Why This Image of Breast Milk in a Petri Dish Is Blowing the Internet’s Mind

In many ways, the way you feed your baby isn’t a huge deal. With access to healthy foods and good medical care, almost all babies will fare well, whether they are breastfed or formula fed; and no mother should feel shamed because she didn’t breastfeed.

That said, it’s indisputable that breast milk has some qualities that simply can’t be replicated in formula. After all, it’s a substance produced naturally by a human mother, made and delivered specifically for her baby. Besides having a healthy balance of all the basic nutrition babies need, breast milk is chock full of disease-fighting substances and antibodies.

For example, when a baby gets a virus, and the mom is exposed to it, antibodies are produced by the mother which are then passed on to the baby via breast milk. Pretty cool, huh? Studies have shown that breastfed babies are less likely to catch viruses — and if they do catch them, they are able to fight them off fast thanks to the tailor-made medicine found in their mom’s milk.

These sorts of mind-blowing facts are why the Internet is currently going crazy for a photo taken in a science lab showing the amazing powers of breast milk in action. The now-viral image is proving yet again that breast milk is just as incredible as we’ve been told it is.

The photo, posted on Facebook by Vicky Greene, a first year biosciences student at South Devon College in Paignton, England, shows nine Petri dishes containing the bacteria M. Luteus. Greene added breast milk samples to each of the Petri dishes — some with breast milk from the mom of a 15-month-old, and others with breast milk from the mom of a 3-year-old.

The results are as astonishing as you might have guessed. The perimeter of each Petri dish is filled with bacteria; but in the center, where the breast milk was placed, the bacteria is completely gone, killed off by the breast milk.

As Greene explained in the post caption, “The white spots in the middle are discs soaked in two samples of breast milk. See the clear bit around the discs — that’s where the proteins in the milk have killed off the bacteria!”

Since the photo was posted on February 6, it has been liked 16K times, and shared over 15K times. And with good reason: it’s one thing to know about the wonders of breast milk in theory — but it’s quite another to be presented with crystal clear, photographic evidence.

Greene also shared that for her next experiment, she is going to use colostrum (the yellow-colored, immune-fueled milk that a baby gets right at birth, before a mom’s milk fully comes in). She also stated that she’s already done this same experiment with e. Coli and MRSA bacteria, showing similar results.

Greene’s experiment immediately reminded me of a groundbreaking study that came out in 2010 showing that breast milk has a substance in it called HAMLET, which has been shown to kill 40 types of cancer cells. This is huge, not just because it explains why breast milk has the power to protect breastfed babies from cancer, but also because researchers are finding ways isolate HAMLET from breast milk and use it to treat all different types of cancer.

Another thing that struck me about Greene’s experiment is that she wasn’t using breast milk from an infant, but rather from a toddler and a preschooler. As a mom who breastfed both of her kids past the infant years, and was told numerous times that breast milk has no use past the baby months, I was super happy to see this. Greene’s experiment — along with other evidence showing the benefits of toddler nursing — gives further credence to the fact that breast milk doesn’t just turn to water at a certain age, and that its benefits are lasting and important.

So kudos to Greene for sharing this awesome little experiment. It’s a perfect illustration of the stunning powers of breast milk, and a testament to the unbelievable things mothers’ bodies do to protect their babies.

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