Breast milk is one of the most remarkable substances in the world. It’s a complex fluid that contains all the necessary nutrients that a growing baby needs to thrive, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. It’s a veritable energy drink! Along those lines, you may be wondering how does breast milk smell? Your not alone in pondering this. This article will outline what breast milk smells like, when there may be cause for concern, and if your baby can smell your breast milk.
What does breast milk normally smell like?
One of the unique characteristics of breast milk is its smell. Breast milk has a distinctive sweet smell that is easily recognizable. It’s not overly powerful, but is often described as being slightly sweet, nutty, and creamy, with a subtle vanilla undertone. The smell is similar to cow’s milk, but with slightly sweeter notes.
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The scent of breast milk is not a constant, however. It can vary depending on a number of factors, such as your diet, hydration, and overall health. For example, if you eat a lot of garlic or spicy food, your breast milk may have a slightly different smell. Additionally, if you are dehydrated, your breast milk may have a stronger, more concentrated smell. If you have consumed alcohol, you may notice the scent of alcohol in your breast milk (note that this milk isn’t safe to feed your baby, save it for a breast milk bath instead).
Breast milk can also change in smell over time. In the early days of breastfeeding, the milk is typically thinner and more watery, with a slightly sweet aroma. As the baby grows and the milk becomes more mature, it becomes thicker and creamier, with a stronger, more pronounced smell.
Related article: 7 Common Foods that Make Breast Milk Taste Bad
Why does my milk smell a little sour?
It is important to note that breast milk should not have a foul or rancid odor. If breast milk smells sour or has an off odor, it may be a sign of a bacterial infection or a problem with the storage of your milk. If your breast milk smells sour and you are having pain in your breasts, contact your healthcare provider. You may have an infection like mastitis or thrush. If you notice small amounts of blood in your milk, you may have cracked nipples. See our article Strawberry Breast Milk: 6 Causes of Blood In Your Breast Milk for more information on how to fix this.
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If you are pumping breast milk at work and notice that it smells bad hours after you have pumped, you may not be storing your breast milk properly. It is incredibly important for your baby’s health that you store your breast milk correctly after pumping. Check out our article How to Store Breast Milk After Pumping to make sure you are following CDC guidelines and safely storing your breast milk.
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Why does my fresh breast milk smell bad?
If your freshly pumped breast milk smells bad, you may have high lipase in your breast milk. Lipase is an enzyme in every mother’s breast milk. Lipase breaks down fat in your milk. Some moms have higher lipase activity in their milk resulting in a metallic or soapy smell. See our article Breast Milk Lipase: The Reason Your Breast Milk Tastes Metallic for more information on this and how to fix it.
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Can babies smell breast milk on you?
Yes! Babies can smell breast milk on their mother and other people who have recently come into contact with breast milk. Since the scent of breast milk is very distinct, it can linger on clothing, skin, and other surfaces. Babies have a highly developed sense of smell, which is essential for their survival and development. They can recognize the aroma of their mother’s breast milk from a very young age. In fact, a study published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology found that newborns can distinguish between their mother’s breast odor and that of a stranger’s breast odor, indicating that they are able to recognize the unique scent of their mother’s milk.
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Another study published in the journal Chemical Senses found that the odor of breast milk stimulates brain activity in areas of the brain associated with reward and motivation, suggesting that babies have an innate preference for the smell of breast milk. It really is liquid gold!
Related article: How Much Breast Milk to Send to Daycare? We Have Answers.
So to conclude, breast milk has a unique and distinct smell that is sweet, nutty, and creamy. The scent of breast milk can vary depending on your diet, hydration, and overall health, as well as the age of the milk. And the best part about all of this is your baby can smell your breast milk and prefers it! It’s a comforting and reassuring scent for both you and your baby, and is a symbol of the incredible bond that exists between you both.