Does Breast Milk Actually Have Healing Powers?
If you Google “breast milk cures,” you’ll find an endless number of websites dedicated to the many ailments this “liquid gold” can supposedly heal, including diaper rash, blocked tear ducts, conjunctivitis, eczema, and ear infections. But do these home remedies actually work?
I decided to put my own breast milk to the test. I’ve been breastfeeding for about a year now, and many fellow moms have told me they’ve had success using breast milk to treat various health issues, from flushing out baby’s nose when he or she had a cold to using it in their eyes to get rid of discharge. But while I’ve been curious about breast milk’s so-called healing powers, I’ve never tried them for myself. So when a scratch recently appeared on my son’s face, I thought, “Why not put some breast milk on it?”
I gently applied a small amount to half the scrape using my fingers (the other half was near his eye, and I was nervous to touch it). The next morning, I was surprised to see that the half I’d treated with breast milk had nearly vanished; the other half had healed somewhat, but was still visible.
The next day, I got a bad oil burn on my forearm while cooking fish. I was in a vacation rental with no first aid kit on hand, so I decided to test breast milk’s magic on myself. The pain immediately diminished, and the burn seemed to get less red. I continued to apply breast milk to the spot for the next few days, and while I still have a scar, I do think it helped the injury heal faster.
But was my breast milk really the remedy in both of these situations, or was it just a coincidence? I reached out to Charles Serhan, PhD, director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Experimental Therapeutics and Reperfusion Injury in Boston. Serhan co-authored a 2015 study published in the journal Mucosal Immunology that detected high levels of specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) in human breast milk. The researchers found that these bio-molecules helped improve immune response and ease inflammation in mice. Although the study was only done on mice, Serhan believes the results would be similar in human infants.