Breastmilk backwash may help fight infection
Backwash: personally, I’m not a fan. But breastfeeding babies could be benefiting from it in ways we don’t yet fully understand. A mom posted a photo of breastmilk pumped before and after her daughter was sick with a fever that may show how the saliva of breastfeeding babies helps signals mothers to produce antibodies when their babies are ill.
As mothers, we already know our bodies are amazing because we grew people. Until we give birth to a cure for cancer or a flying car (still waiting), that’s pretty much the height of what a body can do. But we’re learning more about some of the amazing ways women’s bodies protect their babies even after they’re born, and this photo, posted on Facebook by mom Ashlee Chase, is an example:
The white breastmilk at the top is from three days earlier, before Chase’s daughter was sick. The yellow breastmilk below it came after Chase had been feeding a sick baby all night. The mom told Yahoo Lifestyle that she thought there was something wrong with her milk so she called her child’s pediatrician. The doctor told her that the yellow hue in her milk was from the extra fat and antibodies her body was producing to help her daughter get better.
I don’t care who you are, that is ding dang cool.
So how on earth does that happen? Well, according to some scientists, it’s all about backwash. When babies breastfeed, some of their saliva goes back into the mother’s nipple, and it is thought that that saliva sends signals to the mother’s body. A few years ago, Australian researcher Foteini Kakulas published a study in the journal Clinical & Translational Immunology showing that while breastmilk usually contains low levels of leukocytes (the white blood cells that fight infection), once the baby or mother gets sick those levels spike quickly and then return to normal when the illness is over.
Of course, not every woman breastfeeds (including yours truly) and we’re still able to take care of our sick children. Some of us, for example, gave up on breastfeeding almost immediately and went on to have children who boosted their immune systems by doing things like licking a table in the mall food court or the pole at the train station. The point of this post isn’t that breastfeeding is superior to bottle-feeding. The point is that our bodies are amazing, and the things they do to protect our babies without even knowing it are incredible.
So nerd out with us, please. Because this is really, really cool.
(h/t Huffington Post UK)