Saturday, January 21, 2012

Who’s got the funk? [Subtitle: I am no longer afraid of my breast pump]

I don’t mean to brag or anything, but it turns out that when it comes to lactating, I’m what they call an overproducer. (I can hear my mother saying, “Oh, of course you would be.” Hi, Mom!) So, yeah, an overproducer. No big deal. Except that the volume of my milk was a bit much for little Grady to handle. It was basically like he was doing a keg stand every time he tried to nurse. Bonkers, I’m telling you. Milk everywhere. He was managing, gamely in fact, but I wondered if there wasn’t something I could do to make this easier. We tweaked our positions, and that helped some, but the real relief for everyone came when I started pumping every morning. Taking five or six or more ounces off the top seemed to be just the ticket to set our day on the right path. After that, Grady can keep up, I’m no longer soaking through all my clothes, and everyone’s more comfortable.

I confess I became a little addicted to my morning routine. Watching those little bottles fill with milk is strangely empowering. It’s kind of a lot of liquid food to come from one’s own person. Food I made. I’m sure I sound nutty, but, I mean... I’m making food over here! With my boobs!

Accordingly, I became a bit obsessed with my stacks of bagged breast milk in the freezer. Like I was stocking up for a post-apocalyptic dystopian future, with fewer canned goods. Incidentally, this is hereditary behavior. Granny J and Gumpa’s basement makes them look like members of a rural militia, without the guns. Now that you understand the satisfaction I was deriving from my milk-hoarding, you are ready to hear how then it all went terribly wrong.

You may have heard of how some women have funky milk. You probably haven’t, because who talks about this? Well, I do, and I had heard, but thought that wouldn’t be me! And I am a damn fool. After an afternoon of total bottle rejection from Mr. Grady, we discovered that my stored milk starts to taste soapy after just a few hours in the fridge. Given ten hours, it is utterly vile. We’d given Grady a couple of bottles before, but always with milk I’d just pumped a few hours before. But it turns out that my milk is high in lipase, or, in a word, FUNKY. It tastes great initially (yes, I have become a real connoisseur through all this), but undergoes a reaction when stored that ruins it. It isn’t spoiled, and is safe to drink, but it’s so gross that no self-respecting baby would. (I initially typed that as “elf-respecting,” and really wanted to leave it.)

The way around funky milk is to scald the milk right after pumping, which deactivates the lipase (or something) and keeps the funk from happening. Yeah, you aren’t supposed to heat breastmilk, because it kills some of the good stuff. But, lesser evil here. Scalded breastmilk is still the best option if you’re dealing with funky milk. But scalding is a pain. You have to stir the whole time to prevent a skin from forming (just like normal milk). And how the heck am I going to manage this when I go back to work? No clue. Any advice is welcomed. (Microwaving is a last resort, because it kills A LOT of the good stuff.)

But my stash? UNRECOVERABLE. Milk banks will apparently accept it, because they mix the milk together in huge batches and it gets diluted. But I don’t currently have enough for a donation and I’m not sure I want to pump just for that. And I feel bad saying that, but there it is. Once I get a decent stash going for Grady, I may change my mind.

And I don’t really have a conclusion for this post. I was just sharing.

[This post was brought to you by my Mobyish, where Grady has started actually taking decent-length naps from time to time. (Yeah, he’s the newborn who mostly gets by on just a couple of half-hour naps per day. Another time.)]


  1. Not sure if it makes a difference with breast milk, but:

    "Microwave energy can instantly penetrate food to a depth of about an inch, instead of slowly working its way in from the surface by conduction. If the food is less than an inch thick, it’s essentially cooking all at once. That rapid heating generally means that the food retains more of its vitamins than it does when it’s boiled, steamed or baked."
    -Harold McGee, author of Keys to Good Cooking
    A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes

    More on microwaving from McGee:

    (This isn't to say I actually use our microwave for anything more then cooking popcorn or melting butter.)

  2. Thanks, Diana. "They" say that microwaving breast milk kills antibodies and reduces vitamin content. Heating on the stove does too, but supposedly it's not as bad? Or maybe just easier to control the temp and pull it off as soon as the edge starts to bubble... I don't know. The whole mantra that microwaving ruins breastmilk more than the stovetop could be an urban legend.