On some days your breast milk looks white and watery. On other days it looks more yellow and thick. You run into panic only to call your lactation consultation who then reassures you that all is well. Well, all is indeed well. In fact, more than well for did you know that breastmilk helps fight infection?
The milk changes its composition to suit your baby’s needs and that’s pretty much why the color and texture changes all the time! Pretty amazing isn’t it?
A mum’s experience
In her recent Facebook post, mum Ashlee Chase, shared a picture of the breastmilk that she pumped before and after her daughter had a fever. Before her daughter had a fever, the milk was white as it usually is. However, the milk that she pumped later appeared to be yellow. It was milk that she pumped after feeding her sick baby through the night.
Ashlee told Yahoo Lifestyle that she initially fretted thinking that something was wrong with her milk. She called up her child’s paediatrician who then explained to her that all was well. The yellow hue in her breastmilk was from the extra fat and antibodies her body was producing to cure her baby of her fever!
Isn’t it amazing how breastmilk fights infection?
If you’re wondering how it happens, here’s the science behind it. Scientists believe that this boils down to backwash. What on earth is that?
Backwash is the little bit of a nursing baby’s saliva that goes back into the mother’s nipple during breastfeeding. This saliva sends signals to the mother’s body.
So while breastmilk usually contains low levels of leukocytes (white blood cells that fight infection), these levels escalate rapidly when either the mother or nursing baby is sick. When the illness passes, the levels go back to normal.
Image source: Ashlee Chase’s Facebook.
Top milk is when her baby was healthy, bottom is from pumping after nursing her baby with a fever all night.
Ashlee captioned the picture as such,
“Why do you still let your 7 month old nurse?” “she’s too old” “she’s just using you as a pacifier” “you need to put her in her own bed”. 100% why. Top milk is from 3 days ago when a healthy Elliot was nursing. Bottom is from today, after sick Elliot with a fever comfort nursed all night. This.
Need I say more?
Breastmilk fights infection
This is similar to how it works when nursing mums fall sick. Many nursing mums wonder if they can continue breastfeeding if they are down with a fever or common cold. They worry about passing the germs to their baby. Well, because breastmilk fights infection, mums don’t have to worry about this.
This is how it works. Even before you knew you were sick, your baby would have been exposed to the illness. This is because the potency of the virus starts even before you show symptoms of it. When your baby is exposed to it, your body starts working to create antibodies that are specific to your illness (and any other virus that your baby has been exposed to).
You can continue to breastfeeding your baby even when you are ill.
This helps to prevent the baby from falling ill and even if they do, they won’t get it as bad as you. Have you ever noticed that when there’s a breastfeeding infant in the house, they don’t fall terribly ill even if everyone at home is sick?
The only thing you need to worry about is the medication that you are on. Some medication may cause your milk supply to decrease, or may be incompatible with nursing so you need to let your doctor know that you are nursing.
It is very rare that a mother needs to stop breastfeeding due to an illness. HIV and HTLV-1 are the only infectious diseases that would require you to stop breastfeeding.
Just how amazing is the human body?
While breastmilk fights infections and is of course highly recommended, not every woman breastfeeds. For whatever reason, some women give up breastfeeding sooner than others and some don’t breastfeed at all. But they have gone on to raise healthy children and they managed to build their children’s immune system in other ways.
The point here is not so much to brag about the superiority of breast milk as it is to marvel at how unbeknownst to us, our bodies do such wonderful things to protect our precious babies!
Source: Scary Mommy, Kelly Mom
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore