You can see the difference in breastmilk color from before and during her daughter’s illness
If you’re a mother who’s breastfed, chances are you’ve had multiple plastic bags of stored milk in your stock pile — and you might have noticed they didn’t all look alike. As it turns out, the color changes in your breastmilk might be happening for some pretty incredible reasons, and one mom’s viral post sheds some light on one of them.
Paige Peterson posted two photos of her breast milk on her Facebook page. One showing her typical milk and the other was of her milk during the time her four-month-old daughter, Raina, had the flu.
“The frozen milk on the left is from 2 weeks ago,” she writes. “The frozen milk on the right is from this past weekend when her swab came back positive. Notice the change in color? My breast milk created antibodies to fight off any infections that Raina may have had. I never gave her Tamiflu.” Peterson isn’t the first to share their stories about breastmilk helping their children.
So, is this really true? Can breastmilk help cure a sick child? According to multiple experts, it can.
“Sometimes when we are sick our body is burning extra calories as we’re fighting off that illness, so it could very well increase the calories of mom’s milk to make sure the baby has the energy to be doing the work of fighting off the virus,” board certified lactation consultant Rachel Miller of Piedmont Medical Center says. “That definitely would change the appearance of the milk in a way where it would look more yellow.”
A 2013 study published in Clinical and Translational Immunology agrees. The study shows that up to 70 percent of the cells found in colostrum (the initial liquid material mothers produce before they begin lactating) are leukocytes, which are white blood cells that fight infection. “This of course makes sense when considering that newborn babies, not having yet been exposed to the outside world for very long, are very susceptible to just about anything and everything,” the study explains. “They need a large initial ‘dose’ of mom’s immunity to remain healthy.”
After those first few days, normal breast milk only contains around 2 percent of those leukocytes unless your child is sick.
“When either a breastfeeding baby or a breastfeeding mother becomes ill, the percentage of infection-fighting white blood cells found in the breast milk increases up to 94 percent, more closely resembling the white blood cell composition found in colostrum,” the study notes.
Peterson told Scary Mommy she’s had women from around the world contact her saying how much her post has encouraged them to continue breastfeeding. “I posted my story in hopes that more women would consider breastfeeding,” she says.
Obviously, breastfeeding isn’t for everyone. There are some mothers who are unable to breastfeed and still others who choose not to. However you chose to feed your child is up to you. Peterson’s message simply urges women to “be patient and seek help if you need it,” because of the benefits she’s seen personally.
Women’s bodies are truly amazing.