A web search for “natural uses for breastmilk” results in a wealth of information, from sources ranging from Wikipedia to blog pages of everyday mothers. Uses of breastmilk in treating and prevent diaper rash right down to how breastmilk causes apoptosis (“suicide”) of all the types of cancer cells against which it has been tested in the laboratory have been well documented. Here is a small collection of some of the well-known and lesser-known uses of breast milk, many of which have never been put to the scientific test but have been used since time immemorial by breastfeeding mothers. Enjoy!
- Diaper rash: squeeze some on, allow it to dry in the air, and watch the rash disappear; if your little one is prone to diaper rash, use daily as a preventative measure.
- Skin rashes and contact dermatitis: Breastmilk’s antimicrobial and antiseptic properties can be used to help heal and relieve the pain and itchiness of rashes and contact dermatitis.
- Insect bites and stings: The antiseptic and antibacterial properties of breastmilk can reduce itching and promote healing of insect bites and stings.
- Sunburn: Gently pat expressed breastmilk onto sunburn to ease pain and heal the skin.
- Cuts: a small amount of human breast milk on the area will help heal the wound. Breastmilk is a natural antiseptic, and it can be used to soothe and promote healing of cuts and scrapes.
- Wound cleaning: breastmilk can be used as an antiseptic wound cleanser when you do not have access to another cleansing agent.
- Infected wounds: apply breastmilk to the infected area to take advantage of its antiseptic properties.
- Warts: put a breastmilk-saturated cotton ball on the wart for a few minutes twice a day; continue for several days until the wart dries up.
- Heal sore nipples: rub breastmilk onto sore, cracked nipples to help them heal.
- Cold sores and fever blisters: pat a cold sore or fever blister with a cotton ball soaked in breastmilk to help promote healing and relieve pain.
- Ear infections: put a few drops of breast milk at the entrance to the ear canal every few hours over the day and allow to flow in
- Eye infections (conjunctivitis or “pink eye” and styes): two drops of breast milk into the infected eye several times over the day.
- Clogged tear ducts: anecdotal evidence has it that breastmilk can unclog tear ducts.
- Sore throats: the consumption of, or gargling with, breast milk can soothe a sore throat.
- Congestion: Breastmilk’s antimicrobial properties can also help when squirted into the nose as you would use a saline solution.
- Colds/flu: Boost the body’s immune system and stay hydrated with breastmilk.
- Cough: Little ones with a cough need to stay hydrated – give them fluids and environment-specific antibodies in your breastmilk.
- Fever: A child with a fever needs to be kept hydrated; breastmilk will quench thirst and provide antibodies.
- Immune system boost: Antibodies in breastmilk are environment-specific, so drinking breastmilk from a mother who is always in close proximity can help boost an ill person’s – such as a chemo or organ transplant patient’s – immune system.
- Pain Relief: The endorphins in breastmilk reduce pain felt by your child, so nurse away anytime your little one gets hurt.
- Prevent childhood illnesses: the antibodies present in breastmilk help protect a child against a variety of illnesses while his own immune system is maturing.
- Prevent adult illnesses: Research has shown that breastfeeding can give lifetime protection from many illnesses.
- Prevent illnesses in the breastfeeding mother: Breastfeeding reduces the nursing mother’s risk of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer, protects mothers against anaemia, and can stabilize the progression of endometriosis.
- Treat cancer: Scientists have found that there are substances found in breast milk that kill cancer cells. Patients have been drinking breastmilk to increase their quality of life and to treat their cancers (search term: HAMLET, for “human alpha-lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells”).
- Sleep aid for baby/child: breastmilk helps babies sleep. Recent studies have found that mothers’ milk contains more calming and soothing components toward the evening and during the night, and more keep-awake components throughout the day.
- Tranquilizer for Mom: hormones released in mothers while breastfeeding decrease blood pressure and act to calm and soothe mothers, helping them also to sleep.
Birth Control: Lactational amenorrhea is nature’s birth control.
Cosmetic and practical uses:
- Cradle cap: massage breastmilk onto Baby’s scalp to get rid of cradle cap.
- Acne in babies, teens and adults: First use clear water all over the face and then apply breastmilk over the affected areas and allow it to air-dry.
- Facial cleanser: Use breastmilk on a cotton ball or pad to remove make-up and soften skin.
- Bath additive: Milk is touted as an ideal ingredient for skin care because it contains essential proteins, amino acids, and vitamin A, which nourish skin; and lactic acid, which cleanses and softens
- Red or puffy eyes: If you don’t have cucumber slices for your puffy eyes, saturate two cotton balls with cold breastmilk.
- Chapped lips: If you run out of lip balm and need instant relief, rub some breastmilk on your lips.
- Contact lens solution: No saline solution handy? Clean your contacts with some expressed breastmilk!
For consumption: Here the suggestions abound, from breastmilk popsicles for toddlers to cupcakes and gourmet breastmilk cheeses! One of the more practical culinary uses of breastmilk is as an additive to baby’s meals when starting on solids: try, for example, mixing some breastmilk with Baby’s mashed potatoes to provide a good consistency and known flavour for a starting eater.
And finally, a more exotic use:
Necklaces: Memorialize your nursing years in necklaces by having the casein content of your mothers’ milk solidified into “milk beads” and stringing them together.
By Beth Brupbacher
Beth used several of these natural remedies on her three daughters during her breastfeeding years; others were completely unknown to her before writing this piece. She leads bilingual (English/German) LLL meetings in Zurich Oerlikon on the first Friday of each month. For up-to-date information about the meetings or to find her contact data, please visit the La Leche League Switzerland webpage.
Illustration by Albina Nogueira
Albina has been a primary school teacher since 1992, and a writer and illustrator since 2006. She currently lives in Switzerland, but her homeland is Portugal. She is also the author of Letters to Grandparents and Hairdresser. To find out more, like her on Facebook or see her books in Amazon.