Or should I just run this test with fresh milk since you didn’t use the other 2 milks in your test?

    • Gretchen says

      I always did the test with fresh milk. You can play around with it to see how your milk reacts. From what I’ve learned, some moms milk turns right away and others have a much longer window.