Written by midwife, perinatal mental health specialist and creator of Bumpnbub, Aliza Carr.
Did you know that breast milk has antiseptic, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties? Hear me out on this, mama - breast milk is like the best two-in-one gadget you can find at your local store… except there is an unlimited amount of uses in one, and it’s FREE!
Breast milk is made up of millions of living cells, over a thousand proteins, and hundreds of complex sugars. It’s much more than just milk. Its perfect composition can be used for SO many purposes other than feeding bub, from treating diaper rash to even making jewellery!
The following are different ways that you can use breast milk in your home:
Nappy rash is something that many babies will encounter during their early years. It’s usually caused by wet diapers, chafing or nappies that aren’t breathable. Skin sensitivity is also a factor that may make a baby more prone to nappy rash. The rash can leave the skin red, inflamed, and painful.
Soaking cotton wool in breast milk and applying it to the rash can help soothe itching and burning, and encourage the skin to heal faster. Breast milk’s antibacterial properties also potentially reduce the risk of infection. To prevent the rash from worsening, you should change the nappy as soon as possible or as soon as it is wet. A study from 2015 (linked here) has shown that when treating nappy rash, breast milk worked just as well as hydrocortisone (a mild steroid cream used for eczema, nappy rash and other conditions). How incredible!!
Eczema is characterised by dry, inflamed, sensitive and itchy skin. Anyone who has ever had eczema, or had a child with eczema, will tell you that it can be a horrible condition. Flare-ups can happen out of nowhere, and treatments can be expensive.
Many bubs grow out of their eczema or only have mild flare-ups, but this isn’t as simple for others. Don’t fret if your little one has been dealing with eczema for a while - there is hope, mama! Your very own breast milk is known to have topical anti-inflammatory effects. This study showed an 81.5% frequency of healed infants when treating eczema with breast milk, compared to just a 76% frequency when treated with 1% hydrocortisone. Breast milk reduced the inflammation and facilitated the healing of skin. It also contains palmitic acid which acts as a moisturiser on dry, flaky skin.
Baby acne, sometimes known as a newborn rash, usually presents itself in the first few weeks after a baby is born. It appears as a fine rash of red bumps, usually on the face. While the exact cause is not known, it is believed that hormones may play a role. Baby acne may resolve on its own without treatment, but breast milk can speed up the process and ease any discomfort the baby may experience. Applying breast milk with cotton wool can encourage healing of the skin.
Clogged Tear Duct
When babies’ eyes are teary, or a dry residue is present around their eyes, they may have clogged tear ducts. Clogged tear ducts are relatively common in babies. The use of breast milk to treat eye problems has been documented as far back since Ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek times! This traditional treatment has preventative effects against conjunctivitis or eye infections. A few drops of breast milk into the affected eye can help resolve the clog. Clogged tear ducts may be uncomfortable and breast milk can help relieve the irritation. On top of the application of breast milk, the eye should be kept clear of any drainage to prevent an infection. A doctor should be consulted if there are any concerns.
Breast milk is known to have pain-relieving properties. When babies go through painful procedures, such as immunisation, drinking breast milk may help to alleviate some of the pain they feel.
Cuts, scrapes, bites and stings are all things that babies encounter in their first year of life. When they start learning to walk and exploring outdoors, injuries can occur. These injuries may be soothed by breast milk. As above, drinking breast milk can be soothing for babies but applying breast milk directly to superficial wounds may also alleviate pain or discomfort. The application of breast milk can also prevent the wound from becoming infected or inflamed.
Protection from the sun is especially important, in both children and adults. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are powerful and can cause some serious sunburn. While prevention is better than cure, sometimes the sun is more powerful than it appears and sunburn can occur. If the sunburn is localised, breast milk can be applied with cotton wool. Breast milk can relieve the pain of sunburn and promote healing. If the sunburn is on a large area of skin, a breast milk bath can also help ease the pain.
Breast Milk Bath
A breast milk bath is exactly what it sounds like – breast milk in the bath! Breast milk baths have many healing properties and can aid with a number of conditions, including eczema, baby acne, nappy rash, and sunburns. 150-300ml of expressed breast milk may be diluted in lukewarm water for a breast milk bath. This can be repeated between 1-2 times per week, depending on the severity of the skin irritation.
Now mamas, breast milk isn’t only for bub! Breast milk has been linked to a quicker recovery of sore or cracked nipples. Simply hand express a small amount of milk at the end of a feed and rub into your areola and nipple. The topical application of expressed breast milk onto the areola can help reduce pain and encourage healing.
Breast milk, however, contains sugars. Yeast, commonly known as thrush, feeds on these sugars. By applying breast milk to a yeast infection, you may worsen the infection. If your nipples are painful, it’s best to consult with your care provider to rule out thrush before applying breast milk to the nipples.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful, long, and sometimes difficult journey. The bond that is shared between you and your baby is one that will last forever. Breast milk jewelry is a wonderful way to honour and remember your breastfeeding journey. The process involves heating it up, cooling it, and combining it with preservatives to make a substance that can be moulded into a stone for a necklace, bracelet, ring, or earrings (there are people who specialise in this)!
It’s called liquid gold for a reason. We hope you enjoyed learning about more magical ways that breast milk can be used!
*Please note, this is general advice only. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult your health care provider. Always follow the guidelines and recommendations of the country you live in, for safety around storing and expressing breastmilk.*