1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Interesting Uses for Breast Milk

By

Updated July 05, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

ColorsBMJamieGrillPhotographersChoiceGetty.jpg

The Colors of Breast MIlk

Jamie Grill/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Breast milk is the ideal source of nutrition for your child. In addition to nutrition, human milk is comprised of other components that help keep infants healthy and allow them to fight off diseases and infections. These natural antibodies, as well as the anti-infective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties provide some other interesting uses for breast milk.

Breast milk has many legitimate medical uses and can be used in hospitals to treat a variety of patients. It has also been used in home remedies.

Warning:

Breast milk that is prescribed by a doctor and obtained through a legitimate milk bank is screened and pasteurized for safety. Fresh breast milk, however, can contain bacterial and fungal infections, such as streptococcus, staphylococcus and candida, as well as viral infections including cytomegalovirus (CMV), herpes simplex virus, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Fresh breast milk placed into the eyes or ears, or onto an opening in the skin, could cause complications, illness, and serious infection.

Home Remedies:

Home remedies are generally believed to be natural ways to cure minor aliments. They are usually cultural practices, traditions, customs, or folk remedies that have been passed down from generation to generation or passed on from person to person. However, keep in mind that there is not necessarily any medical proof that any of these treatments actually work, or whether there are harms associated with them. If you or your family member has an illness or infection, consult your doctor before attempting to treat it with breast milk.

Here are some things that breast milk has been used for:

Eye Infections/Ear Infections: In some cultures, breast milk has been used to treat eye infections and conjunctivitis. It has also been thought to help heal an ear infection.

Cuts, Minor Burns, Small Wounds: It has been placed onto cuts, burns and wounds to prevent infection and promote healing.

Immune Boost: Drinking breast milk is thought to provide an immune boost to decrease the length and severity of a cold.

Warts: Some claim that if breast milk is placed on a wart, the wart may dry up and fall off.

Itching and Stinging: Breast milk has been applied to the skin to provide relief from insect bites, bee stings, chicken pox, poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.

Moisturizer: It has been used as a moisturizer to treat dry skin and eczema. It has also been used to relieve chapped lips, loosen cradle cap, and treat diaper rash.

Sore/Cracked Nipples: If rubbed into sore, cracked nipples, it is thought to relieve pain, prevent infection, and assist in healing.

Circumcision: Human milk has been used to prevent and treat infections at the site of a circumcision.

Sore Throat: It has been tried as a gargle to relieve a sore throat.

Skin Cleanser: Breast milk has been used to wash the skin, remove make-up, and clear up acne.

Contact Lenses: Human milk has been used as contact lens solution.

Cooking: Breast milk has been used in recipes in place of cow’s milk. It has been placed in coffee and cereal, and has been made into butter, cheese and other dairy products.

 

Medical Uses of Breast Milk

While home remedies are questionable, there are some legitimate alternative uses for breast milk based on research and medical fact. Hospitals and physicians use carefully screened and pasteurized breast milk from milk banks for a variety of treatments.

Breast milk is used in hospitals for:

Nutrition: Breast milk is used to provide nutrition for premature infants, infants with failure to thrive, people with severe allergies, those with cardiac disorders or renal failure, and people with feeding intolerances.

Patients With a Compromised Immune System: It is given to cancer patients, organ transplant recipients and people with infectious diseases to help strengthen their immune system.

Burn Patients: Human milk can help protect and heal the skin of burn patients.

Surgical Patients: Breast milk helps provide nutrition and promote healing in people with intestinal surgeries.

Preventative Uses: Donor milk is also used in certain populations of patients to help prevent Crohn’s disease, colitis and allergies.

 

In Summary

Although home remedy uses for breast milk are interesting, it could be harmful to use fresh breast milk on open wounds or in the eyes and ears. If you have extra breast milk, you can freeze and store it to use to feed your baby when you are no longer breastfeeding. If you still have extra milk, consider donating it to a milk bank to be used for medical purposes.

Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition. Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.