The incredible powers of breast milk have long been touted by doctors and researchers everywhere; and yet we seem to learn a new jaw-dropping benefit with each new day. It’s been linked to higher IQs in babies (especially preemies), stronger bones (for baby), and can even drastically reduce a mom’s risk for cancer. And just recently, researchers discovered that breastfeeding for just two months can cut SIDs risks by half.
But a Facebook post by Paige Peterson is going viral this week for calling out yet another amazing benefit of breast milk: It can literally change its properties to ward off sickness and infection.
To illustrate this point, Peterson shared side-by-side photos of two bags of recently pumped breast milk. The one on the left, she noted, was pumped two weeks prior, while the one on the right was pumped shortly after her daughter tested positive for the flu. Even to the untrained eye, the differences are glaring.
The left (pre-flu) breast milk looks pretty much as it always does, with a milky-white color. But one on the right (post-flu) appears to be much darker and yellowish in color.
“My breast milk created antibodies to fight off any infections that Raina may have had,” Peterson explains. “I never gave her Tamiflu. THIS is why I breastfeed!”
As crazy as it may sound, there’s a lot of research to support the fact that the body literally responds to oncoming illness in a mom by providing immune-boosting antibodies in the breast milk for her baby.
According to the evidence-based breastfeeding site Kelly Mom:
“When you have a contagious illness such as a cold, flu, or other mild virus, your baby was exposed to the illness before you even knew you were sick. Your milk will not transmit your illness to baby, but it does have antibodies in it that are specific to your illness (plus anything else you or baby have been exposed to) — they’ll help prevent baby from getting sick, or if he does get sick, he’ll probably not be as sick as you.”
Peterson’s post has drummed up a lot of interest in the last week, with thousands of likes, shares, and comments so far — particularly from breastfeeding moms who say they’ve had similar experiences.
“Mine did the same when my little had RSV [Respiratory syncytial virus],” wrote one user.
“Same thing happened with my baby girl except with Group B Strep,” wrote another. “The only symptom she had was a fever at home of 101. By the time we got to the hospital her little body got it down to 99. Doctors think the combination of my antibodies at birth and breast milk were helping her keep it at bay. Still had a 10 day stay at the hospital, but it could [have] been a lot worse.”
Peterson isn’t the first mom whose side-by-side breast milk comparison has gone crazy viral, though. Last year, mom Chelsea Pryce snapped a similar photo of two bags of pumped breast milk: One she’d pumped from a breast she’d been exclusively nursing her 3-month-old from, and another from a breast she’d been exclusively nursing her sick 2-year-old from. Noting the color changes between the two, Pryce noted that “each breast produced perfectly tailored milk for each kid.”
Pretty amazing, huh?
Of course, every situation is different, and as Peterson notes in her post, not every mother chooses to breastfeed or is able to; and that’s okay. But for those who can, she hopes her photo helps give breastfeeding moms who might be struggling the confidence they need to keep going.
“If you’re a new mom and can breastfeed, please be patient and seek help if you need it,” writes Peterson. “Breastfeeding is SO important for our babies.”