“Just put a little Windex on it,” is my very favorite running gag throughout the movie My Big, Fat Greek Wedding. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately not only because the trailer was just released for the sequel, but also because I hear so many breastfeeding mothers say, “Just put a little breastmilk on it,” regardless of the complaint.
Ear infection? Just spray a little breastmilk in there.
Sore nipples? Just put a little breastmilk on them and let ’em air dry.
Pinkeye? Just spray a little breastmilk in there!
So does it work?
An Internet search will bring up lots of blog posts and discussion forums. Polling your mom friends will result in lots of feedback about the miracle of breastmilk in [insert infection/wound of choice here] as the easiest cure.
As a breastfeeding counselor with Breastfeeding USA, I can’t just go off the Internet or anecdotal evidence. I need to think about what the evidence-based research tells us.
Kellymom has gathered a nice collection of information about the Immune Factors in Human Milk. How wonderful to learn that our milk is antimicrobial, filled with antibodies, and even high in folate! We know all these wonderful properties are perfect for our babies (and toddlers) to drink, but this doesn’t necessarily mean our milk can substitute as medication when our kids are sick.
Breastmilk for Ear Infections
“Squirt some breastmilk in there,” is the rallying cry moms hear when their baby or toddler gets an ear infection. The American Academy of Pediatrics tells us most kiddos’ ear infections are middle ear infections, which means the infection lies behind the ear drum. The ear drum is a barrier–breastmilk won’t pass through it to reach the infection.
Breastmilk in the ear would be warm and soothing for a few minutes, but it won’t cure a middle ear infection.
Could the antimicrobial properties help cure an outer ear infection? Dr. Sears has some tips for recognizing whether your child has swimers ear or a middle ear infection. It’s best to consult with your doctor before you put anything into your child’s ear.
Breastmilk for Pinkeye
This article actually reviewed the scientific studies conducted related to breastmilk and pinkeye. From the looks of things, there’s just not enough research about it to determine whether mature milk will cure pinkeye in an older child. I know it won’t hurt, the milk is free, and I’ve got plenty of it to spare. But I don’t know whether it will cure oozy conjunctivitis as quickly as antibiotic drops will. Currently, my big boys both have pinkeye, and my husband has it, too. Nobody is allowed to go to school or work, because it’s very contagious.
My kids are in public school, and for everyone’s health, their school wants the kids on antibiotic drops for a full 24 hours before they’re allowed to return. So what did we choose?
We’re using the prescription drops in their eyeballs, and putting my expressed breastmilk in strawberry/banana smoothies for all the boys as a special treat. Breastmilk is always good for babies, toddlers, or children to drink–it’s biologically designed to nourish our offspring. We’re just not so sure it works as medication. Hopefully, by the time you read this, my kids will be healthy and back in school!