There are times when moms can’t breastfeed their babies readily, so many mothers decide to express their milk and store it in their freezers to give their infants later. But even when you already know how to properly store breast milk, it can still be worrying to find your frozen milk covered in ice crystals and giving off a weird smell — both of which are signs of "freezer burn."
According toThe Kitchn, freezer burn is “dehydration that happens when your frozen foods are exposed to air.” What happens is that the moisture leaves the frozen food and turns into ice crystals on the exterior of the food, which then dehydrates and oxidizes that food item. Freezer burn happens when frozen food is exposed to air, such as if you store it in containers without getting as much air out as you can.
Because breast milk is commonly stored in freezers for later consumption, it can also get freezer burn. The good news is that even when breast milk gets freezer burn, it is still safe to give to your baby: According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), freezer burn doesn’t make food unsafe.
That being said, freezer burn can also affect the taste of the breast milk. International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Kristin GourleytellsRomper, “You can still use it, but just like with meat, etc. it could affect [the] taste. Some babies may be more particular than others about it.”
Medela also writes that freezing and thawing breast milk can affect how it tastes and smells. You might notice that after you defrost your breast milk, it gives off a soapy or sour smell, but this is completely normal.
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“Breast milk contains lipase, an enzyme that is normally present in human milk and has a lot of benefits,” Medela explains. “For one, it helps break down fats in the milk so that fat-soluble nutrients and fatty acids (which protect your baby from getting sick) are available to your little one.
The best way to avoid freezer burn on your breast milk is to store it properly, which means getting as much air out of the containers as you can before closing them up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises using containers with tight-fitting lids that are made of glass or plastic and avoiding plastic bags that are not intended for storing breast milk.
Lynnette Hafken, MS, IBCLC also recommends using alternative storage methods in storing breast milk for an extended period. “If you are storing milk for more than a few weeks, double bagging it will keep it safer. Storing milk bags in a Tupperware container would also work,” she tells Romper.
For more on how to properly store your breast milk at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer, click here.