I have received many emails through the site regarding my references to medicinal uses of breastmilk in my articles relating to nursing and illness. This topic tends to arouse a good bit of curiosity and wonder – as well it should – breastmilk is somewhat of a miraculous cure for many maladies.
Most simply, breastmilk is a great healing agent for all things topical. Cuts and scratches, rashes of all sorts (including most diaper rashes), insect bites and more have been known to heal faster and more effectively when dabbed or painted with breastmilk. Expressing a few drops of milk onto sore nipples after a feeding can be soothing and healing. I have heard warnings about using breastmilk on thrush of the nipples or yeast-related diaper rashes, because yeast feeds on the sugars in the milk; however, I have heard others disagree and say breastmilk was effective in these cases as well.
Breastmilk can also be helpful in healing or assisting healing for accessible infections – for example, conjunctivitis, ear infections, throat infections or sinus infections. It is also often recommended to help heal, or at least control, a blocked tear duct in a newborn/infant (see my article on "Breastmilk and Blocked Tear Ducts," linked at the end of this article, for more information on that topic). I have personal experience using breastmilk for infection. After using a neti pot incorrectly during a cold, I managed to give myself a dual ear infection and sinus infection, which even spread to conjunctivitis in one eye! I was so miserable that I nearly gave in and went to the doctor for antibiotics. It would have probably been a good idea! But I am very anxious about antibiotics during breastfeeding, as I had a miserable experience with treating a suspected case of thrush with my first baby, which can be brought on by antibiotics.
I expressed breastmilk into a well-cleaned medicine cup and drew it into a dropper. I warmed it gently by resting the dropper on a microwaved sock filled with flaxseed (a good homemade warm pack). For 5 days, I dropped it several times a day in both eyes, my ears, my nose and my throat, 3-5 times a day. The conjunctivitis was clear within 36 hours and the others followed more slowly. It probably also didn't hurt that I was swallowing large doses of raw garlic (a natural remedy that can have an antibiotic effect) – I could smell and taste it in the breastmilk – a double cure! I should warn that this approach, especially in a case as severe as mine, is not really recommended for everyone, and waiting on antibiotics in the face of a clear or suspected infection should be determined only on the advice of your health care practitioner. However, it was the right decision for me.
Many nursing mothers also choose to serve breastmilk to older children, or to other adults in the family in order to pass along the immunological benefits to other family members. This can be for the general immunity benefits. Or in the case of an acute cold or flu, this practice might theoretically help others in the family avoid or reduce symptoms of the illness if the mother has already begun developing and sharing immunity through the breastmilk. My 5 year old always loves it when I express breastmilk just for her. I did it often through cold and flu season in the first 6 months of my second daughter's life, when I knew immunities were at their highest. But even now, she'll occasionally ask for a cupful – it makes her feel included in the nursing and special when I make the effort just for her.
Breastmilk can be a great tool for a nursing mother to assist with the health and well-being of not only her nursling(s), but of the whole family as well. Try it out... you may be surprised at the wondrous qualities of your own breastmilk!
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