Did you know that your plain ol’ mummy boobs can actually produce sickness-fighting gold? And you thought breast milk was just breast milk?
When Mallory Smothers’ baby got a cold, something she didn’t expect happened. This new mum was breastfeeding her baby on a two-hourly schedule. In her Facebook post she says that she noticed her baby’s congested nose and sneezing sometime around the 3am feed.
The following morning she expressed as usual, but what came out was far different from the norm. Instead of the typical whitish coloured milk (put up on the left side of her picture as a comparison), this milk had a yellowish tint.
“I didn’t notice a difference until today, but look at how much more of the milk I produced Friday resembles colostrum (The super milk full of antibodies and leukocytes you make during the first few days after birth) and this comes after nursing the baby with a cold all night long.”
Mallory isn’t making this stuff up either. A 2013 study from the journal Clinical and Translational Immunology backs up her backwash claim. The researchers looked at the number of leukocytes (white blood cells that help the body fight off infectious invaders) in breast milk, and how they were influenced by the health of the mother and baby. When either the mum or baby showed an illness/infection, the number of leukocytes in the breast milk jumped up to 94 percent of the blood cell make-up. Following recovery (from the illness), the white blood cell went back down to normal. What does this mean? It may just mean that your breasts (or at least your mammary glands and milk) respond to your baby’s health.
Biologist and associate professor at the Center for Evolution and Medicine at the School for Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University Katie Hinde, PhD told mom.me that a mother’s body may change the milk’s immunological composition, customising it to baby’s pathogens, “Putting this all together, some scientists hypothesize that this could be one of the ways babies let moms ‘know’ about their condition and moms respond with infection-fighting antibodies.”
Likewise, Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, notes Smothers’ assessment that her milk changed in response to her baby’s illness may be true. Fyle told The Huffington Post UK, “The body does a lot of stuff we don’t understand.” She goes on to say, “The mother has quoted what a scientist has said – who tend to know a bit more than the rest of us. I don’t want to dispute what she’s saying.” Fyle also notes, “The body does wonderful things and so does breast milk. The saliva reaction she talks about us when the nipple absorbs bacteria and realises the baby is unwell.”
With more than 72,000 shares already, Smothers’ photo is making its way across the web – and the world. So, take a look at the pic (everyone else has) and decide for yourself. This little breast milk trick may just be what your little one needs the next time that she’s sick!