The Magic of Breast Milk

Oftentimes referred to as liquid gold, breast milk has lots of amazing qualities and benefits as well as unconventional uses.Oftentimes referred to as liquid gold, breast milk has lots of amazing qualities and benefits as well as unconventional …The more breast milk studies I read the more I am fascinated by it. When I began my breastfeeding journey three years ago, I marveled at the body's ability to produce milk tailored to an individual baby on demand. The way it changes as baby grows or gets sick--it's truly remarkable in my opinion. With its antibacterial (and other) properties, it's also kind of like an "all purpose" liquid that is useful beyond simply feeding baby.

Here are some interesting things I've learned about the magic of breast milk:

1. Helps protect baby from illnesses. Drinking breast milk provides a boost to the immune system which can help prevent baby from getting sick (or help alleviate symptoms) because of the antibodies it contains.

2. Reduces baby's risk of future health and medical problems such as obesity, diabetes and childhood leukemia. A recent breastfeeding study showed a decreased risk in overweight school-aged children in Japan. Researchers concluded that "the protective association is stronger for obesity than overweight."

3. Reduces mother's health risks of diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Related: 7 Things Moms Do While Nursing (Besides Gazing at Baby)

4. May decrease risk of food allergies. According to a recent study by the University of Southampton, "Giving babies solid food while still breast-feeding, and waiting until 17 weeks to do so, might protect the infants from food allergies." The researchers stated that this overlap may help the breast milk to teach baby's immune system that food is safe, which may prevent a food allergy from developing.

5. May decrease risk of autism. Dr. Gary Steinman of Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine is researching the connection between lower levels of a protein called insulin-like growth factor (IGF) at birth and autism. Breast milk is a source of IGF. Further study is needed to validate his hypothesis, but if there is an IGF-autism link then "that IGF delivered via breastfeeding would compensate for any inborn deficiency of the growth factor in newborns."

6. May help prevent HIV in babies. The CDC states mothers infected with HIV should not breastfeed; however, it appears that a protein in breast milk protects infants from contracting HIV from their mothers. "Less than 10% of infants suckled by untreated infected mothers (those not on antiretroviral drugs, which suppress the virus's reproduction) pick up HIV." Researcher Genevieve Fouda of Duke University discovered the protein that disables HIV. Hopefully further research will provide a way to utilize this outside of the mother-child scenario.

Some women also use breast milk as a natural remedy for treating diaper rash, pink eye, burns/cuts, stuffy noses and ear infections. I've used it to help heal cracked and sore nipples per the information my lactation counselor provided. It worked for me and I didn't have to worry about whether or not it was safe for baby to nurse. I did use it on a couple diaper rashes too.

Isn't it amazing all of the things this powerful liquid can do? What alternative ways have you used breast milk?

By Darcy Zalewski

For 9 things I'll miss about breastfeeding, visit BabyZone!

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