Uses for Breast Milk Other than Feeding
It is well known that breast milk works wonders for your baby’s insides. It provides all the vitamins and nutrients she needs while providing her with antibodies to help her immune system grow stronger. What is less well known is that the benefits go beyond standard nutrition. There are many uses for breastmilk, both for children and adults, that help cure and relieve common ailments.
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Clear up Acne
Acne is a problem that plagues babies, teenagers, and adults alike. There have been many studies conducted and products developed with the intention of finding a solution to this common ailment.
The problem with many of these products, however, is the number of chemicals found in them. Sometimes these ingredients cause adverse effects, such as dry skin or rash (redness and burning), that will then cause more products to be used on top of the acnes treatment. There is good news, though: it has been found that breast milk can help clear up the issue of acne.
Lauric acid, a component of breast milk, is also found in coconut oil, and it has acne fighting properties. Since it is natural, there are no adverse side effects, as can often be found with over the counter acne treatments.
While there are no products of this sort on the market as of now, researchers behind this discovery are hoping to develop a face cream that consists of breast milk and coconut oil (1).
In the meantime, if you have breast milk handy, you can use it in your home for yourself or your baby. When your little one is going through their phase of baby acne, simply squirt a small amount on their face and massage it into the affected areas. If you need relief from a breakout, start by rinsing your face with water. Then, apply breast milk to the affected areas and air dry (2).
Chill for Teething
Teething rings are a great choice for your baby when their teeth decide to make their debut. They have either water or gel inside and can be chilled or frozen, which feels great on your little one’s gums. While teething rings tend to be relatively inexpensive, you can save even more money by using breast milk.
If you have popsicle molds, you can make breast milk popsicles. It’s as easy as pouring the milk into the mold and freezing. If you do not have popsicle molds, you can make breast milk ice cubes and place them in a mesh feeder (that you use for frozen fruits). You can even use a pacifier with an ice cube tray, allowing the milk to freeze around the plastic nipple (3).
If you are pumping milk faster than you can use it, these options are great for you. Some babies do not like the feel or taste of something inorganic, such as the plastic of teething toys or pacifiers. Frozen breast milk gives them something familiar tasting while still being able to find relief for their sore gums.
Relieve Itching and Burning
With its antiseptic properties, breast milk can be used to relieve itching and burning caused by many conditions, in both children and adults. The antibodies found in breast milk, particularly IgA, help to protect your baby from viruses and bacteria (4). When used topically, it can be used to prevent germs from growing on the site of an injury (5).
From eczema to poison ivy, bug bites and stings to scrapes and cuts, breast milk applied topically can provide relief from itching and promote healing. Simply massage a small amount of expressed milk into the infected area and allow to dry.
You can also apply a small amount at diaper changes if your baby has, or is prone to, diaper rash. This is a great alternative to chemical-filled pastes, and is less expensive than the organic creams found on the market (6).
Replace the Antibiotics
Ear infections are far too common among young babies and children. They can come with symptoms (pain, fever, and tugging at the ears) in the form of acute otitis media (AOM – inflammation caused by bacteria) or no symptoms (just complaints of difficult hearing or feeling “plugged up”) in the form of otitis media with effusion (OME – fluid build-up in the inner ear). While breastfed babies, with breast milk’s antimicrobial properties, are far less likely to develop ear infections, no child is completely immune (7).
This has become the leading cause in antibiotic use for children, which, unfortunately can have negative side effects. Children can experience diarrhea, rashes, nausea, and stomach pain.
The use of antibiotics also contributes to the spread of drug-resistant bacteria, as their bodies are not allowed to fight the infection on their own. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends allowing the child to fight the virus or infection for at least 48-72 hours before allowing the doctor to prescribe antibiotics, and at that time, only doing so if symptoms have not improved.
Rather than automatically resorting to antibiotics, try using breast milk. Putting a few drops in your baby’s ear every few hours can help to clear the infection. Most of the time, you can even see the infection (or the symptoms) clearing within 24-48 hours. This option is safer and less expensive than using antibiotics (8).
Easy on the Eyes
Just as breast milk is beneficial for fighting ear infections, it can also be used to ease symptoms of common eye conditions that babies and children can encounter. Blocked tear ducts or a common cold can cause gunk to form in the eyes (when excess mucus travels and gets backed up in the tear ducts).
With these conditions, the eyes are usually still white and, with time, will usually resolve themselves.
Children can also develop conjunctivitis (commonly known as “pink eye”), which results in inflammation and infection caused by bacteria. If left alone, the infection can spread throughout the body (in severe cases), but it can be easily treated with antibiotic eye drops. However, since we just learned about the negative side effects of antibiotics, other options may be preferred.
Breast milk, squirted into the baby’s affected eye(s) (which can be while they are sleeping, as it will seep behind their eyelid and still be effective), can help to fight the bacteria that causes conjunctivitis. It is a natural and safe alternative to the ingredients in most eye drops. It is important to consult your pediatrician if you have a newborn with pink eyes before trying any self-treatment, including breast milk (9).
For the Pumping Mother
If you are religiously pumping, you probably have a lot of breast milk stored up. While it can last a while if it is frozen, it still has a shelf life and will eventually expire. Your baby will only use so much, and you are bound to have a lot left over. So, what do you do with all this extra milk?
With all the benefits breast milk has to offer, why not look into donating your milk? Everyone can benefit from a little bit of breast milk in some form, but you are more likely to have other moms interested in taking your leftovers. You may have friends or ladies at work who would jump at the chance to take some off your hands.
What you may not know is that there are breast milk donation banks. They work to collect donations and dispense it to mothers in need (particularly with children in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)) after it has been tested and pasteurized.
They test for common viruses, and are constantly updating their tests to include anything that has been a part of a recent outbreak (i.e. Zika virus). With many associations recommending babies be exclusively breastfed for at least the entirety of their first year, these milk banks help to provide mothers with the opportunity to meet these recommendations. For more information regarding milk banks, visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).
When it comes to common ailments, such as acne, scrapes, burns, and viruses, breast milk is a great alternative to many modern medicinal options on the market. If you are a breastfeeding mother, you may want to start pumping and putting it to more use. Share the wealth (as breast milk is often known as liquid gold) and spread the word about these amazing benefits.