When my son was born, I had an intense breakdown moment, fully concerned about the taste of my milk. It was Day Three and my new baby was, yet again, unsuccessful in his nursing attempts. While the beginning of our birthing days had been joyous, gentle, and at home, the end resulted in a very unwanted hospital transfer due to his positioning and our inability to get him dislodged, turned, and descended. A surgical birth was the very last thing I wanted for my beloved child, yet this is ultimately what he got. And he, like many sectioned babies who missed a normal stage 2 of birth, was tongue thrusting and having difficulty sucking properly. I was frustrated with how things had gone down, and anxious to have my husband (who'd already been gone 4 months prior to our birth) leaving me to go overseas the next day on another 4 month deployment to the Gulf. I'd be flying solo - with a new baby - and major abdominal surgery to recover from, in an area we'd recently moved to and knew very few people within. In the midst of all of these emotions, while watching my son struggle to get the hang of breastfeeding, one powerful question surfaced:
What if he does not like my milk?
As absurd as the question is, that was all I could think of. Maybe I made dysfunctional milk. Maybe I didn't eat right and it tainted the flavor. Maybe my body was broken - in more ways than one. Maybe I couldn't nourish and grow this little guy on the outside as I had for 10 months on the inside.
Despite all my training, all the head-knowledge and heart-passion, all the lactivism in the world wasn't able to keep these feelings from flooding over my hormone-whacked, drug-filled, in-pain mothering self.
Thankfully, there was a wise lactation consultant standing next to me when I uttered this question aloud with tears beginning to well in my eyes for the first time post-birth. She immediately squashed this ridiculous theory by stating factually that it was not true - he loved my milk, wanted it more than anything. And she picked up one of the many bottles of formula the hospital nursery staff had stacked up by the door to send home with us (convinced, I suppose, that my son would be another statistic among those who wouldn't normally feed as an infant). "If any baby would ever eat this, your son will eat your milk." She unsealed the lid of a tiny 2 ounce plastic bottle and had me smell it. Nasty. Taste it. Gross!
Now I do not remember consuming my own mother's milk as a baby (I was weaned before a normal age of full term nursing) but I believed the lactation consultant when she told me nothing could taste better to a baby than his mother's sweet, warm, milk, and nothing tasted as bad as artificial feeding liquids. My soul was put to rest. And that was all it took.
Another lactation consultant came in (we had many 'round the clock, for which I am thankful) and encouraged me by saying that many drugged or sectioned babies get the hang of sucking when they get home to the environment they 'grew up' within - familiar sounds/smells - and have a more relaxed mother who can focus all her attention on them. This would happen for us, I decided.
On the way home we rented a hospital grade pump (an Ameda Elite) to replace the one I'd been using in the hospital, and continued to make nursing attempts at home, while finger/syringe feeding him pumped milk after each 5 minute attempt. Ultimately we were successful. He learned to latch and suck effectively, and 4 months later my husband returned from deployment to find a baby who'd almost doubled his weight - exclusively on momma milk.
Years later, I sit here thinking there must be other new moms who have had this question pop into their head... I can't be the only one out there who feared her milk was not scrumptious enough for her baby to eat. And so, I thought it may be helpful to pause for a moment and appreciate human milk ~ not just for how good it does a body, but how wonderful it really tastes, too!
If we ask children what their mother's milk tastes like, the answers range, but all tend to focus on one theme: sweet, delicious, the best thing in the world!
The following answers were recently given to DrMomma.org when nursing tots were polled on what their mom's milk tastes like. Hope you enjoy the answers as much as I did! I only wish I'd read these responses several years ago before my son was born... :)
What does your momma's milk taste like?
Caleb, age 4, "Like sugar, syrup, and honey all mixed together."
Lizzie, age 3, "Strawberries!"
Sam, age 3 "Better than chocolate!"
Claire, age 2 "Ice cream soup!"
Naomi's daughter, age 3 "ice cream" "watermelon" "melon" "juice" "chocolate milk" and "orange juice" depending on the day.
Joy, age 2 "bestmilt tastes like honeymilt - better than chocdit"
Grace's 3 year old son "Like ice cream. It's my favorite drink, and I love it!"
Jenny's daughter, age 3, "Like mommy milk!" And she looked at her mom as though she was silly for asking... Jenny continued, "Does it taste like ice cream?" "No." "Does it taste like fruit?" "No." "Does it taste like cereal?" "No, Mommy. It tastes like mommy milk!" End of discussion. ;)
Kai, age 3 "Like different juice."
Marsha's children collectively answered, "Honey almond milk."
Hannah, age 4 "Not like any other milk. Not like ice cream. Not like yogurt."
Grace's daughter, age 3 "Nursie water" when pregnant and "Nursie vanilla" when colostrum came in.
Camrynn, age 4 "Watermelon."
Brenden, age 5, "It's like warmed up vanilla ice cream."
Stephanie's daughter had vanilla soy milk for the first time when she was 6 years old and excitedly reported, "Mommie!! This is what *your* milk tastes like!!"
Katie, age 2 "Strawberries and blueberries."
Tyler, age 2 "'Nilla milk."
