If you thought those images showing vastly different breast milk samples from the same mum were fake news, here’s another example of why that’s not the case (and some research to explain why this happens!)
Custom milk by mum!
This subject has popped up again after a viral social media post had people pondering how clever boobs really are:
“Your breasts have receptors that can detect if your baby may be unwell with a virus or bacteria,” the midwifery-focused Facebook page, My Midwife – Westmead Caseload Midwifery posted alongside a photo of two very different batches of breast milk from the same mum. One batch is a creamy white and the other is distinctly yellow.
These breast milk samples were apparently from a midwife on their staff, and the caption explained, “one of our midwives who has a 6 month old baby girl shared this picture of what her breast milk looked like when her baby was well, compared to when she had a fever. The yellow milk is full of antibodies and fat to help her baby recover from her illness!”
It’s the latest high-profile case highlighting what an amazing double (or sometimes triple!) act women and their babies are.
The experts weigh in
Lactation consultant Katrina Tucker from The Baby Brain spoke to Babyology last year confirming that breast milk truly does adapt to a mother and baby’s needs.
“It can be completely unique at every different hour – it is pretty magic stuff. For instance, if you have a pre-term baby, it can be specific to just that baby in terms of nutrients and to give baby what it needs to grow and catch up as well.”
And it’s not only lactation consultants and midwives (who, let’s face it, are the ultimate baby experts!) that are telling us about this amazing shape-shifting milk. Science is backing them up, too.
University of Western Australia cell biologist, Foteini Kakulas, confirms that mums’ bodies adapt quickly and breast milk changes at breakneck speed to keep babies as well as possible.
“In a series of experiments, Kakulas and her colleagues have found that mother’s milk rapidly changes in response to a baby’s infections,” Science News reports.
“Breast milk usually contains a small number of infection-busting cells called leukocytes. When a baby (or a mother) is sick, the numbers of leukocytes in breast milk spike,” Kakulas and her team explained.
These helpful and powerful leukocytes are found in colostrum – a mother’s first yellow-tinged milk. The leukocytes decrease as a mother’s more established breast milk comes in, but if infection occurs they come flooding back to help a baby recover more quickly.
“During times of illness, a breast-feeding baby may gulp down billions of these cells a day,” Foteini Kakulas and researcher Donna Geddes explained in a 2015 Advances in Nutrition review, Science News reports.
These amazing golden leukocytes contain a cocktail of cells that fight infection directly — and also produce antibodies that attack.
This researchers also observed that saliva from a feeding baby’s mouth washes back into a mother’s breast, to possibly further refine immunity and wellness in infants. Just wow!