The Taste of Breast Milk

The Flavor, Sweetness, and Creaminess of Human Breast Milk

Bottles of breast milk in the refrigerator with sign Breast Milk! Don't Drink
How does breast milk taste?. Image Source/Getty Images

The taste of breast milk is generally considered to be sweet and creamy with a pleasant flavor. However, when it comes to taste, everyone has a different experience. Taste is developed over time depending on your genetics, your culture, and the foods that you're exposed to throughout your life. So breast milk, like any other food, may taste different to different people.

Why Is Breast Milk Sweet and Creamy?

Breast milk contains the milk sugar lactose.

Even though lactose is not the sweetest type of sugar, when there is a lot of lactose present, the sweetness is much greater. Since lactose is one of the main ingredients in breast milk, it appears in high concentrations giving breast milk its sweet flavor.

Breast milk also contains fat. The amount of fat in milk determines it's creaminess. When breast milk first starts to flow from the breast, it has less fat so it may appear thin and watery. But, as the milk continues to flow, it becomes higher in fat and much creamier.

What Else Contributes to the Taste of Breast Milk?

Beyond sweet and creamy, breast milk is also made up of flavors from the foods that you eat every day. When you eat a well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, you are exposing your child to the tastes of these healthy foods. As your breastfed child grows and begins to eat solid foods, experts believe that he will more readily accept the foods that you have already exposed him to through your breast milk.

In this way, your child can develop a taste for many of the foods that you enjoy, even garlic, spicy foods, or other cultural dishes.

Things That Affect the Taste of Breast Milk

A change in the taste of your breast milk for any of the reasons listed below may affect your child. Some babies will not seem to notice or mind the variations of taste while other children will nurse less, go on a nursing strike, ​or even appear to be ​self-weaning.

By understanding some of the things that can change the flavor of your breast milk you may be able to keep your child breastfeeding longer.

Hormones: Changes in your body from the return of your period or a new pregnancy may influence the flavor of your milk. It's still safe to breastfeed if you have your period, and it's usually safe to continue to breastfeed if you become pregnant again as long as you are not high risk. So, if you still want to breastfeed, continue to offer your child the breast.

Exercise: The build-up of lactic acid in your body along with the saltiness of perspiration on your breasts from strenuous exercise can interfere with the taste of your breast milk. When you work out, keep it at a light or moderate level and wash your breasts before you feed your baby to remove the salty sweat.

Medications: Certain medications can change the taste of your breast milk. If you start a new medication and notice your child is not breastfeeding as well, that might be the cause. Talk to your doctor if you think this is an issue.

Smoking: Studies show that the breast milk produced after a mother smokes cigarettes will take on the smell and flavor of the smoke. If you smoke, have your cigarette immediately after you finish feeding your child and try not to smoke for at least two hours before breastfeeding to keep the smell and flavor of the smoke to a minimum.

Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is known to affect the taste of breast milk. It takes about two hours for each alcoholic drink you consume to leave your body and your breast milk. So, the longer you wait to breastfeed after you have an alcoholic beverage, the less alcohol will be in your breast milk to alter the flavor.

Frozen Breast Milk: When you defrost breast milk that has been collected and stored in the freezer, it will sometimes have a soapy odor and taste. It's still safe to give to your child, but he may not like the taste and refuse it.

Mastitis: Mastitis is a breast infection that can cause your breast milk to have a strong, salty taste.

If you think you may have mastitis, it's OK to continue to breastfeed, but your baby may refuse to nurse on the side with the infection. And, since you may need to take antibiotics to treat mastitis, be sure to see your doctor.

Body Products: Any lotions, creams, soaps, perfumes, oils, or ointments that you put on your breasts can add different flavors to your breast milk as your baby nurses. If you use any body products on or near your breasts, be sure to wash your breasts well before breastfeeding your baby.

Is It OK to Try Your Own Breast Milk?

If you're concerned about the flavor of your breast milk, or you just want to know how it will taste to you, you can try it. Breast milk is a natural, healthy food, and it will not hurt you. There is nothing wrong or disgusting about trying your own breast milk.

Is It OK to Taste Someone Else's Breast Milk?

Sometimes husbands or partners are curious and want to taste breast milk as well. It is OK for them to try it too, as long as they know the health history of their partner and understand the risk involved. Always be smart and use common sense because it can, of course, be dangerous to try the milk from another person's breast. Breast milk is a body fluid. Therefore, it is possible to contract an infectious disease, including HIV, from drinking someone else's breast milk.



American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Drayna, D. Human Taste Genetics. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics. 2005; 6: 217-235.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Marth, EH. Lactose. Fundamentals of Dairy Chemistry. Aspen Publishers. 1999. p.307-309

Spencer JP. Management of Mastitis In Breastfeeding Women. American Family Physician. 2008; 78 (6). 727-732.

Continue Reading