Jennifer's 2 year old says she would rather have her momma's milk than "47 eweven choc-wit cwip tookies!"
Andrew, age 3 "Even better than chocolate caramel!"
Morgan's 3 year old, "Blue meme" (blue ice cream) before pregnancy and "plain meme" when pregnant.
Carol's 3 year old "MY MAMA MILK!" Her tandem nursing 6 year old says "Chocolate Milk" and when he isn't able to nurse, he curls up with a glass of chocolate (cow's) milk.
Max, age 4 "Sweet juice."
Sarah's daughter, age 2 "Honeydew melon."
Erin's son, age 2 "The best ice cream ever!"
8 year old daughter from the UK, "It was the best thing in the world! Better than even mangoes!"
Waylon, age 3 "Apple pie."
Bethany, age 3 "Better than chocolate!"
Denise's son, age 5 "Root beer"
Jamie's daughter, age 4 "It is sweet and it makes me happy!" When Jamie's daughter was 3, Jamie was pregnant and her daughter said the taste changed - not as sweet - but that she would "wait around for good milk again." She did, and tandem nursed till the age of 5. She now tells Jamie her milk was "salty, but still good - just not as good" when Jamie was pregnant.
Erika's 3 year old, "So yummy Mommy! Just like yummy cream and water...makes me a healthy body."
Melinda's son, age 2 "Toast"
Lucinda's daughter, age 3 "It makes everything better!"
Heather, age 3 "Just like honey"
Mandi's son, age 2 "Grapes" and "Strawberries" and "Marshmallows" (Mandi doesn't know how her son knows about the taste of marshmallows...says she will have to talk with Grandma about that one...)
Anna, age 3 "Like pancakes and sugar."
Kristina, age 3 "Ice cream"
Joey, age 4 "Honey"
Jenn's milk just came in 2 days ago after giving birth. Her daughter (age 2) nursed, unlatched, looked surprised, looked at her mom, relatched, swallowed a few times, and unlatched again. Looked up at her mom with a huge smile said, "YUMMMY!!" while rubbing her tummy.
Estelle's son, age 4 "Like warm ham" (Estelle does not eat ham...)
Jada's daughter, age 4 "Like birthday cake and ice cream!" (what could be better than that?!)
Wilder, age 1 "Ma-mellows!" (marshmallows)
Jesse, age 3 "chocolate milk"
Karah's daughter, age 3, giggled and looked at her thinking what a silly question that was, "Like mommy milk!"
Amber made some oatmeal with her milk. Her friend's breastfed 2-year-old tried some of the oatmeal (without knowing what was in it). When the little girl's mom asked her what it tasted like, she simply said "Amber."
Julie's son, age 4 "Hot chocolate!"
Holly's daughter, age 6 "ColdStone's Cake Better ice cream"
Melissa's kids say it tastes like strawberry milk -- even though they have never had strawberry milk! ;)
Christy's 3 year old flexed her arm muscles and said, "It tastes like some STRONG!" (Christy tells her that healthy foods make her "big and strong")
Ethan, age 2 "Tastes like mama!"
Simon, age 2 "Goot!" (good)
Mandi (currently potty training her 2 year old) occasionally is told her milk tastes like "poop" - "Oh the joys of potty training!" she says. ;)
James, age 2 "Milk shake!"
Callie, age 2 "SPICY!"
Elexa's daughter, age 2 "Happy and Happy!" (says they make her happy) :)
Leah's son, age 2 "Mama milk warm, not cold. Easton get cold milk in glass. Mama milk lecker!" (Lecker is German for 'tasty')
Lauren's son, age 2, tasted a 1/2 sweet, steamed vanilla milk from Starbucks and said it was like momma milk.
Shanley, age 3 "Very Sweet!"
Sawyer, age 2 "Like Vanilla"
Nicki, age 3 "A little bit like orange juice"
Jacob, age 1 "Brown" ~ chocolate is brown? :)
Shelley's son, age 3, was sad when her milk dried up during pregnancy. He continued to dry nurse for comfort, and when her milk came back in he looked up at her and said, "Mama, you taste better than root beer floats!"
Kai's daughter changed her mind - at age 2 she said "Strawberries" and at age 3 she laughed at the thought of mom's milk tasting like strawberries and said "Chocolate"
Tonya's son, age 3 "Cucumbers and bananas"
Henry, age 2 "Like joy!"
Becca, age 3 "Like pear juice"
Maya, age 2 "SUGA!" (sugar)
One little boy (age 2) asked his mother if she made any other flavors - "Strawberry?" "Chocolate?" She said no. He said, "Okay." and went back to nursing.
Sophie, age 2 "Like milk"
Jer, age 3 "Like root beer"
Sophie's 6 year old, "Like ice cream for an hour, and raw milk for 1 minute."
Amy's son, age 3 "Like green milk!" She isn't sure where that comes from... ;)
Courtney's daughter, age 3 says, "Warm totonut milt on baniwa ice tweem" (warm coconut milk on banana ice cream) while her tandem nursing son, age 2 says "nummy tow milt" (yummy cow milk - although he does not like cow's milk)
Briar's daughter, age 2 nursed post-birth of her sibling and said colostrum tasted "Like water"
Tiara, age 3 "Treat!"
