Breast milk – what does it taste like? Whether you want to admit it or not, you’ve asked this question. We’re all a little curious what this liquid gold tastes like. And if you’ve been pumping, you may have even placed a drop or two on your tongue to make sure the temperature of the milk was just right.
While breast milk generally tastes the same no matter who’s making, there are some factors that may alter the flavors a bit. Let’s take a closer look at how breast milk is made and the factors that affect its flavor.
Table of Contents
- 9 Truths about Breast Milk
- 1. How Breast Milk is Made
- 2. How is Milk Actually Produced?
- 3. What is Breast Milk Made Of?
- Breast Milk Nutrition
- 4. Is All Breast Milk the Same?
- 5. Is Breast Milk Sweet?
- Why is Breast Milk Sweet?
- 6. Does Breast Milk Taste Different Depending on What You Eat?
- 7. Is There Lactose in Breast Milk?
- 8. Is There Lipase in Breast Milk?
- 9. Can You Put Breast Milk in Coffee?
9 Truths about Breast Milk
1. How Breast Milk is Made
How does the body make breast milk? The process is complex and fascinating.
The breast is made up mostly of fatty and connective tissues. These tissues are designed to protect and support the milk-producing areas of the breasts, called the alveoli. The milk travels through the milk ducts to the nipples and into your baby’s mouth.
During pregnancy and just after you give birth, milk production is driven by hormones. As long as your hormones are in check, you’ll produce colostrum about halfway through your pregnancy. You’ll produce a lot more milk in the first 30-40 hours after birth. Because milk production at these stages is hormonally driven, you’ll produce milk whether you breastfeed or not. After this stage, milk production works on a supply and demand arrangement.
2. How is Milk Actually Produced?
Breasts cannot produce milk without the prolactin hormone. There are receptors on the walls of the alveoli’s milk-producing cells that allow prolactin to move into the lactocytes and trigger the synthesis of breast milk. Once the alveolus are full of milk, the walls stretch and change the shape of these receptors to prevent prolactin from entering the lactocytes. When prolactin can’t enter the lactocytes, milk synthesis slows. As the alveolus empty, the prolactin receptors return to their normal shape and milk synthesis starts again.
Production is also controlled by something else: FIL.
Human breast milk contains FIL (Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation), a type of whey protein. FIL appears to slow milk production when the breasts are full because more milk means higher FIL levels. The opposite is true, too. When the breasts are empty and FIL levels are lower, the breasts produce more milk. These two processes tell us one thing (something you probably knew): The more often you nurse and empty the breasts of milk, the more milk you’ll produce.
Research also suggests that the milk’s fat content is determined by the emptiness of the breasts.
3. What is Breast Milk Made Of?
You’ve probably heard other moms call breast milk “liquid gold,” and that’s because this liquid is highly nutritious. But what exactly is your milk made of?
Breast Milk Nutrition
What’s interesting about human breast milk is that it changes depending on when and who it’s being made for. In other words, the contents of your milk will change according to your baby’s needs.
Moms make two types of milk: colostrum and mature milk. Let’s take a closer look at what each type contains.
Colostrum contains important antibodies that help prevent infection and provide your baby with the nourishment she needs. This pale yellow milk is also higher in protein, salt, minerals, nitrogen, vitamin A and white blood cells. It also contains less fat and sugar than the mature milk you’ll produce later on.
Colostrum also has a laxative effect, which helps clear your baby’s gastrointestinal tract.
- Mature Milk
About two to four days after your baby is born, your body starts producing mature milk. Mature milk is comprised mostly of fat, water, carbohydrates, vitamins, protein, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and white blood cells. When you first start feeding, your baby will get what’s called the foremilk. Foremilk is high in lactose and water. Over the course of the feeding, your breast milk will change over to hindmilk, which is higher in calories and fat.
Eventually, the contents of your breast milk will change. After a few weeks, your milk will contain fewer white cells and more lysozyme, which is an antibacterial enzyme. Lysozyme levels will remain high for as long as you breastfeed.
There are more than 200 beneficial elements in breast milk, and researchers are discovering new ones all the time.
4. Is All Breast Milk the Same?
Breast milk should contain the basic elements we discussed earlier, but not all milk is the same. Some moms produce higher quality milk than others.
Still, even malnourished moms will produce milk that’s nourishing enough to keep your baby healthy and strong. Your diet plays a big role in the amount of nutrients your breast milk contains. The body produces milk by taking nutrients from your body. If you’re lacking in a particular vitamin or mineral, there’s a good chance your breast milk is, too.
Vegans, for example, may produce breast milk that’s low in vitamin B12. Proper supplementation can help offset these deficiencies and ensure that your milk is as nutritious as possible.
Don’t let your diet or lifestyle choices scare you away from breastfeeding. No matter what your diet looks like, breast milk will always be the most nutritionally complete and best food for your baby.
5. Is Breast Milk Sweet?
Now we get to the most important question: what does breast milk taste like? Is it sweet? Does breast milk taste good?
Yes – in most cases. The flavor of breast milk will change depending on a number of factors, and flavors vary from one mom to the next. With that said, most people say breast milk tastes sweet and nutty.
The creaminess and sweetness of the milk depends on whether it’s the foremilk or the hindmilk. Hindmilk is higher in fat, while foremilk is lighter and more watery.
Why is Breast Milk Sweet?
Breast milk tastes sweet because it contains lactose, the milk sugar. Lactose isn’t known for being especially sweet, but it can be when it’s found in large quantities.
Lactose is one of the main ingredients in breast milk, so its high concentration gives the milk a sweet flavor.
6. Does Breast Milk Taste Different Depending on What You Eat?
Yes. Your body takes nutrients from the foods you eat to produce breast milk. And sometimes, the flavors from the foods you eat will change the way your milk tastes.
Researchers believe that when you eat a well-balanced diet, you’re exposing your baby to a wide range of foods and flavors. When your baby transitions to solid food, she may be more accepting of these foods.
7. Is There Lactose in Breast Milk?
Yes, there is lactose in breast milk. In fact, lactose is one of the primary “ingredients” in breast milk and is what helps give your milk its sweet flavor.
8. Is There Lipase in Breast Milk?
Yes. In fact, lipase is an important component of breast milk. Without it, your baby would have a hard time absorbing your milk’s nutrients.
The high lipase in breast milk helps the body absorb fat and nutrients. But just like with anything else in life, more isn’t always a good thing. Excess lipase can cause your breast milk to have a soapy flavor or smell. Too much lipase can also cause your milk to spoil more quickly. Your baby might give you a clue that your milk’s lipase levels are too high. She might refuse to drink your milk if lipase has changed the flavor.
9. Can You Put Breast Milk in Coffee?
If you have excess breast milk that’s about to expire, you can use it as a coffee creamer.
Breast milk is creamy and has a nutty, almost vanilla flavor. And because it’s naturally sweet, you won’t need to add any extra sugar to your morning cuppa.