While the nutritional benefits of breast milk are well known, you can use breast milk in a multitude of other ways!
Some unique uses include popsicles for teething and commemorating your breastfeeding journey with a piece of jewelry used with your breast milk.
Another fun way to use breast milk that is close to expiring or milk that you have expressed and your baby won’t drink is through a milk bath! We will cover all the details on how to give baby a milk bath in this article.
First, let’s look at all the research behind the positive benefits and uses of breast milk outside of nutrition and why a milk bath may be beneficial for your little one!
These recent studies have shown that human milk has wound healing properties. From lesions of the corneal epithelium to lacerations of the skin, milk-treated groups healed faster than controls.
Breast milk is used in many cultures for skin irritations. Breast milk involves little to no risk of allergy, contains antibodies, epidermal growth factor, and erythropoietin which may promote the growth and repair of skin cells. There are observed preventative effects of atopic dermatitis (eczema).
Regarding eczema, the frequency of healed infants was 81.5% and 76% in the human milk and 1% hydrocortisone groups on day 21, respectively. The findings suggest that human milk can improve atopic eczema with similar results and is as easy to apply as 1% hydrocortisone ointment, but without the side-effects and cost.
Breast milk is also widely reported to be used for umbilical cord care in developing countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has advocated the use of dry umbilical cord care in high-resource settings, but has recommended research into the use of breast milk and colostrum in umbilical cord care.
There are several reports of the effectiveness of applying breast milk in assisting umbilical cord separation. All studies recommend topical application of mother’s milk for umbilical cord stump care, which leads to shorter cord separation time and can be used as an easy, cheap, natural, and noninvasive means of cord care.
The benefits are not just for babies though! A common breastfeeding difficulty for mothers is painful nipples. A traditional non-pharmacological intervention to reduce nipple pain in breastfeeding women is topical treatment with expressed breast milk.
When comparing the efficacy of lanolin versus breast milk on painful and damaged nipples during lactation, women who applied expressed breast milk had significantly lower perceptions of nipple pain following four to five days of treatment than the women who applied lanolin.
Another use for breast milk is for diaper rashes. Breast milk was found to be as effective as hydrocortisone 1% ointment. Another study found an 80% improvement for mild to moderate redness during the five-day study, whereas in the control group, only 26.1% showed improvement.
Why is a milk bath beneficial for their skin? Breast milk contains palmitic acid, a saturated fatty acid that’s a brilliant natural moisturiser, which makes it great for keeping your baby’s skin super soft. It also has oleic acid, which heals dry skin. You can also find vaccenic acid, which protects and nourishes skin, and Linoleic acid that lightens spots and minimises inflammation.
Breast milk can help with baby acne as it contains lauric acid, which has antibacterial properties and can also be found in coconut oil.
Breast milk also contains immunoglobulin-A antibodies that fight off bacteria and cure infections. This makes it a great natural cure for any minor burns, scrapes, cuts, and even insect bites. These antibodies are also anti-inflammatory, perfect for treating common conditions such as diaper rash. Breast milk baths not only soothe the initial irritation but if used regularly, they can also clear a rash up quickly and naturally.
So how do we give baby a milk bath?
Bathing your little one in breast milk is really simple. Simply fill a tub (or a baby tub) with warm water and add your breast milk. It can be freshly pumped or thawed milk from the freezer.
Since your baby will not be drinking this milk, you can use milk that is out of date so long as it smells okay. If you aren’t sure if your milk is in date, this is what is recommended by the CDC for breast milk storage:
Store freshly pumped milk
- up to 4 hours at room temperature
- up to 4 days in the refrigerator
- 6-12 months in a deep freezer
You want to add enough milk to make the water cloudy. This could be anywhere from a half cup/4 ounces to a whole cup/8 ounces.
Once you have added the milk to their water, check the temperature again to make sure the water is still around 100 deg F.
Allow your little one to soak for about 10-15 minutes in the milk bath. Bathe your child as you normally would. Make sure any skin irritations are soaking in the milk bath or you continue to pour water over those areas for maximum benefits.
Make sure to wash their little heads with it if you are dealing with cradle cap! The fatty acids help loosen it up and then you can use a cradle cap brush to wipe it away after their bath.
Helpful tip: If you plan to take any special photos of a milk bath, it is probably best to use cow’s milk if you want it to appear as white and perfect as it does on Pinterest.
Once you have finished bathing your baby, you can dry them off and continue on with your bedtime routine for baby. No need to rinse them off!
Make sure you have a warm towel ready for them, their lotion, diaper, pajamas, and sleep bag all ready to go, and that you spend a little extra time giving them an infant massage.
You can do milk baths as often as you would like, once or twice a week has great benefits for their skin! If you want to get really creative with your breast milk, you can make breast milk soap which would have the same benefits of a milk bath (and bonus, everyone can use it if needed).
They don’t call it liquid gold for nothing! If you are wanting to try a milk bath for your little one using breast milk, but are not much of a “pumper”, then you can try using the haakaa to collect breast milk while you’re feeding or hand express some milk here and there until you have enough to use.
Ashley Olson is a certified pediatric sleep consultant, owner of Heaven Sent Sleep, and passionate about helping new parents, experienced parents, desperate and sleep deprived parents form healthy sleep habits for their children.
She has over 3 years of experience in working with families and has completed over 150 hours of coursework plus continuing education related to infant and toddler sleep. The focus of her work is on fostering a routine that grows your bond with your child while improving their sleep habits. She specializes in custom sleep plans and one on one support in changing sleep practices!