Brilliant breast milk (and why it's not just for babies)

It's not just the milk your baby drinks that can boost her health – mothers the world over have used breast milk as a cure-all for afflictions including rashes, itchy bites, sunburn, snotty noses and grazes.

And it's not only babies who are bathing in the benefits of this liquid gold. It seems people of all ages and cultures are finding surprising ways to boost their health with magic mothers' milk, from body builders in the United States to the wealthy elderly in China.

Bodybuilders are using breast milk to put on more muscle, arguing that it has special properties that make it superior to just about any other food.  A cup of breast milk contains about 170 calories a cup (20 more than whole milk), 10 grams of fat, 16 carbs, and 2 grams of protein (5 less than whole milk), as well as vitamins and minerals and several growth hormones. While breast milk is designed to support the rapid growth of babies, the jury is still out on whether this has similar effects on grown men – other than reports from the body builders themselves.

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 Photo: Getty Images

And according to reports from Guangzhou's Southern Metropolis Daily and the BBC, breast milk is the new luxury snack for the nouveau riche in China. Proponents push breast milk's high nutritional value, with adult wet nurses being paid between $2000 to $4000 per month. In parts of China, there is the belief that human breast milk contains the most nutritional value for people that are ill. 

The antibodies in breast milk – IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD and IgE, which are secretory IgA molecules – combat diseases without causing inflammation. This is why breastfed babies are often protected from various illnesses such as diarrhea, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal disease and even asthma symptoms.

And studies into the antibacterial agents of milk reveal that compounds called 'human alpha-lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells' – also known as HAMLET –  have been linked to killing 40 types of cancer cells in tests. According to researchers at the University of Buffalo, HAMLET can help treat people with those nasty superbugs that cause pneumonia, MRSA, and staph infection

Here are five ways to use breast milk at home ...

Healing sore nipples

If you have sore nipples, you could be better off ditching the creams and potions and rubbing some fresh breast milk on your nipples. Studies show that breast milk is more effective than lanolin at healing damaged nipples.

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Simply rub breast milk onto your nipples and let it dry after you feed your baby. It will soothe soreness and kill any bacteria that could lead to mastitis if bugs enter cracks in the skin.

Conjunctivitis

The amazing antibacterial properties in breast milk work a treat for babies' sticky eyes or older kids who get an infection – you can simply squirt fresh breast milk in your child's eyes or use an eye dropper .

Do check with your doctor any time your child's eyes look buggy, especially if a bit of boob isn't clearing them up quickly.

Facial cleanser

Breast milk can be a cheap facial cleanser – simply squirt some onto a cotton ball and use it to remove makeup, or apply breast milk to your skin and wipe off with tissues or a clean towel.

It could also be an effective remedy for teenage acne (an added bonus if you have teenagers and a baby, but good luck convincing your teenager to try this!): according to a report in the Telegraph, scientists from the University of California found the lauric acid in human breast milk targets skin bacteria that causes acne – and, because it is a natural substance, there are no side effects. To use breast milk as an acne solution, rinse your face with water, then apply breast milk all over the infected area and let it air-dry.

Ear infections

Please check with your doctor if your baby seems to have a sore ear (red ear, pulling at his ear and waking, screaming in pain), but if ear ache strikes at 3am this could be handy to try. Some say the antibacterial properties in breast milk make it a natural remedy to treat an ear infection in infants and even adults. Try three to four drops of breast milk into the baby's ear – the drops should be administered at the entrance of the ear canal, not directly into it.

Breast milk jewellery

If you would like a precious memento of your breastfeeding days, you can have a wee bit of your mama milk specially preserved and made into beautiful keepsake jewellery.  You can get your jewellery professionally created or try this at home with a do-it-yourself kit.

Pinky McKay is an Internationally Certified Lactation Consultant and best selling baby care author. She is also the creator of Boobie Bikkies, all natural and organic health food cookies to boost energy and support a healthy breastmilk supply. Download her FREE ebook Making More Mummy Milk, Naturally.