Don’t panic if your refrigerated breast milk looks clumpy or curdled. Here is why and how you can bring back the consistency of your refrigerated breast milk.
Every drop of breastmilk counts when your baby’s main meal is breastmilk. It is even more valuable when you put your heart and soul into pumping that precious breastmilk around the clock to feed your baby.
So, you are in full-on panic mode when you see your frozen or refrigerated breast milk clumpy or curdled.
But before you decide to dump your clumpy or chunky breastmilk, here is what you need to know and do.
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Why does your Refrigerated Breast Milk Looks Clumpy or Chunky?
Breast milk is very rich in protein and fat. When pumped breast milk is sitting in a refrigerator undisrupted, it separates into two layers.
You might notice a thick layer of milk on the top and a watery layer on the bottom. Sometimes you will notice a thin layer of breast milk followed by a watery layer.
The thick layer of milk may look like clumpy breast milk or chunky breast milk. And if you are first time seeing your precious breast milk looking like curdled milk, you might think of it as spoiled breast milk.
Breast milk’s color, consistency, and even flavor depend on the mother’s diet and when it was expressed.
For example, the breast milk expressed in the morning is too watery compared to breast milk expressed in the afternoon.
According to Kellymom, the variation is completely normal, and the separated thick or clumpy layer of refrigerated breast milk is fat and protein.
So, when your refrigerated breast milk looks clumpy or chunky, you do not need to pour it down the drain.
Sometimes thawed breast milk looks grainy or curdled when sitting in the fridge.
But, again, it is a normal occurrence, and as long as you are freezing and thawing breast milk according to CDC guidelines, your breast milk is not spoiled.
If you are still worried about refrigerated breast milk’s clumpy or chunky appearance, you might need to smell it. Spoiled breast milk has a distinct smell that is hard to miss.
Sometimes, breast milk spoils for several reasons, like the container you stored your pumped breast milk or breast pump flange is contaminated and not washed properly.
So, if you see your refrigerated breast milk clumpy or chunky, you might need to smell it just to be on the safer side.
What should you do if your refrigerated Breast milk looks clumpy or chunky?
Now that you know your refrigerated chunky breast milk is not spoiled, can you feed it to your baby?
However, the consistency of refrigerated breast milk will clog the nipple and make it hard to feed the baby.
But not worry, here is what you need to do if your thawed or refrigerated breastmilk looks clumpy or chunky.
Shake the Bottle
Refrigerated breast milk looks clumpy because it is sitting in a refrigerator overnight (if you have thawed it) or you have stored freshly expressed breast milk in a refrigerator for next-day feeding.
So, you need to take the bottle out of the refrigerator and shake it gently.
The gentle shaking or swirling will homogenize the breast milk and melt breast milk fat stuck to the sides of a bottle.
However, you do not want to shake the bottle vigorously as it will cause an air bubble to form in the bottle, and feeding a baby such breast milk will cause gas pain in the baby.
There is also a bottle shaker available in the market to mix formula and water. You can use those to homogenize your breast milk if you are worried about forming bubbles in a bottle while shaking by yourself.
Warm and Swirl
If simply shaking the bottle does not homogenize chunks in refrigerated breast milk, you might need to warm it in a bottle warmer or place the bottle in a warm water bath.
Once the breast milk is warmed, swirl it gently. It will homogenize easily.
How to tell if refrigerated Breast milk has gone Bad?
Here are several ways to tell if your refrigerated breast milk has gone bad.
Whenever you are in doubt about the quality of your thawed or refrigerated breast milk, you want to smell it before feeding it to your baby.
The spoiled breast milk has a distinct odor, and as soon as you bring it closer to your nose, you will notice it without a miss.
So, if refrigerated or thawed breast milk smells bad, it should be dumped.
You can also try your breast milk and see it has a sour taste. Sometimes breast milk about to go bad may not smell as bad but has a sour taste.
So, if you can’t tell if your refrigerated breast milk is spoiled by smelling it, you might want to taste it.
I am sure you are not too thrilled about trying your breast milk. So, follow a simple rule – when in doubt, throw it out.
And if you don’t want to dump your precious breast milk (I wouldn’t), here are awesome ways to use breastmilk other than dumping.
Related: 6 Best Usage of Expired Baby Formula
Breast Milk does not homogenize when swirled
Another indication of refrigerated breast milk is bad when it does not homogenize when you are swirling. Gently swirling breast milk should mix the separated layer of breast milk.
But if you see chunks of breast milk that do not mix by swirling or shaking, it is an indication that your refrigerated breast milk is spoiled.
If breast milk is not stored properly
Breast milk does not spoil when it is in the breast, but special precautions should be taken as soon as it is pumped.
According to CDC, freshly expressed breast milk can stay at room temperature for up to 4 hours. It can be refrigerated safely for up to 5 days and safely frozen for up to 6 months.
If your breast milk sits in the room temperate or refrigerator for a longer time, it will spoil.
Sometimes thawing breast milk quickly because you forgot to defrost breast milk the night before can cause thawed breast milk to spoil.
Reheating breast milk more than once because your baby did not finish the bottle also affects the quality of the breast milk.
So, it is best to properly follow the breast milk storage guideline to preserve the quality of refrigerated or thawed breast milk.
Why Breast Milk Looks Grainy or Curdled?
Thawed or refrigerated breast milk can look grainy or curdled because it isn’t homogenized.
When expressed breast milk sits in the refrigerator, it separates into a thick top layer and thin watery bottom layer.
The thick layer is mostly fat and protein in breast milk. This thick top layer of fat may look grainy or curdled.
If you have refrigerated freshly pumped breast milk, it will separate into layers, and the thick top layer look more clumpy or curdled than grainy.
But if you have kept frozen breast milk in the refrigerator overnight to defrost, it will look like a grainy, thick layer.
Again, as mentioned above, the variation in the appearance of refrigerated breast milk is normal, and it does not mean it is spoiled. Just give it a gentle shake or swirl, and it will homogenize.