Evan, age 2 "Like grapes."
Vivian, doubting her milk supply for her 7 month old son, nursed her 2 year old niece and her mind was put at ease. After nursing a while, she asked her niece if "Zia Vivi" milk was yummy, and with raised eyebrows, her niece nodded "YES" and continued nursing. It was a bonding moment and Vivian is now much more confident too!
Ashlee's little one, age 4 "Like Goodness!"
Mag, age 3, "Like watery ice cream."
Olive, age 2 "Cantaloupe juice"
Amy's kids all self weaned around the age of 8 and each one said that it tasted like whatever their favorite food was at the time -- ice cream, hot chocolate, or roast chicken... ;)
Katie (now an adult) told her mom that her milk tasted like "river water" when she was 2 years old.
Brittany's daughter, age 2 "Cold cocoa!" (her term for chocolate milk)
Briana's daughter, age 3 "Like honey!"
Joy, age 2 "Nummy chocolate."
Michelle's 3 year old says "Strawberry" pointing to one side and "Blueberry" pointing to the other side.
Jake, age 2 "Cookies!"
Kim's daughter, age 2 "Beans!" ;)
Sarah is tandem nursing her two daughters. Her 2 year old tells her that her side is "Vanilla" and her sister's side is "Strawberry"
Julie's 4 year old "Like juice covered by water."
Devon, age 3 "Banana"
Paige's 2 year old "Horse milk!" ~ maybe horses are a favorite animal?! ;)
April, age 3 "orange juice"
Sophie, age 2 "delicious!"
Gwendilyn's son, age 3 "Silk Very Vanilla milk" Gwendilyn was hit by a drunk driver and due to her medical needs and recovery post-accident, her son had to wean prematurely. Now, he still requests to warm his vanilla milk so it tastes "like mommy's milk."
Chloe, age 2, "Warmed up ice cream."
Tara's daughter, age 2 "Booboo snuggles."
Maria's 4 year old "Nice and fresh!"
Four of Dolores' five children (ages 9, 8, 6, 4) were talking to one another on a car trip and agreed their mother's milk tastes "like whipped cream mixed with the juice from canned pears."
Leigh's son, age 3 "Banana ice cream" (right breast) "Vanilla" (left breast)
Cristina's son, age 3 "Like hot dogs!" (She was pregnant at the time)
Noah, age 3, "Almond milk."
Callie, age 3, "Candy!"
Cindy's son, age 2 "Milk!" (it was the only milk he'd ever had)
Fanny's son, age 3 "ICE CREAM!" and pretends to lick an ice cream cone before latching...
Julie's son, age 2 described it in his toddler way as the "freshest, sweetest, most delicious cantaloupe ever!"
Macey, age 4 "Sooooo Yuuuummmmy!"
Miranda's 2 year old "CHERRIES!!"
Kirsty, age 6 "It tastes like you, Mummy."
Brittany's heart melted when her 2 year old replied that it tastes like "Home"
Jacob, age 5 "Mama milk tastes like love."
Some things will slightly alter the flavor of human milk:
1) Freezing will change the flavor slightly - but most babies do not mind this change at all in their first 6-10 months of life. It is common for an older breastfeeding baby to prefer his milk straight from the tap, especially once he has begun walking or eating other non-breastmilk items.
2) For a small number of women, the flavor is changed more drastically when pumped as a result of their bodies putting out extra lipase (an enzyme that breaks down milk fat). The flavor starts to change immediately upon being pumped (even when frozen) and the only way to avoid this is to heat the milk and eliminate the lipase enzyme reaction. Heating does decrease immuno properties of human milk, so this should only be done if absolutely necessary. Lipase is a beneficial enzyme that aids in keeping milk easily digestible, well mixed, inactivating protozoans, and allowing essential fatty acids and vitamins to be bioavailable to babies via their digestive tract. (1)
3) Citrus fruits and strong spices will change the flavor of human milk slightly - but babies (like adults) seem to enjoy this minor variety in their food's taste. There is no reason to avoid any particular food items for your breastfeeding baby other than cow's milk and nuts/soy. This, however, is not due to the taste factor, but because these are the two most common root causes of belly aches, gas, indigestion and so-called 'colic' in an otherwise healthy baby. Other gas-producing foods (beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, hot peppers, onions, turnips, cucumbers, tomatoes) may also be irritating for some babies if Mom consumes too much. After the gut has closed at 8 months of age, a nursing mother can consume anything she desires (including cow's milk and nuts/soy) without it significantly impacting her baby. That said, many mothers I have worked with during their postpartum months ate a hearty amount of beans, broccoli, onions, tomatoes (while cutting out cow's milk and all nuts for the first 6-8 months of baby's life, and this alone eliminated the tummy troubles). Linda Palmer's, The Baby Bond, is an excellent book for more on this subject.
So let's toast to yummy momma milk - yours, mine, and all mothers' out there. It truly is a good thing we are making!
(1) Lawrence R, Lawrence R. Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Mosby, 2005: 156-158, 203-205, 771, 781.